How Madras Grew – Part 2

October 30, 2014

Continued from part 1

The Surviving Esplanade Boundary Pillar
In 1746, the French occupied Madras, staying on till 1749 following a peace treaty. The return of the English was a turning point, for major expansions can be traced from then on. The first steps were taken in self-defence. Old Black Town, by then comprising 8700 houses, was considered a security hazard and demolished, the residents there being moved into the twin villages of Muthialpet and Peddanaickenpet, which taken together became New Black Town. In 1772, a survey fixed the southern boundary of Black Town with six stones, each an obelisk of 15 feet. Construction beyond this was forbidden for a clear line of sight to the sea was needed. One of these boundary pillars survives, standing in the shadow of Dare House, at Parry’s Corner. The space beyond developed as the Esplanade and remained as such till the 1860s when the High Court came to be built on it. A similar boundary and esplanade appear to have been created at the northwestern end of Town as well, with five obelisks marking the edge. None of these survive, but one of the plaques was later built into the wall of the Washermanpet police station and was found quite serendipitously a few months ago by a correspondent of The Hindu. There is yet another boundary obelisk standing all by itself between two railway lines between Basin Bridge and Korukkupet Stations. As to what this was supposed to demarcate is not clear.

One of the most significant acquisitions for the British on their return from exile was Santhome and its adjunct Mylapore. They had cast covetous eyes on this erstwhile Portuguese settlement since the 1670s but their attempts to gain control over it had been thwarted by the French and later by the Golconda and Dutch forces. Now in 1750, with the local rulers, the Nawabs of Arcot being more amenable, Santhome and Mylapore became British controlled. A survey done in 1798 shows that the limits of Madras were then Adyar River on the south, Chetpet, Kilpauk and Perambur in the west and Royapuram in the north. This was to remain the extent of the city until the early 1900s.

Black Town had fully developed by the 1790s into the maze of streets that we see today, most of them named after Dubashes who battened on East India Company trade. Several of them built temples, which remain, though the palatial mansions of the patrons have long gone, making way for shops and warehouses. One thoroughfare alone stands out for its width – Broadway or Prakasam Salai as we know of it now. Developed by lawyer and speculator Stephen Popham, it became the fashionable European quarter of Town – home to shops, restaurants and churches.

By 1800, with the British becoming the acknowledged masters of most of South India, most of those living in Fort St George made bold to move out. Mount Road had got its present contours and the Governor, Edward, 2nd Lord Clive, shifted his residence to a vast garden house at the northern end. Known as Government Estate, this was where Governors of Madras Presidency lived till 1948, Guindy being their weekend retreat. Clive also built a magnificent banqueting hall on the premises, which is today Rajaji Hall. A few years ago, historic Government Estate, with its age-old buildings barring Rajaji Hall, was razed to the ground to make way for the new Assembly cum Secretariat, which in turn has metamorphosed into a multi-speciality hospital.

To be continued…

How Madras grew – part 1

October 29, 2014

This is an article that I wrote for Frontline during Madras Week this year. It was titled Growing in Fits and Starts

Current Chennai Map

Current Chennai Map

Chennai that was Madras now extends from Minjur to Sholinganallur, an urban agglomeration of 1,177 sq km. Of this, the area under the city’s corporation is 426 sq km, which it has divided into 200 wards or divisions, grouped under three zones. The civic body controlled around 176 sq km as late as 2011 when the biggest leap was made – the addition of 42 small local bodies including nine municipalities, eight town panchayats and 25 village panchayats into city limits. This increase is the last in a series of sporadic jumps that our city has made, in its growth over 375 years.

Though Chennai traces its origins from Fort St George in 1639, several pockets of what comprises the city today have a far older heritage. The region as a whole is considered a classic ground of early Paleolithic culture of South India, Pallavaram in being particularly rich in finds. Traces of Iron Age culture have been found in Egmore and the Red Hills. From the Sangam period onwards we have continuous references to villages in the area – Mylapore/Tiruvallikeni, Tiruvottriyur, Mangadu, Poonamallee, Kunrattur, Madhavaram, Nungambakkam, Tambaram and others featuring regularly in inscriptions.

However, it cannot be denied that in August 1639, what was recognised as Madras or Chennapatnam (but lets not get into that controversy) was just Fort St George – originally 100 sq yards in area, with a factory or warehouse in the middle. By 1640, around 300 weavers families were settled just outside this ‘fort’, giving rise to Black Town, which is however not to be confused with the present day Town which was then a couple of hamlets further north. By 1674, there were 118 houses within Fort St George, and 75 outside of it, in old Black Town.

The British were not content with just their Fort and Town. There were continuous representations to the powers that be, and there were several of them then, for the granting on rent one village or the other in the neighbourhood. The ancient settlement of Tiruvallikeni was the first, being leased to the East India Company in 1672. During the tenure of Elihu Yale as Governor (1687-1692), Egmore, Purasawalkam and Tondiarpet were taken on annual lease from Zulfikar Khan, the representative of the Moghul Emperor, Aurangzeb.

The first reliable map of Madras was drawn between 1707 and 1710, on the orders of Governor Thomas Pitt, whose fortune made here would later ensure that two of his descendants became Prime Ministers of England. Pitt’s map shows several recognisable features – the fort had acquired a new Governor’s House, the core of which is today’s Legislative Assembly and Secretariat. The church of St Mary’s built in 1678 is visible. More importantly, it shows that old Black Town had spread to where the High Court now stands. The two hamlets further north are clearly marked Muthial Peta and Peddanaigue Pete. The Island is another feature. This was created by making a cut in the North River, a stream that is now part of the Buckingham Canal. Work on it began in 1696 and when completed, it encompassed the Company’s Garden and a second house for the Governor. Pitt it is said enjoyed the great outdoors and so acquired another house, this one in the distant village of Guindy, thereby marking the first steps towards the present day Raj Bhawan there.

While the map was being drawn. the English had added to their portfolio by renting Tiruvottriyur, Nungambakkam, Vyasarpadi, Kathivakkam and Sathangadu. All the rented villages were by 1720 made over to the English by way of a grant. An important development in 1717 was the settling of weavers in an exclusive area demarcated for them – Chinna Tari Petta or Chintadripet. Nestling in the arms of the Cooum, it was selected because of the presence of several trees, carefully tended by Dubash Sunkurama who is commemorated in a street name here after the land was forcibly taken away from him. The first planned colony of the city, Chintadripet is of a fishbone pattern – a straight spine that cuts across the peninsula with streets branching away from it. All the streets slope down to the river thereby ensuring natural drainage. Unlike Black Town and the other villages in the area, segregation based on caste was strictly forbidden in Chintadripet, a first step towards a cosmopolitan life. Two years after Chintadripet was founded, Governor Joseph Collet set up another weaver’s village near Tiruvottriyur. It was named Colletspettah after him and is today known as Kaladipettai. A grant in 1742 added Vepery, Periamet, Pudupakkam, Ennore and Sadayankuppam to the Company territories.

To be continued

The #SmartCity story

October 28, 2014

Smart Cities are the in-thing, at least as far as Government’s planning mechanisms are concerned. The Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) is no different, and we learnt that it is preparing itself for taking up the planning required in the newly added area to the city’s metropolitan limits. But, given its track record, as far as the old areas are concerned, is the CMDA going to function any different when it comes to the new?

On paper it all looks fantastic – sustainable environment policy, enforcement measures to bring down noise, air and water pollution, recycling of water, environment management, tree plantation, decongestion, necessity to regulate development, strengthening satellite townships, strict enforcement of development regulations, ensuring open space regulation land, implementation of road width norms and requirement of completion certificates for buildings for them to get electricity and water connections. What more could a smart city ask for? It is all there on paper. By reading this you would not be far wrong in thinking that the newly added areas to the city are one lucky lot – so many wonderful regulations awaiting them.

Now let us look at how the old areas of the city have fared under the same laws. The Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi, noted last year that while particulate matter in Chennai may be lower than other metros, and that is largely thanks to the sea breeze, there has been a rapid escalation of particulate matter, a 193 per cent jump between 2007 and 2013. The CSE attributes this to the continued building of car-centric transport mechanisms – flyovers and zero signal one-ways which are becoming emission traps. As for water, while we may be the first city in India to formally implement rainwater-harvesting (RWH) schemes, a recent study has revealed that more than 100,000 government buildings are yet to implement it, more than 18 years since the programme was made compulsory in the State. In fact, the much touted completion certificate of the CMDA is supposed to be withheld in case RWH is not in place in a building, and yet these Government departments have been happily functioning, with electricity and water supply!

As for green cover, as our readers are aware, environmentalists are fighting the Government’s plan to reduce the buffer zone around the Guindy National Park so that neighbours can build without restriction. And that brings us to the vexed issue of illegal constructions in the city. Various ordinances and legislations between 1999 and 2007 were passed to regularise them, which just goes to show that such violations were not viewed seriously. The matter has since become sub judice. In 2012, a leading newspaper of the city showed that, according to the Government’s own admission, more than 50 per cent of the buildings in the city have violated rules! There is no reason to imagine that the situation has improved since then. Last year, a grand plan was announced that the city would follow Ahmadabad (it is amazing how that city is considered the font of all wisdom these days) and appoint a 200-member panel to monitor illegal buildings. That scheme has remained on paper.

With this background, how does the CMDA imagine that it can convert the newly included areas into Valhallas where nothing could be less than ideal? And what about the mess that is prevailing in the older suburbs, not to mention the city? Have these been abandoned as a bad job leaving the residents to manage in whatever manner they can? Unless the city’s top planning body overhauls its current manner of working when it comes to implementation of its laudable rules, there is no way that any of the newer areas are going to be any different. And there’s going to be nothing smart about that.

Will #SwacchBharath work in Chennai?

October 27, 2014

The Prime Minister’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Programme) was launched with much fanfare recently in the national capital. The move is most laudable, as garbage and filth have become the most visible symbols of our country, commented most often on by visitors from overseas countries and by international media. There was scarcely a ripple in Chennai, however, probably because the city had much to occupy its mind in the last ten days. However, it would do well to ponder over its garbage problem and arrive at a suitable solution. At 4900 metric tonnes of garbage a day, even though the Corporation’s web site claims it is only 4500 metric tonnes, Chennai is the fourth largest producer of rubbish in the country. That it has not been able to handle this volume is more than evident from the way the streets and thoroughfares are littered with refuse. The collection/disposal mechanism, whether by the Corporation’s conservancy staff or by the private operator contracted for it, is seriously flawed both in collection and disposal. What is the solution in sight? Sadly, there appears to be none. That the Corporation believes that what it is presently doing is the ideal solution is –evident from the fact that it is planning to privatise garbage collection in four of the newly acquired zones – Alandur, Sholinganallur, Valasarawakkam and Perungudi. It is reliably learnt that some firms from the Gulf region are in the fray. Also, incredibly so, given its poor track record, is the firm that currently handles garbage clearance in Adyar, Kodambakkam and Teynampet.

The usual plans have been trotted out – there will be no common garbage bins in street corners, each household/office unit will be provided with two differently coloured bins – one for bio-degradable and the other for non-bio-degradable waste – and that collection will be from door to door. It is worthwhile pointing out that these were the same plans that were put out when garbage collection was privatised in the three zones mentioned above. Despite 18 years having gone by since the contracting out of rubbish collection, segregation at source and collection door-to-door have remained dreams. How then is the Corporation going to handle this effectively through its contractor in the new zones? As for garbage disposal, it remains in the dark ages. There is no scientific method beyond the continued use of landfills. The Corporation of Chennai is under severe pressure to identify new landfills, as the present ones in Perungudi and Kodungaiyur have already reached capacity. The new landfill is to be according to the Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules 2000. Space for this was identified at Kuthambakkam, but no contractor has come forward for the construction of the landfill. In the meanwhile, the proposal is under the scrutiny of the National Green Tribunal following complaints from local residents that the construction of a landfill in their area will affect the quality of their life. That the space is currently a grazing area has lent credence to their claims.

For that matter, even the national scheme does not speak of waste disposal. In its current form, the plan appears to be more of a photo opportunity, asking the people to identify garbage accumulations, photograph them, clean them and then photograph the spaces once again. This is praiseworthy as a way of bringing the community together to work on a common cause, but it would be most effective only if a solution is worked out till the last aspect – the effective disposal of waste. Chennai, as part of the national drive, needs to think of its solutions as well – for collection, transportation and disposal of garbage. It would do well to begin now.

On international smuggling itinerary…

October 25, 2014
The entrance arch of The Oceanic hotel

The entrance arch of The Oceanic hotel

To most residents of Chennai it is an empty piece of real estate, the art deco ‘O’ shaped entrance being the sole survivor. It was a top-notch hotel that once boasted of the city’s first discotheque. To actor Dilip Kumar it was home in Madras, probably because former flame Madhubala stayed at The Connemara. To the Indian cricket team, this was their place of stay when test matches were played here. To me, ever since actor Mohan Raman set me off on the story, The Oceanic will always be the place where a dreaded smuggling duo spent one night.

On December 31, 1965, B.P.C. Comyn and S.T. Lamb, both British nationals, landed at Meenambakkam airport, via an Air Ceylon flight. They spent one night at The Oceanic, before leaving for Bombay, where they stayed at the West End Hotel. There they were arrested on suspicion by police officers D.H. Crawford and R.S. Kulkarni. Their fingerprints were taken and found to be those of wanted international smugglers Daniel Hailey Walcott of the USA and Jean Claude Donze of France.

The two had come back to India in order to retrieve a consignment of gold that they had dumped off Bombay. Both were not new to Indian Courts or jails. In 1962, Walcott flew into India in a DC4 craft. Caught smuggling ammunition, he was arrested, tried and sentenced, being lodged in Tihar. Released conditionally, he would periodically attend to his impounded aircraft at Delhi’s Safdarjung airport. One afternoon, he simply took off in it. Having circled over Tihar and dropped cigarettes and chocolates as gifts for the inmates, he flew off to Pakistan. He had been wanted ever since. Donze had a cleaner track record; he had served his sentence for smuggling off Rameswaram and left the country.

The duo’s 1965 entry into India having been through Madras, they were brought here in the custody of V.R. Lakshminarayanan, later to become DGP, Tamil Nadu. Tried for entering the country on false passports, they were sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for five years. The appeal in the High Court of Madras had V.P. Raman as the Special Public Prosecutor. The sentences were confirmed, which the duo accepted meekly, Walcott even congratulating Raman and asking if he would appear for him in the Supreme Court!

Lodged in the Madras jail opposite the Central Station, they were one day found on the roof of the prison, planning their escape! R.S. Kulkarni was summoned to take them to Bombay where after the discovery of hacksaws and files in their cells, they were transferred to Tihar. These attempts increased the sentences. Released ten years later, Walcott came to Kulkarni’s office in Bombay, complimented him on his fairness and left.

He settled in Los Angeles where he was shot dead in a drug smuggling feud in 2001. Donze vanished from his home in France in 2007 and was later confirmed as having been killed in 2009. The Oceanic was demolished in 2005 or so.

This article appeared in The Hindu dated October 25, 2014, under the Hidden Histories column.

More details on The Oceanic are available here.

Making space at Central Station

October 23, 2014

The Man from Madras Musings has always had a fondness for the Central Station, though his heart has always belonged to Egmore. MMM still recalls the vast emptiness of the latter station, its wooden staircases and the drive-in platform. But all that is gone and Egmore now exasperates more than pleases. But leaving that aside, MMM having committed to writing on Central will do just that.

There may have been a time when this station was a vast emptiness too, giving you the impression of having entered a particularly cavernous church. Certainly, the Chief’s book on olde Madras confirms that view though MMM has never ever seen it that way. To MMM, it has always been a place of chaos, noise, hustle and bustle, thereby encouraging people to spend minimum time in it – you are better off rushing home or jumping into a train. That way, it admirably fulfils the purpose for which it was constructed.

But of late, getting in and getting out of the station has become such a nightmare that MMM despairs at the very thought of it. The entrance and the exit are probably what the good book meant when it spoke about the eye of the needle. Add to this the natural tendency of our brethren and sororities towards indiscipline and mayhem, and you have a rich mixture. To add local colour you also have the excellent vocabulary of those thwarted in overtaking, parking, entering and leaving. Family relationships are called into question and the blush of shame mounts MMM’s cheeks when he thinks of it all.

The Railways have blamed it all on Metro Rail, saying that this is the best that can be done considering the situation. What MMM would like to question is this attitude. There are actually acres of wasted space all around the station that can be put to good use if only someone had the imagination to think differently. Who needs, for instance, a scrap of a lawn which only serves as a resting place for vagrants? What about the largish area occupied by a hideous fountain unveiled by some minister-or-the-other for some-event-or-the-other? Do we really need it? After all, far more aesthetic buildings, statues and monuments have bitten the dust in the name of development. Next, do we still need an artificial palm tree that does not work? This was installed a few years ago and MMM remembers putting up a spirited protest even then, but to no avail. When lit up, this created the illusion of having several fronds, some dates hanging down, and was supposed to make us believe that our city had become a second Dubai. But then the dates vanished, and after some time, the fronds stopped being lit up and, finally, the trunk alone stood illuminated. Then, that too gave up the ghost.

Next, do we still need a memorial for Moore Market? MMM would be the first to admit that the scaled down model is a wonderful reproduction of the original but now that its inner courts are used as makeshift bedrooms and toilets, can we not do away with it altogether?

A substantial part of the old jail was given to the General Hospital but there is still a sizeable piece of land that can be used as parking space. Those wishing to reach the station need to only use the underpass and through it the subway. But for that, we need to clear the settlers there and stop people from using it as the largest public toilet in the world.

All this, if removed, can make for some additional space in and around the station and thereby ease up the chaos a wee bit. Easier said than done?

The Gurudwara on GN Chetty Road

October 21, 2014
The T Nagar Gurudwara

The T Nagar Gurudwara

Lt. Col. G.S. Gill was among the first of the prominent Punjabis who settled in the city and made important contributions to it. Born on September 16, 1893, Gurdial Singh Gill was from Faridkot, Punjab. Sent to England to study law in 1912, he opted for medicine and moved to Edinburgh University from where he graduated in 1919, throwing in, for good measure, a few months’ service in the Indian Field Ambulance Training Corps during the World War I.

Dr. Gill and his Scottish wife Rena Lister Gill set up his practice and home in Bolton near Manchester for a while and raised a family of four sons. In 1923, they came to India where he joined the Indian Medical Service (IMS) and became Lt. Col. G.S. Gill, IMS. With the IMS being abolished in 1930, he moved to prison service and became Inspector General of Prisons, Madras, which meant all gaols in the Presidency were under him. Most Madras-based Congress leaders arrested during the Quit India movement became his wards and there developed a close affinity between them and the warm-hearted Sikh.

Post-Independence, Gill opted to stay on in Madras. He and other prominent Punjabis settled here at that time were to make important contributions to the city. The Punjab Association had been founded in 1937. The body was to be tested to the hilt in 1947 when it invited, with the backing of former premier C. Rajagopalachari, who had become good friends with Gill while in gaol, scores of Partition refugees to settle in Madras, most having no idea about the city to which they were making their way.

Lt Col. Gill would invariably meet them at the station. A ‘sharanagat rahat punarvas’ (refugee rehabilitation) committee was set up and with money obtained from donations it helped them put down roots. The enterprising newcomers soon became successful entrepreneurs and professionals.

Lt. Col. Gill was a close confidante of Maharani Vidyawati Devi Sahib of Vizianagaram, a princess from Keonthal near Shimla, who had married into a princely Andhra family and had, like him, been transplanted to the South. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan had been an early protégé of hers. In her, Gill found a powerful patron and supporter. In 1949, when the Punjabis in Madras felt the need for a gurudwara, Gill led the committee that founded the Sri Guru Nanak Sat Sangh Sabha in T’Nagar. It was the Maharani who helped in making the dream a reality, donating generously for the building. Work began in 1952, with Gill personally supervising the construction. Lt. Col. Gill died in May 1982. A block in Guru Nanak College and Gill Nagar, a busy colony of the city, commemorate him. One of his sons was the celebrated Lt. Gen. I.S. Gill, PVSM, MC, whose life was documented in Born to Dare by S. Muthiah.

Kill Nagar! Scary!

Kill Nagar! Scary!

The gurudwara seen above has been completely renovated, modernised and expanded in the last decade, but has retained its traditional character and stands a landmark off GNC Road, T’ Nagar.

You may want to read about other landmarks of the city, past and present:

Kalaivanar Arangam

The Corporation Zoo

Victory House

Gemini Studios

Old Woodlands Hotel

The Oceanic Hotel

My Ladyes Garden

Connemara Hotel

The Airlines Hotel

Everest Hotel

Modern Cafe


The Eastern and Western Castlets

The Madras Bulwark

Talking to the Government

October 20, 2014

Have you ever tried calling any Government office? The Man from Madras Musings has, and he can assure you that it is a fun activity, particularly if you have plenty of time and no particular agenda on hand that requires immediate attention. These being days of telecom revolutions and high-speed connectivity, most Government departments feature telephone numbers on their web sites, letterheads and circulars. They exude the image of desperately wanting to be in touch with the likes of MMM and every one of you out there. The responses that you get are quite typical and MMM has classified them under various heads for your convenience.

Landlines: These will give you one of two results – either a recorded voice will tell you in a bored manner (it is only on Government telephones that even recorded voices can sound bored) that the dialled number is not in use, or the phone will keep ringing till eternity. Sometimes you will find that it remains engaged till eternity (bored recorded voice – dyulled numbarr is busy, please duyal later) which simply means it has been kept off the hook so that our Government officials can get on with more pressing business on hand, namely attend endless meetings. Sometimes the odd miracle does happen and the call gets answered. Here again, you can have two results – the first one being that the person at the other end says that this is not the relevant number and if he/she is in a good mood gives you a different number. When you try that number, you find that it is either not in existence or keeps ringing or is engaged. In desperation you call back the first number in the hope that the kindly voice will give you another number, only to find that that number too now rings away to glory with no response.

The second result is not meant for those with weak hearts – the call is answered and then the person at the other end offers to transfer the call to the intended respondent. But be of good cheer, for nothing further will happen – most Government officials do not know how to transfer calls and will simply hang up. Otherwise they will tell you that the respondent is not, er… responding (sir/madam is not in seat) and ask you to call later. When you do that you know that the number will be either continuously busy or will just keep ringing.

Cell phones: Some departments publish cell phone numbers of key officials. These are strictly one-way instruments – the officers only make outgoing calls on them to juniors. All senior bureaucrats have a second and private cell phone on which they receive calls from their spouses and children or receive transfer orders. That number is never disclosed to the undeserving general public.

RK Narayan’s first school

October 17, 2014

ELM Fabricius School, Purasawalkam

ELM Fabricius School, Purasawalkam

Last fortnight saw many articles on R.K. Narayan, the man who put Indian writing in English on the world map. Almost all of them lamented the fact that No 1, Vellala Street, Purasawalkam, the house where he spent his childhood, is no longer standing. What flourishes, however, is the first school that R.K. Narayan went to. Located at the intersection of Purasawalkam High Road and Gangadeeswarar Koil Street is the ELM Fabricius School. Established in 1849, it was initially a tiny parish school located within the compound of the Lutheran Church on Tana Street. It soon developed and became known as the Lutheran Mission Middle School. In 1893 it was renamed the E(vangelical) L(utheran) M(ission) Fabricius School, after the German missionary of the 18th century who did such good work in Tamil Christian hymnody and the translation of the Bible into Tamil. In 1894, the school moved from the church into its present premises. The structure remains more or less what it was, with the exteriors now having been plastered over while retaining the original contours.

Narayan, however, did not take to it. In his My Days where he refers to it as the Lutheran Mission School, he reminisces as to how as a child he trailed behind his uncle on Puraswalkam High Road. “When we passed an orange-coloured school building with a green gate, my uncle promised that I would in due course find myself there. I did not welcome the idea. It was a gaunt-looking building with a crucifix on its roof. I hated it at first sight.” Narayan joined the school in 1912, weeping with fear on the first day. He was never to warm up to the institution. He disliked the masters who flourished their canes as “a medium of self-expression like a conductor’s baton”. That he was bad at clay modelling, handwork and writing on the slate did not endear him to his teachers.

This institution was clearly the inspiration for some episodes in Swami and Friends. Both the schools that Swami attends — the Albert Mission and The Board, closely resemble the ELM Fabricius. At the Albert Mission, Narayan has Swami do something he never dared to do in real life — stand up and question the Scripture master when he spoke derogatorily of Hindu gods. Similarly, like Narayan, Swami gets into trouble at the Board School for skipping drill class. And unlike Narayan who patiently suffered the Headmaster’s cane on his palm for this, Swami snatches it and throws it out of the window.

Narayan studied till middle school at the ELM Fabricius and then briefly joined in succession the CRC (now the MCtM) and the Madras Christian College schools before moving on to Mysore. Late in life he would occasionally visit Purasawalkam, trying to spot old landmarks. In his Foreword to the special edition of Swami and Friends to commemorate his 90th year, he was to note that the school stood firm, just as he “knew it as a reluctant schoolboy.”

This article appeared in The Hindu dated October 18, 2014, under the <a href="“>Hidden Histories column.

Freudian slip?

October 16, 2014


Walking on Chennai roads is a strain anyway!


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