Wednesday, July 23, 2014

River and sea

That's another view of the Adyar river going out into the Bay of Bengal. You can see the green expanse of the Theosophical Society on the south bank, and with a bit of imagination, the 'broken bridge' across the mouth of the river.

That spit of land in the middle of the estuary has a few office buildings, a hotel, an apartment complex, and a building that starred in Mission Impossible:4. Can you spot it?

No prizes for guessing where I am! 


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Dealers' associaton

In 1926, a few businessmen involved in the motor vehicles trade in Madras decided that they needed to get together to make common cause. The lead was taken by Sir Alexander MacDougall of Simpson's, the leading automaker of the time in the city. With him were H.E. Gow of George Oakes, F.G. Luker of Addisons, F.D. Growchery of Fiat and Kabardhars (Senior and Junior) of Patel & Company. Their founding day was April 23rd and they named their association the Madras Motor Vehicle and Motor Cycle Importers Association.

Within three years, they had to change their name. Motor Vehicles and Allied Merchants Association represented a broader spectrum of businesses than just vehicle importers. In 1938, they were registered as a joint stock company, Motor Vehicles and Allied Industries Association. As the apex body of the automobile trade - including the ancillary ecosystems - the MVAIA has been recognized as a consultative body by the state and central governments. 

In 1964, the MVAIA went a step ahead and became one of the co-founders of the Federation of Automobile Dealers Associations (FADA). The FADA seems to be quite active, going by their website. The MVAIA does carry out a lot of activities, but it is quite difficult to find specific details about them. Now that is not surprising, given that even their headquarters is so nondescript!



Monday, July 21, 2014

The lady's gardens

Entering the People's Park through its southern gate, you get to see this statue - of Venus, is it? - behaving as if you are an unexpected visitor. It is quite a rarity, for it is not usual to see a bare-breasted sculpture in Chennai, outside of a few temples, in such a public location. Is this the lady of what was once called My Ladye's Garden? Most likely not, for this statue, and a few others around this park were probably set up in the 1930s, at least 70 years after the park was opened to the public. The impetus for this park was provided by Sir Charles Trevelyan, Governor of Madras between 1859-60, who was clear that the middle class of Madras needed a large, open space for recreation and entertainment. 

My Ladye's Garden was only one part of the People's Park; the entire park covered nearly 120 acres of space. A dozen lakes dotted the park, with boating facilities in at least one of them. Madras' first zoo, which was located on the grounds of the museum, moved here, taking up a sizeable chunk of the grounds. The zoo expanded over the years, adding a cheetah here, a few deer there, a couple of tigers and so on. Until it moved to the Aringar Anna Zoological Park in the mid 1980s, this was where Madras' citizens would come to see wild animals. 

Over the years, the People's Park has been nibbled away. Space for the Victoria Public Hall was allocated. The Ripon Building took up a section. The South Indian Athletic Association was given space for a pavilion and grounds. The Moore Market was accommodated. The Railways expanded, and chewed up some more space. Lily Pond Complex, that replaced Moore Market took up its share. And then the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium came up, along with the indoor sports complex, reducing the People's Park to the My Ladye's Garden. Go too quickly on Sydenham's Road and you might miss the gate to the park. While it still remains a large - and well used - lung for this part of the city, it is certainly a comedown for the feature that defined the area, which continues to be known as Park Town!



Sunday, July 20, 2014

Bad accident

On a Sunday morning, you don't want to bump into a motorcycle with your car. Even if you do, it might be better to choose an ordinary biker than a traffic policeman. If you still had to, you could choose a better spot than near Saravana Bhavan on Radhakrishnan Salai, where over 20 traffic policemen had gathered for their morning cuppa.

Certainly a bad Sunday morning for the car driver!


Saturday, July 19, 2014

The other one

Set back a little from the road, this is not really an eye-catching property. Forty years ago, when it opened for business, it would probably have been, if only because it was one of the few multi-storeyed buildings on this stretch. It opened in 1975; it seems to have stayed in the '70s even today. The staff are long-timers, and the hotel clock hasn't bothered to keep pace with the hectic life of today. It is therefore something of an anachronism on this stretch. 

But Hotel Maris has a lot of things going for it. The rooms are still in the '70s sizes, which means the guests have a lot of space going for them. The service is reasonable, even if it is not fast. The food is - well, you may not have too many choices in the hotel itself, but with its location, you can step out, across or round the corner for a wide range of choices. That's the big plus for this hotel - its location. It is convenient for folks wanting to go to the American Consulate for their visa interviews, or for those coming in for the music season, and maybe even for those who come in to Chennai looking to get their daughters into Stella Maris, just about half-a-kilometre away.

But the Maris-es are different. The hotel's website acknowledges its neighbour, but disclaims any inspiration for its name. The college is named for the 'Star of the Seas'; the hotel, on the other hand, has a different reason for the name. It was set up, and continues to be owned by the Maris Group, which has its headquarters in Trichy. And that group was named after its founder, Mariapillai!



Friday, July 18, 2014

Early schooling

In 1857, Lady Sybilla Harris, wife of Lord Harris, the Governor of Madras, made a donation of £1,500 to start a school exclusively for Muslims. The recipient of this donation was the Church Missions Society; a seemingly odd decision, but it somehow went through initially. However, it ran into rough weather soon. Lord Harris declared the the "...Christian cause shall no longer be kept in the background, but put forth before the people...". That was proof enough of its proselytic intent and several Muslim and Hindu residents petitioned the Secretary of State for India in London, Lord Stanley, asking for the school to be closed.

That petition did not result in any action. The school, named Harris High School for Muslims, continued to function in Triplicane. But the locals went ahead and ostracised the students and their families. A fatwa was issued to excommunicate the school's supporters. Somehow the school struggled on. The arrival of Edward Sell as the school's principal in 1865 probably cooled tempers for a bit. Sell was only 26, but already had a reputation for his Islamic scholarship and was able to steer the school through until 1881, when he stepped down. 

For several years after that, it seemed to be more an issue of egos; the CMS continued to struggle with running the school. It was only in the 1920s that they began thinking about closing it down. It was then that the Muslim Educational Association of South India (MEASI) stepped in and took over the management of the school. The first thing they did was to rename it. Unlike its contemporary in Royapettah, the Muslim Higher Secondary School in Triplicane makes sure it has nothing to remember its founders by!


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Upside down world

One of Chennai's wondrous sights is actually a pretty commonplace activity. If you stand on the Thiru-Vi-Ka bridge at dusk, you will be treated to a sight of bats - a few thousand of them - setting off on their nightly forage. Not many people see it, because it is peak hour for humans also, rushing across the bridge at the end of the workday. The bats, of course are just starting their 'day', and they fan out in all directions but east. 

More properly, they are the Indian Flying Foxes (Pteropus giganteus), also known as the Fruit Bat. Almost all of them come out of the grounds of the Theosophical Society, which is at the southern end of the bridge. Inside the grounds, the ficus, tamarind and other trees provide plenty of roosting space for these bats. They hang upside down, in large colonies and fill the air around the trees with their incessant chattering. 

So the next time you go walking inside the Theosophical Society's gardens, do not assume the sound you hear is of running water. Look up. Check out all those black patches on the trees. And of an evening, watch those black patches take flight. It is certainly a spectacular sight!


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Look again

No,  this is not a timeline or a wall. It is just a part of the social media spilling out on to the roads. Sydenhams Road, to be specific. 

Can any social media outfit match the range of merchandise offered by this shop?


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Egg offering

The way in which the name of this temple in Mylapore is spoken conjures up a rather awkward image of its principal deity. The fast paced description of this as "முண்டகண்ணி அம்மன்" (mundakanni amman) indicates eyes in a headless form; the actual name "முண்டகக்கண்ணி அம்மன்" (mundakakanni amman) conveys more elegance, of the lotus-eyed one. That is only one of the oddities about this temple to the Goddess in the form of Saraswati. 

For starters, the temple's main deity is "svyambhu", having appeared spontaneously over 1,300 years ago. Of course, there is little evidence to support this belief, but it is agreed that it has been around for a few generations here. The sanctum is covered with a thatched roof, as it is believed that it is the best way for the Goddess to remain cool, being surrounded by natural materials. A banyan tree grows right behind the sanctum, adding to the cool of the temple. 

The banyan is also home to the nagadevatha, the snake Goddess. Devotees coming to worship Saraswati are also advised to propitiate the snakes. To this end, one can get a puja package that includes an egg - something that is taboo at almost every other temple. The egg, and milk, are offered to the snake Goddess along with flowers for the main deity!



Monday, July 14, 2014

Legend of the pole

To the east of the St Thomas Basilica, just as the ground drops off to the beach, stands this wooden pole. Legend has it that this is a splinter of a colossal tree that fell across the Adyar river, causing a flood in the neighbourhood. The king (yes, this legend goes back a couple of millennia) tried sending his elephants and mahouts to move the log; no success. It was then that the wandering holy man threw his girdle around the tree trunk and yanked it out to the shore. That was St Thomas and the log has now whittled down to this pole. 

It is a nice story, but there is no way to authenticate it. The legend of Thomas is an article of faith and this wooden pole is going the same way. A more plausible explanation of this wooden structure is that it is all that remains of a flag pole from the time that the Portuguese occupied the town of San Thome. The town's fortifications extended to the beach and this flag pole would have stood on the eastern bastion. 

In 2004, when the tsunami struck the Marina, the waters did not rise up to where the pole stood. There can be many explanations for that (significantly, the pole is at a reasonably high elevation from the shore and the tsunami fizzed out at this spot), but there is only one that the faithful believe - that this pole was the only factor that stood between San Thome and the tsunami!





Sunday, July 13, 2014

Holy hillock

If the Portuguese had called St Thomas Mount "El Grande Monti", it is reasonable to assume that there must have been an "El Pouca Monti" as well, somewhere. You don't have to search too hard for it, because the English equivalent of that phrase has been translated into Tamizh as well. Little Mount, or சின்னமலை, was what it is called, and it is on the wrong side of the river Adyar from St Thomas Mount. 

But the Little Mount is also associated with St Thomas, perhaps even more strongly than the larger one is. It was in a grotto in this little hillock by the river that Thomas Didymus took refuge in, when the shores of Meliapore became too warm for him, figuratively. The entrance to the grotto is now ensconced in the church you see in the centre. Built by the Portuguese in 1551, it is known as the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. In 1711, an adjunct was constructed; When the 19th century of St Thomas' martyrdom was observed in 1971, the adjunct shrine was expanded and modified into a church by itself, called the Church of Our Lady of Health. 

There are several legends of Thomas around this place. The grotto has a tiny exit on the other side, besides which there appears an imprint of a palm, which is believed to be St. Thomas'. A hop-step away from that exit, on a flat piece of rock, is a large, foot-shaped discolouration, which is believed to be a footprint of the saint. There is also the 'bleeding cross', said to have been carved in the rock by Thomas, and, where he smote the rock with his stick, there appeared a spring; that trickle of water continues to run today and is considered to have curative powers. With so much of myth around it, no wonder this place needs to be honoured with two churches, rather than just one!


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Chariot procession

Many translations of such events refer to them as "Car" festivals. Yes, it is a vehicle no doubt, but I prefer to translate தேர் as 'chariot' rather than a pedestrian 'car'. This one is part of the Bhramotsavam of Sri Narasimha Swamy at Triplicane's Parthasarathy Swamy Temple. On the seventh day of the Bhramotsavam, the decorated chariot is taken around the streets encircling the temple, pulled by devotees

Ahead of the chariot is the phalanx of mamas, in traditional Iyengar garb, reciting verses from the நாலாயிரத் திவ்வியப் பிரபந்தம் (Nalayira divya prabandham, four thousand divine codices). Ahead of them, maamis rush to put the final flourishes on their kolams before the கோஷ்டி reaches their doorstep. 

It is a formidable sight, with the chariot being pulled at what can be considered break-back speed trying to catch up with the chanting crowd, while devotees prostrate before the கோஷ்டி or before the chariot, falling down and getting up at speed, without getting in the way of others. In times gone by, this procession would probably have taken half-a-day, stopping at several points along their short way. Today, it was over in a relative flash, within 90 minutes or so; that must have been a very rapid recitation of the divya prabandham!



Friday, July 11, 2014

Market model

In the evening of May 30, 1985, the city of Madras heard about a fire near the Central Station. By the next morning, the fire, supposedly set off by an electrical fault, had completely gutted an 85-year old icon of the city. More than 20 fire engines, including Simon Snorkel, had battled the blaze, but the combination of paper, cloth, vinyl and plastic made sure that the building was beyond salvage. Thus ended Moore Market, the go-to place for old books, records, clothes, pet supplies, exotic meats and pretty much everything that anyone in Madras might have a fancy for. 

In the closing years of the 19th century, an organized market for groceries, meats and other items was a dire need for the city's European (and westernized) residents. An earlier market, on Popham's Broadway, had been long marked down as being unsanitary, but no concrete action on an alternate had been taken. Enter Sir George Montgomerie John Moore, who had taken over as President of the Corporation of Madras in 1886. Though he had begun addressing this requirement in the early days of his term, the selection of a suitable site - which turned out to be a corner of the Peoples' Park near the Central Station - and clearing it up (there was a thriving Gujili Bajaar (okay, Guzili Bazaar), a grey market of second-hand, counterfeit and purloined goods operating there) took a while and it was only in 1898 that the foundation stone was laid.

Sir George was clear that apart from its functional requirements, the new market should aesthetically blend its architecture with its neighbours, Central Station to the east and Victoria Public Hall to the west. The architect chosen was R.E.Ellis and the market was built by A. Subramania Iyer. In 1890, the Governor of Madras, Sir Arthur Havelock opened the Moore Market for trade. Over the course of the 20th century, the Moore Market served the needs of a variety of Madras' citizenry, until other shopping options came up in the 1970s and 80s. Yet, Moore Market held on. The bookshops were a bibliophile's paradise and many other things beside. With that fire on a summer night, a part of Madras' soul was extinguished. 

There are many claimants to the name today. The Allikulam (அல்லி குளம் - Lily Pond) complex tries to pass off as today's Moore Market. There is a digital version somewhere. The Railways call their office complex (built where the market stood) the "Moore Market Complex (MMC)". But the original building can be seen in this faithful replica, right in the middle of the parking complex outside the Railways' MMC. The model is quite exquisite, but the way it is neglected forces one to thinking that it might meet the same fate as its original!


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Special agency school

In May 1872, Lord Hobart took over as Governor of Madras. Lady Hobart and he were convinced that the best way for impoverished Muslim families to improve their lot was to accept Western education. To this end, Lord Hobart established the 'special agency' system, whereby schools were to be established especially for Muslims. Spurred by the new Governor's enthusiasm, a school for girls was set up at Royapettah. The enthusiasm was infectious and within a short time, the school had outgrown its first location and had to encroach on to the grounds nearby. 

Humayun Jah Bahadur, a descendent of Tipu Sultan, came forward and gave over Shah Sawar Jung Bagh, his property on Whites Road to house the school. Lady Hobart herself chipped in with a personal donation of Rs.18,000 to the school. Her support for this institution would have helped it take great strides ahead; unfortunately, that was not to be. Lord Hobart died quite suddenly in 1875 and his widow had to return to England.

The school went ahead, however. Having started off as a primary school, it was very quickly raised to high school status. Hindustani and Tamizh were added to the curriculum, in addition to Urdu and English. Well into the 20th century, around 1945, these premises were home to a women's college, with 75% of seats reserved for Muslim women. Though the college was shifted out (and its administration changed hands) later, the school still functions from its Whites Road premises. Run by the state government, the Lord and Lady who helped set it up are remembered in its name - the Government Hobart Higher Secondary School for Muslim Girls!


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Cricket, lovely cricket

Today, India start their 5-test series in England. In keeping with that, here is a glimpse into the M.A.Chidambaram stadium at Chepauk, seen as the MRTS train passes it. 

Keeping fingers crossed on the Indian team wresting the Pataudi Trophy back from England!


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

New building

That's the new building of the Madras Medical College. Construction was completed last year and it was then waiting for its classrooms to be furnished. Surely all of that would have been done - I hope it is ready to see students at least in the new academic year coming up.

Do you remember what was here earlier? This!



Monday, July 7, 2014

Local mosque

Surely there is a more formal name for this mosque than just calling it Periamet Mosque. That's the locality where it is and so that is what it is called. Set up by leather traders sometime in the mid-19th century, the mosque has gone through a couple of rounds of restoration. 

Best is that you don't try to address it by its formal name, even if there is one. Chances are, nobody will know what you are talking about!


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Seats

The People's Park certainly has a lot of space for people to sit and enjoy the greenery. If you click on the picture (or open it in a separate tab), you will notice a half-kneeling gentleman, bare torso, tiara, twirled moustache and all. That was probably the way they sat in the royal gardens of a long time ago.

And then there is the man in the blue suit, sitting on cushioned chair, appearing to be a person of some importance. (He was that, but more about him in a later post). And then, there is the seat for us, the aam aadmi, the wrought-iron bench that we will have to share with our friends. 

We can also choose to sit on one of the several steps that are found at various spots around the park; best of all, we could sit on the grass of a pleasant afternoon!


Saturday, July 5, 2014

Hooded snake cannonball

This is the flower of the Cannonball tree (Couroupita guianensis), with the stamen stem curving over itself to resemble a serpent's hood. The curve also protects the fertile stamens (at the base) while showing off the fodder staminodes to their best advantage. That's how it attracts the pollinators - mainly carpenter bees.  

The fruit - which gives the tree its name - is a large, round, woody ball. It takes anything from 12 to 18 months for the fruit to be fully ripe. In that time, it makes for a wonderful sight, with several of the cannonballs hanging to the main trunk. The ripe fruit falls off and bursts open, releasing 300 seeds on the average. Small animals take over the task of dispersing them. 

The shape of the flower gives it the local name nagalingam, the snake flower. it is not a tree that is common in private gardens. Most of the specimens are found in public gardens or in temple courtyards. This one is a little bit of both - the gardens of the Theosophical Society!


Friday, July 4, 2014

Double action

This needs two photographs, because I cannot otherwise explain this. Even now, with the pictorial evidence, I can only prove that it is so, without any pointers to the what or why of it. Or for that matter, how is it that a narrow street starts off as 'Labon Lane' and within a couple of hundred metres, adds one letter and substitutes another, before ending up as 'Lapond Lane'. 

This lane is in Chintadripet, where we have seen the office of the Anti-Vice Squad earlier. And it emerges into Laban Street, at one end of which is the Chintadripet Police Station. These clues lead one to look for a Laban / Labon / Lapond among the police officers of Madras. That search is also more or less futile, but we go a step further knowing that there was indeed a Lafond (or, as Google Maps says, Laffond) who was a Deputy Commissioner of Police in the early 1860s. 

But there is not much more that is known of him. And so, we are still stuck with those questions of 'what did he do' or 'why this man'. It will be very interesting if someone comes up with the story of a Labon now!



Thursday, July 3, 2014

Small beginning

Kalakshetra was founded in 1936, in part as an extension of the founders' belief that Theosophy should be extended through an academy for training students in traditional arts. With all the founders belonging to the Theosophical Society at Adyar, it was the easiest thing for them to have the academy function out of the Society's premises. One of the members of the academy, Pandit Subramania Sastri, suggested the name "Kalakshetra", meaning "Holy place of the Arts". 

The academy grew. Rukmini Devi Arundale, the prime mover behind the academy, had personally trained many of the initial batches of students and continued to drive the courses at the academy for many years. In 1951, the academy began developing its own premises at Thiruvanmiyur, a short distance away from the Theosophical Society. Fittingly, the development started with the planting of a sapling from the great banyan of the Theosophical Society in the newly acquired land.

The land expanded to nearly 100 acres. The sapling has grown into a large tree. The academy has grown to become the Kalakshetra Foundation, bringing into its fold five distinct institutions - the College of Fine Arts, the Craft Education and Research Centre, the Besant Arundale Theosophical Senior Secondary and High Schools and the Besant Cultural Centre Hostel. In 1993, the Foundation was taken over by the Government of India and declared an institution of National Importance. Here's to the institution growing further and spreading wide, like the sapling seems to be doing!


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

No flying

You may be a Rolls-Royce. But if you are in Chennai, you could end up having to find a parking space tucked behind a water-tanker. 

No way I would park one like that - and I am sure you wouldn't, either!


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Chennai branch

The halwa from Tirunelveli's Iruttukadai (Dark shop) is famous enough to merit its own geographical indicator, but then it is only one of the many shops in that town making and selling the eponymous sweet. There is no official account as to how the halwa originated. One version has it that the zamindar of Chokkampatti, when on a trip to Kasi, was bowled over by the taste of the halwa there. He hired some cooks - they were Rajputs, incidentally - to take over the kitchen at the Chokkampatti palace. A couple of generations later (probably), someone from the family thought of selling the halwa in Tirunelveli. 

The credit for actually selling the halwa in Tirunelveli goes to a lady named Lakshmi, who went around selling it door to door. Seeing the demand generated by her, Jegan Singh opened up the first exclusive halwa shop there. That was in 1882. And he spawned the cult of the Tirunelveli halwa. No one is sure about the number of shops in that city which sell the Tirunelveli halwa, but for a long while, it was not distributed beyond the city. We in Chennai would have to wait for a friend to bring it from its origins - and then, when it was distributed, there would be barely enough of it to stem the drooling.

But not any more. The halwais of Tirunelveli have spread out geographically. Many shops in Chennai stock the product, delivered fresh every day. But there are only a few which have set up a branch office in the city. Leading them, of course, is the originator of the halwa. Jegan Singh's store, Sri Lakshmi Vilas - named for the lady who began the selling - will give you the stuff from their exclusive outlet in West Mambalam. And it is not just any old Tirunelveli halwa; this one comes with the added descriptor, "Lala alva", declaring the authenticity of its lineage!


Monday, June 30, 2014

Well placed

Of course there is little that one can teach Kotler about the importance of Positioning. Even then, it was a bit of surprise to find a copy of his textbook on "Marketing Management" in a bucket of to-be-washed clothes. Stranger so because around the area this was found, there is no management institute. Nor was there anyone around to claim ownership of this book, or the clothes. 

Maybe it is the caretaker of the Kodanda Ramar temple opposite who is storing his worldly possessions here. Must be a man of learning - and discernement!


Sunday, June 29, 2014

From above

I have written earlier about how Madras has a significant presence on the country's aviation map.

Here is a picture from the air, showing the old terminal on the right. 


Saturday, June 28, 2014

From here to the stars

What connection does this school quadrangle - that is what it is, obviously - have to the NASA's Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility (AXAF)? The answer is quite short: Chandra. This is where the Nobel Laureate Subramanyan Chandrasekhar went to a formal school for the first time. Until his father was transferred to Madras (from Lahore), and for a little while after as well, Chandra was privately tutored. It was in 1922 that he was enrolled at the Hindu High School, Triplicane.

The school buildings are just the way they were in Chandra's time. And well before that, too. The buildings were inaugurated in 1898, even though the school, in different forms, had been functioning from much earlier. Chandra finished his schooling in 1925 and then went to college a short distance away - the Presidency College. In those days, college meant 5 years; in the final two years, Chandra "formed a friendship" with a Lalitha Doraiswamy, a college-mate one year his junior. She became his wife in 1936 and remained so throughout her life, being the "central facts" of Chandra's life - something he spoke about in his biographical on the Nobel Prize website

In 1998, three years after his passing away, NASA named its AXAF the "Chandra X-ray Observatory" in his honour. And that is how this quadrangle - where generations since have played, and then gone on to shine in their chosen fields - connects with something out there amidst the stars!



Friday, June 27, 2014

Cheap ad

If you had been to Chennai about 8 to 10 years ago, you would have been struck by the number of places carrying this man's advertisements. There was hardly a wall in the city that did not have the words "P. James Magic Show 9841072671" written on it, maybe several times over. Every part of the city carried these black letters, sprayed or painted on to the walls with a black-oxide-and-Fevicol mixture, which keeps the letters stuck on the walls for more  than a couple of monsoons. The city's residents probably did not take notice of them too much, but for a few years, they were the one thing about Chennai most visitors were intrigued by, thanks to their omnipresence.

James is a stage name. The man's real name is V. Kennedy; he took his father's - or was it his grandfather's? - name and made it his brand, one that is so ubiquitous that it featured as a question on one the editions of the Landmark Quiz. Kennedy claims that it took him almost 14 years of painting walls to achieve the kind of brand recognition that he has now.

And yet, I have not come across anyone who has seen a P. James performance. Some speculate that the man has passed on, and it is the junior who runs the show these days. The advertisements also appear to have become thinned down. Maybe there is some truth to it, after all. Like Phantom in the comic strip, P.James could also be immortal!



Thursday, June 26, 2014

Ocean view

It does seem I am spending too much time behind bars these days. Of the wrong kind. Must do something about that!


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Street house

I don't know if you have ever had the experience, but I have sensed two kinds of smells from houses that have been locked up for a long while. One kind is the stink of bat- and rat-droppings, mixed with the sharp staleness of food that has died and gone to hell. Add to that the musty wetness of water that has got to the heart of the timbers and you get the sense of decay the house faces.

There is another kind of locked-house-smell, one that I find extremely agreeable. Even if it has been locked up for long, the smell reminds of sunshine trapped in the rooms, running around trying to get out. Add to it the healthy warm smell of grains that fed everyone in the house and the love and care that was plastered into the walls, and you get that fragrance, which if I could bottle it, would make me a millionaire. 

This house on Sullivan Street in San Thome certainly smelled well. It has not seen residents for quite a few years, obviously. But it was certainly inviting, with two flights of low steps sweeping out like arms ready to embrace visitors, or even any of the passers-by!


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Enclave

The name of the apartment complex was unique enough to take a second look at. Was it something to do with a religious sect? Or was it in memory of someone important? Turns out it was (is) neither. Zalawad was one of the princely states of Saurashtra. I have not been able to figure out what Zalawad was like. But the history of the integration of Saurashtra, post-independence, makes for interesting reading. 

Apparently, the geography of Saurashtra - or Kathiawar as it was known - makes for interesting reading. The region had fourteen 'salute' states, seventeen non-salute states and 191 other small states. Of the small states, 46 had an area of less than 2 square miles each. The smallest, Vejanoness, had an area of 0.29 sq.m, a population of 206 and an annual income of Rs.500. 

The state of Zalawad seems to have been somewhere in between these minuscule principalities and the salute states. The only map of Zalawad that I have been able to find is in Gujarati, which I cannot read. Maybe some of the neighbours from that region came together to Madras and began to stay together in this part of Vepery, and maybe their families continue to live together in this apartment complex!