Most singers would prefer tiny avartanams.
Kamal Hassan to inaugurate Chennayil Tiruvaiyyaru’s fest. At last a Sabha that has got a Chief Guest who knows fine arts.
This is a precis of a more detailed story I wrote earlier.
Given that most musicians depend so heavily on i-pads, notebooks and tablets as aide-memoirs on stage, should these not be declared upa-pakkavadyams? And will Adobe, MS-Word and Powerpoint become part of a new chapter in Bharata’s Natya Sastra?
The mridangist provided ‘gleeful’ accompaniment – a classic review sign off. Wonder what that means.
Hai! Even the goddess is not immune. At Tiruvidaimarudur Her name is spelt as Brihadsuntharakujambigai
With only three days left for the mega inaugural functions in most Sabhas, today will be the day when old shawls/ponnadais are aired.
The last week of November saw Ripon Building completing a century. The coverage in the electronic media had at least one channel claiming that it was built “by the British for their administration”. Considering that it was constructed in 1913 and therefore it was only 34 years old when the country became independent, surely that is somewhat of an overstatement! After all, the majority of its 100 years saw Ripon Building as the administrative headquarters of a civic body for a city in an independent India. So how British is Ripon Building?
For that matter, how British are such buildings that have been built in the colonial era? Let us first of all concede that their designs, largely Gothic, Neo Classical and Art Deco, are foreign in origin. But then so are all the modern glass, steel and concrete structures that we build now! It is a well-known fact that very, very few architects in the country have evolved an indigenous style and even fewer clients want such designs to be implemented. So how does that make modern highrises Indian?
Yes, it is true that the architects who designed the old buildings and their several clients who commissioned them (most often Government departments) were British. But does that not make a post-Independence construction for the Indian arm of a multinational, with design by an overseas architect, also an alien? How do we consider that an Indian structure? The TCS building in Siruseri was designed by a Uruguayan firm. To which country does it belong? And while on the same point, what about the German-designed Assembly building now turned multi-speciality hospital? Is it Indian or German? From its appearance it definitely looks alien as does the Siruseri office of TCS.
The colonial buildings may have been designed by British architects, but the execution was entirely in the hands of Indians. The contractors were all Indian (you can’t get more local than T Namberumal Chetty, Nemali Pattabhirama Rao and P Loganatha Mudaliar – the three men involved in the construction of Ripon Building) as were the workmen. And it was this group that really helped in ensuring that the British-designs were translated into reality. After all, where would St Andrews Kirk, Central Station and Ripon Building be without the terracotta well foundations, which were very much a product of local expertise? The British did not even know of this till Major Thomas Fiott de Havilland made a study of the technique in the early 1800s.
Next let us look at the material used. Old buildings had a mix of native and imported components. The steel was often from England (and, later, increasingly from local sources), the fittings were imported as well (as they often still are) as was the stained glass. The timber was largely indigenous (as opposed to the now increasing habit of importing exotic and unsuitable varieties from other parts of the world). Floor tiles were imported by those who could afford them, the rest made do with indigenous stone. This still continues. In short, components then were a mixed bag and they still are. Stone carving has remained indigenous. Gone, however, is the completely indigenous technique of lime mortar and plaster. What we now have is reinforced cement concrete, which is not entirely suited for the local climatic conditions but then there are no alternatives.
Architecture and construction were always a combination of several influences and styles. It never was hundred per cent indigenous or foreign and never will be. Let us learn to appreciate whatever buildings are available and worth preserving as part of our continued heritage without searching for classification tags.
Will Purvikalyani merge with Pantuvarali eventually? Just like Manji did with Bhairavi?
This is the centenary year of the mathematics genius Srinivasa Ramanujan’s journey to the United Kingdom. This journey marked the beginning of the world sitting up and recognising his extraordinary abilities in his field and is surely a matter of pride and celebration for our city, from where he had set out. And yet, one of the commemorative plaques for him in this city has vanished. The reason? The owners of the property where it stood were afraid that this would lead to the house being taken over by the Government on the grounds that it was a heritage property!
There are, of course, plenty of other memorials to Ramanujan and, indeed, at least three other houses that he lived in in Triplicane. But this property, in Hanumantharayar Koil Street, was the only one that bore a plaque commemorating the fact, and it was from here that he set out to England. And so the plaque was particularly significant. Conversely, from the owner’s point of view, this is what put his precious real estate at risk.
This is not the only instance of such a thought process. Several years ago, a marble plaque that commemorated a Mylapore house where the Indian National Congress was founded, was broken as soon as the property changed hands, the new owners being apprehensive of a Government take-over. A restaurant in Triplicane that had a slab recording Gandhi’s visit to the building got rid of the stone a couple of years ago. The foundation stone of the rear wing of P Orr & Sons was smashed to pieces by Metro Rail as soon as it began demolition work after obtaining the permission of the High Court of Madras.
Should the owners of such properties live in such fear? Not necessarily so. There are other cities in India such as Pune and Kolkata where blue plaques have been placed outside buildings where historic personalities once lived or where historic events took place. The residents continue living undisturbed in the premises and for several of them it is a matter of pride that their residence is of historic importance. In foreign countries, where blue plaques and commemoration stones are commonplace, properties with heritage tags are more valuable than those of modern provenance. Why then is the situation different in Chennai?
Firstly, there is ignorance. Most owners do not know anything of the building’s past and are perhaps even less aware of what history the property had. But more to blame are Government policies concerning heritage that are vague at best and intimidating at worst. The Heritage Conservation Committee of the CMDA sent a letter to owners of the properties in the High Court’s list. The letter was more of a threat than an encouragement to them. It forbade them from making any changes to their premises, including renovations, alterations and repairs. It is no wonder that those whose properties are not listed consider themselves blessed and are actively taking steps to destroy any traces that are left of their heritage importance.
That such fears are not well founded will be evident if these owners reflect on the Government’s track record of taking over properties. In the past many years, just two premises – those of K Kamaraj and Subramania Bharati – have been taken over. All the rest, were handed over voluntarily. The Government has had to step in only on the rarest of occasions and even in such cases, has paid compensation, though it must be admitted that the valuation is always according to Government norms and not based on market rates. In any case, Governments have a number of other things to focus on and, as is well known, heritage is one of its last priorities.
There have, however, been a few stories with happier endings. The monument dedicated to Satyagraha that stands outside the Chola Sheraton continues to be preserved. A more heart-warming story is the preservation of the memorials to Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddy and Dr. Sundara Reddy. These were part of the property owned by the couple and when it changed hands, it was on the condition that the memorials would not be disturbed by the developer. The chronicler K R A Narasiah played a role in this, by explaining the importance of the stones to the buyer. They have been allowed to remain and are cared for. May the trend increase.