Archive for April, 2012
Alangatha Pillai Street in Triplicane is narrow and rather peculiarly shaped like a capital “I”. It is accessed from Bharati (Pycrofts) Road via Venkatachalam Street. Today it is a collection of street houses, most of the old ones having been dismantled and replaced with new. Many of these are “mansions” offering accommodation for bachelors, but there are a few old houses, with very old and carved doors, that recall the “dubashi” past of this street, for it is named after one of the great merchants of Madras city and was probably his property.
The English in India employed dubashes as middlemen. These knew two languages and were hence dvi-bhashis which later became corrupted to dubash. Most of these intermediaries became exceedingly well-to-do and many an old Madras street commemorates one or the other from this profession. The senior-most among them in the 1600s was given the title of Chief Merchant of the East India Company and Alangatha Pillai held this post in the 1680s. He was referred to in Company records as the greatest of the dubashes. The Corporation of Madras, the oldest municipal body in the world after London, was set up in 1688 and Alangatha Pillai along with two other Indians, Muthu Veeranna and Chinna Venkatadri was among the first set of twelve Aldermen. Pillai is referred to as Alingall Pella in the charter. When in 1690, the Government decided to erect a Court of Judicature in Madras, Alangatha Pillai who was considered “a wise and able Jentue”, was one of the Justices “to appear for Natives, as well Jentues, Moores and Mallabars.”
Using his enormous wealth, Alangatha Pillai built the Ekambreswara Swami temple in Mint Street which in his time was called Washers Street owing to it being home to several calico washers. This temple known in Company records as “Alingal’s Pagoda” was important enough to feature in the earliest reliable map drawn of the city, commissioned by Governor Thomas Pitt in 1709/10. There is a statue in this temple and some have said that this may be a representation of Alangatha Pillai. Sadly, that is not so. For the inscription above the figurine, in Tamil, clearly states that it is of V M Appukkutty Chettiar who in the 1700s, built the pavilion fronting the shrine.
In the early years, there were two castes in the city referred to as those of the Left-Hand and the Right-Hand. These castes whose members were from business communities considered this temple to be their common property and soon this resulted in bitter communal strife. The Company finally conferred ownership on the Right Hand caste. In later years, members of the Gujarati community, who settled in large numbers near Mint Street adopted this temple as their own and still continue their patronage.
Alangatha Pillai appears to have died in 1689. After him, his son appears to have aspired to his father’s status without any of his achievements, thereby earning a firm rebuke fron the Company. Such is life.
The annual festival of the Mylapore Kapaleeswarar Temple has just concluded. It was a grand spectacle, in keeping with what is expected of a tradition that has spanned several centuries. The devout and the curious assembled in the thousands and were not disappointed. It was a gala ten days, except for the woeful inadequacy it exposed – both in terms of civic infrastructure and the sense of civic discipline in the public. This is not the first time this has happened and, as the years advance, the pressure is only building up on what little amenities that are available.
Take, for instance, the traffic. Given that the festival happens each year and its dates are fixed pretty much in advance, surely the city’s traffic police can involve themselves in some creative solutions. One of these could be the declaration of the four Mada Streets as ‘pedestrian only’ zones at least for the ten days of the festival. Residents with vehicles could be given entry passes, surely not a difficulty in this electronic age, and the rest could be asked to park their vehicles at specific locations and walk the rest of the distance. And for those who cannot walk, the temple, given its substantial income, can even think of running a ferry service comprising the kind of golf carts that are in use at the Madurai Meenakshi temple and also at Central Station. This will work. very well, especially if other kinds of traffic are prevented from entering the zone during the festival.
What is happening at present is that the traffic is allowed to flow right through the four streets whenever the deities are not being taken out in procession. What is overlooked is that the festival becomes an occasion when vendors of traditional wares such as pottery, woodcraft and metalwork, display and sell them on the footpaths and the streets. This further constricts the already narrow streets and makes the movement of traffic all the more difficult. The erecting of temporary pavilions to shelter the deities all along the processional route further compounds the problem. The best solution would be to suspend all traffic movements for ten days. It will only enhance the festive feel. But, if this cannot be implemented, can we at least declare the four streets to be ‘no horn’ zones during the festival. There are some drivers who hoot even at the deities, hoping that the procession would speed up!
One of the most endearing features of this festival is the tanneer pandal, or refreshment stall, which is put up to dispense water and some eatables to those who visit the festival. These being times of relative prosperity, these pandals have rapidly increased in number. They have also begun distributing all kinds of cooked preparations. Political parties have also jumped in, no matter what be their outlook on religion. As a consequence, there is a surplus of food available. The visiting public simply grabs at everything that is offered and then just discards what it does not want. This leads to an enormous waste of food, all of which lies about on the road and gets trampled upon. The Corporation increases the frequency of cleaning up during the ten days, but when the litter is thrown about with no consideration or thought for cleanliness, there is very little that can be done even with frequent cleaning up. What is needed is a larger number of temporary dustbins and strict instructions to those who man the tanneer pandals that they will be responsible for the cleanliness in their vicinity.
Would it be too much to expect temporary public conveniences? These are not all that much of a novelty, for during the Tamil Conference in Coimbatore a few years ago, public hygiene was maintained by pressing into service these portable units that provide complete privacy, are easy to clean and transport. Surely, Chennai can take a leaf out of Coimbatore’s book? It is indeed a sorry sight to see men relieving themselves along a processional route down which deities are being brought.
That said, it is congratulations to the temple authorities, the police and the Corporation for successfully handling what is increasingly a logistic challenge. But given that cleanliness is said to be next to godliness, can we hope for both?
The Corporation of Chennai has been making several announcements on major projects. It has promised world-class roads, commissioned feasibility studies for a slew of flyovers, and initiated consolidation of garbage storage in various localities. There is also much noise being made on a unified transport authority for the city. In the midst of all these initiatives, one locality, a locality that is completely different from any other in the city, is sure to be left behind, except perhaps when it comes to garbage disposal. I allude to George Town, the old city.
George Town presents challenges that are not necessarily present in other areas. This entire quarter came up at a time when electricity, motorised transport, footpaths and modern drains were unheard of. The streets were laid out in a grid pattern and were meant for pedestrians and a few horse carriages. Today, the same roads bear the load of a vast number, and bewilderingly different range, of vehicles, together with a burgeoning pedestrian population.
If those be the problems with the streets, the homes and offices have challenges as well. They were all meant to be town houses, with no space between them. These were usually two-storeyed, with the business establishment and warehouse on the ground floor, and residence on the upper floor. Ventilation was largely through skylights and open courtyards and verandahs. This sensitive fabric has begun to come apart when permission to build according to the norms of the rest of the city is being extended to structures in George Town as well. Several buildings have risen to many floors, putting the entire neighbourhood under severe stress in terms of infrastructure and quality of life. The Government itself has led the way with the police quarters on Broadway becoming multi-storeyed. There are problems of illegal structures as well. With ownership rights of several old buildings being hazy at best, there have seen unplanned constructions by tenants, adding to the chaos. What George Town needs is strict governance of construction permits and emphasis on safety norms.
Traffic in George Town follows a complicated set of one-ways. These are observed more in the breach, which only adds to the confusion. There are no checks on the number of vehicles plying inside the area or as to where they are parked. The Loane Park, for instance, became a truck parking facility through the simple act of usurpation. It took the Government ages to retrieve the Park and restore it. What is needed is a recognition that George Town has a severe shortage of space and, so, parking in the area needs to be at a punitive premium. Travelling by foot needs to be encouraged and mass-parking facilities need to be organised on the outskirts of George Town. It is not as though space is not available for this. Land can be taken from the Seven Wells Pumping Station, the Salt Cotaurs Goods Shed and from the Esplanade Bus Terminus for this purpose.
There is much talk about decongesting George Town by encouraging the wholesale businesses to move out. While the debate is on as to whether this will destroy George Town’s traditional character, what is overlooked is that such shifts are rarely accomplished in full. Thus, vegetable vendors are still around in the Kotwal Chavadi area, flower sellers remain on Badrian Street, the chemicals people in Mannadi and the hardware merchants on Anderson Street. This, years after alternative locations have been proposed. And, very often, the shifting of one trade sees the vacated place being occupied by others with alacrity, thereby negating the entire effort.
What is urgently needed is a separate master plan for George Town. This needs to be a plan that recognises George Town’s special character – its multi-ethnic population, its traditional ways of business, its narrow spaces, and the necessity to preserve its heritage, even while improving the lot of its people. Ahmedabad has already done this in its Walled City and is reaping the benefit of increased tourism as well. Can Chennai not do the same?
This story appeared in The Hindu today – http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/article3346606.ece
I stand at the entrance to the Saravana Bhavan on NSC Bose Road, opposite the Law College, hoping to get a seat and then a hot cup of its famed coffee. All is hustle and bustle. I cannot help reflecting that half a century ago, the atmosphere would have been different, for this was Diamond House, showroom cum workshop of the famed jewellers, Surajmal’s.
The eponymous founder moved to Bombay from Palanpur in Gujarat at the age of 17 and set up his own shop there by 1895. Business prospered and the firm was approved in Antwerp as a sourcing agent for diamonds. Branches were opened by 1916 in Rangoon, Tiruchirapalli, Calcutta and Madras. In our city, Jaysinghlal K Mehta, one of the founder’s nephews, managed Surajmal’s. Till 1925 it operated from Audiappa Naicken Street.
Success meant the necessity of a bigger showroom and Surajmal’s took on lease the newly built Shankar’s Building, at 313, Esplanade standing at the corner of Umpherston’s Street and China Bazar (now NSC Bose) Road. The ground floor had the showroom, the first floor the offices and the top floor the lunchroom for the staff. In the basement sat the army of craftsmen, working on silver and gold. It was to the showroom that the well heeled came to purchase and sometimes discretely sell. Among the latter would have been the formidable Bangalore Nagarathnamma, who counted Jaysinghlal a personal friend. It was through Surajmal’s that she sold most of her famed jewels to fund the construction of Tyagaraja’s Samadhi temple in Tiruvayyaru.
In time, Surajmal’s diversified, into optical products and music instruments. And from the latter came further diversification – into gramophone records. Jaysinghlal’s Musical Products Limited secured rights to produce Indian music under Broadcast label owned by the UK based Crystallate Gramophone Record Manufacturing Company. Broadcast was launched with fanfare in 1934. Its bright labels and its logo, which featured a diamond, highlighted its association with Surajmal’s. Some of the best-known names in Carnatic music were contracted to record– and they all came to this building, including MS Subbulakshmi. By 1937 however, a series of monopolistic moves by competition, none of which would stand much scrutiny, saw the stopping of Broadcast records though Jaysinghlal was to launch other brands – the Lotus and Jay Bharat records through his Bombay based firms. In 1944, Musical Products Limited closed and Surajmal’s links with recording ended.
The company remained in the jewellery business in Madras till 1965 and the Mumbai branch continues till now. When Surajmal’s lease ended in the 1990s, Shankar’s Building became the Saravana Bhavan branch. The semi-circular arches and the pilasters topped by Corinthian capitals in the front are all hidden by a warren of shops and also by construction necessitated for running a restaurant. The old façade is almost intact on the side street. And the ceiling of the main hall, with its teak rafters is still a joy to behold. Wonder how many of those eating care to look up.
The politics of a tanneer pandal
Tanneer pandals were very much in the news in the last couple of weeks. For, it was the time when the festival of the 63 great devotees of Lord Shiva was celebrated in Mylapore. To The Man from Madras Musings, tanneer pandals will remain a unique Tamil tradition, though a newspaper did refer to them as refreshment stalls, thereby conjuring up a vision of something on a railway platform with catering by Spencer’s in those good old days.
In the days of not so much yore, these tanneer pandals were simple affairs. Patrons donated money, a makeshift shelter of thatch was put up, a couple of pots of water were placed in them, and that was that. The more affluent pandals had buttermilk and, maybe, panagam, that sweet drink made with jaggery. That was the very outer periphery of luxury. To these the faithfuls flocked, slaked their thirst, and moved on.
But all cannot remain forever well in this Garden of Eden. MMM notices that the politicians have of late discovered that much capital (and what else is the average politician interested in?) can be made out of these pandals. Overnight these pandals have become participants in squalid vote-grabbing exercises. And how!
From his vantage eyrie MMM could see the pandals springing up in street corner after corner. And each of them sported banners with beaming photographs of the leader whose party had sponsored the particular pandal. The side walls had cut-outs and the rear had full-length photos of the leader in action. And each of the pandals needed formal inaugurations as well.
These followed a well-set routine. From an early hour, high decibel loudspeakers blared out party songs, film-songs involving the leader and announcements to the effect that a pooh-bah from the party was on his/her way to inaugurate the refreshment stall and provide manna in the wilderness to the deserving public. Bawdy dances followed in the bigger venues. Then came a series of speeches by the junior leaders, each in ascending levels of volumes and stridency. Dire fates were predicted for those who dared oppose the beloved leader while milk and honey would be showered on the faithful. The leaders in the opposition were berated in colourful language and aspersions were cast on their conduct in private and public. Moral turpitude was the general theme. MMM wondered as to where the speakers got such intimate details.
The Big ‘Un duly rolled up in due course and, by the simple act of drinking a glass of water, declared the pandal open in the name of the leader. The faithfuls were then let in. The bar, in short, was open. Those who preferred liquids were given the drink of their choice and for solid refreshments the sky appeared to be the limit. By the end of the day, the place resembled a Roman orgy of sorts with the ‘spiritually’ elevated reeling away or simply lying down on the footpaths. The next day the pandals bore all the signs of a morning after, with even the structure in some places leaning to one side, with a dissipated look.
Somewhere in his childhood, MMM had read that tanneer pandals had originated when Appoothi Adigal, one of the 63, had welcomed Appar, another of the same ilk, by constructing them. All MMM can say is that we appear to have come a long way from the time of Appar and Appoothi. Apres Appar le deluge, eh?
Render unto Caesar…
Remember those twinkling fluorescent strips that flashed at you from the road whenever you drove on the wrong side, which was all too often though it was not your fault. Well, The Man from Madras Musings has news for you. They have begun vanishing, one by one. MMM attributed their departure to the fact that the volume of Chennai’s traffic was too much for them and so they were wearing out at an alarming rate. But such, it appears, is not the case.
Apparently, there is a group that makes a small packet by removing them, collecting them till they form a respectable quantity and bulk, and then selling them. Though who care to buy them and for what purpose, MMM is at a loss to fathom. The seller, however, gets much-needed cash which he, in turn, showers on the local TASMAC bar for a tipple or two. It cannot be denied that our brethren lead interesting lives and work hard for a living.
MMM was quite shocked to know about such goings on. Not so MMM’s informant who is a sharply observant character. He sees poetic justice in the whole thing. What was provided by the Government is being returned to it, is his view. What is being lost on the turnstile of roadways is being gained on the roundabout of liquor vending.
There was a time when Chennai worked as per the clock and the more religious followed the panchangam or almanac. Good deeds were begun at certain hours, and the inauspicious hour, which followed the formula of Mother Saw Father Wearing The Turban on Sunday, was avoided like the plague. But now The Man from Madras Musings observes that everyone works as per the hours of the power cut. Meetings, discussions and outings are planned according to the schedule and the more enterprising ones fix visits to places where they are sure to find power and, more importantly, airconditioning.
And MMM has to hand it to the TNEB. Their word is their bond and they are remarkably punctual when it comes to turning off the power at the main and restoring it after the stipulated two hours. Neither a minute more, nor less. Never a minute earlier nor after. Shylock could have taken his lessons from them. But it makes MMM wonder as to why such meticulousness could not be followed when it came to planning for power capacity and generation.
This was written for XS Real’s blog – http://xsreal.com/blog/?p=152
The Kapaliswarar Temple is a very important shrine of this city and its ten day annual festival in the Hindu month of Panguni (Mar/Apr) is all about participation. On all the days, five deities, Ganesa, Kapaliswara, Karpagamba, Singaravela with consorts and Chandikeswara are brought out in procession twice, once in the morning and again at night on various mounts. And each day’s procession is accompanied by nagaswaram and tavil ensembles which walk along with the procession and perform at specified spots. A western band also accompanies the deities.
Certain days are more important than others during the ten day festival. The third morning has Kapaliswara borne aloft on the silver Adhikara Nandi. Karpagambal and Singaravelar are borne by veena wielding divine personages. The whole atmosphere is filled with musical associations for Nandi is considered a master on the drum. The bearers sway from side to side as they carry Adhikara Nandi and this gives the impression that the Lord is dancing. It is an awe-inspiring spectacle. It is no wonder that this procession inspired the great composer Papanasam Sivan to compose Kaana Kann Kodi Vendum in raga Kamboji. In the word picture it paints of the Adhikara Nandi sevai, this song is unsurpassed.
On the fifth day the vrishabha vahanam procession takes place late at night. Kapaliswara rides a silver vrishabham or bull while Karpagambal is on a golden vrishabham and Singaravela on a golden peacock. The procession takes the whole night to wend its way around the four Mada Streets and it is early morning and still dark when the five deities are brought to the sixteen-pillared hall on Sannidhi Street.
The seventh day has the car festival when thousands throng the temple and the four streets to witness the procession of five chariots.
The eighth day is the most important. Legend has it that Sambandar, the great 7th century devotee of Siva and one of his chosen 63 followers, composed ten verses to resurrect the dead Poompavai, the daughter of a Mylapore based businessman, Sivanesan Chettiar. Each verse describes at least one festival of the temple – the Shravanam festival in the month of Aippasi (Oct/Nov), Tirukarthikai in Nov/Dec, Tiruvadirai in Margazhi (Dec/Jan), Poosam in Thai (Jan/Feb), the ritual bath in the ocean in Masi (Feb/Mar) and the annual temple festival during the month of Panguni (Mar/Apr). It is clear from the verses that these festivals, which are celebrated even today, were well established even then. The Poompavai Pathigam as it is called, also describes Mayilai to be a prosperous settlement with groves, splendid buildings and occupied by good and pious people. In Sambandar’s time the eighth day was when Siva came out in procession with his eighteen bhoota ganas or ghostly attendants. In time it metamorphosed into the day when Siva comes out in procession with his 63 devotees, the Arupattu Moovar, all of them preceding him in palanquins, with their faces turned towards him; their palms pressed together in adoration. Deities from other temples join the procession and lakhs of devotees throng the area. Pandals are put up at all locations and water, cold drinks and food are distributed to the throng by devotees. Some of the tanneer pandals as they are called, have a hoary history themselves, going back as they do by many years. A unique song associated with the Arupathu Moovar festival is the Vazhinadai Chindu, written by an anonymous poet in the early years of the 20th century. It describes in Chindu format, the route taken by a beau and beloved of George Town to attend the Arupathu Moovar festival. The song describes several landmarks of Chennai.
On the ninth day, Siva comes as Bhikshatana, the handsome beggar who seduced the wives of the sages of Darukavana. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Doraikannu, the Devadasi of the temple would lead this procession dressed as Bhikshatana herself and her dance would thrill the audience. At a particular point in the Bhikshatana procession, Kapaliswara is met by Karpagambal decked out as Mohini. It is now the turn of the Goddess to dance and she performs most spiritedly and finally enchants him.
The tenth day witnesses the wedding of Kapaliswara and Karpagamba and late at night after the ceremony, the deities are brought out on the Ravana Vahana. On this occasion, musical accompaniment is provided by the mukha veena, a variety of clarionet.
A unique feature of the ten day festival is the dolls exhibition at the Vyasarpadi Vinayaka Mudaliar Chattram often referred to as Bommai Chattram on South Mada Street. This building which functions as a marriage hall for the rest of the year transforms itself into a dolls-house for the ten days and on display are age-old leather puppets and clay dolls all of which are locked up for the rest of the year.
The vidayatri festival begins immediately after the brahmotsavam and continues for ten days. The Lord and His consort are entertained each evening by music and kalakshepam performances.
The ten days of the festival see Mylapore going back in time and becoming a village once again. Clay pots, traditional toys and native beads will be available on sale, in makeshift stalls set up by vendors who come from far and wide to do business. True, the logistics of such an event had become daunting over the years, but when public spirit is more than willing, what cannot be achieved?
Last month saw the release of a high profile document by the Government, charting out what its vision is for the State, 11 years from now. Vision 2023 has been lauded by industry and trade representatives from overseas. Some countries have expressed their desire to invest in the State on this basis. The document, as an expression of intent, is definitely a commendable one in that it lists out all the desirable objectives that need to be met to make the State of Tamil Nadu an ideal destination and a place to be in. Much of course depends on how this vision will pan out on the ground. Its true success will lie in its implementation.
Is the bureaucracy really geared up to achieve these goals? We just need to look around us to see that in the past decades, the State’s infrastructure for instance, has grown despite the absence of and not because of any great plan or vision. This is evident especially in Chennai city and several other towns, all of which share the same problems – rampant exploitation of land, an infrastructure that cannot keep pace, lack of civic amenities and a plummeting quality of life. These are not indicators of planning with foresight. It is well known that several private initiatives have however, managed to succeed within the constraints. And therefore, can the implementation of Vision 2023 become a public-private partnership? This is after all in keeping with the National Public Private Partnership Policy that the Central Government has recognised as the best way for infrastructural development.
Where is the funding for this mammoth exercise going to come from? In the absence of cash-flows and statistics, it is to be assumed that the Vision will need to be funded by a mix of State, Central, borrowed and private sector funds. With our State’s record of a complete turnaround in policies each time there is a change in Government, how many private sources will be willing to invest? And also most of these infrastructural projects are long-term when it comes to gestation. Will sources with funds be willing to wait that long and for a period during which there will be at least two elections to the Legislative Assembly? It is therefore important that the Vision is adopted by all political parties. And this should not be difficult for none can fault the intent of the document. But the exercise has to be completed before work begins if investor confidence is to be bettered.
Somewhere along the line, the Vision also genuflects briefly at the altars of ecology and heritage. If the State Government is taking this document seriously it would do well to pay more than lip-service to these two areas. The world over, ecology is an important concern. And the United States, which is striving to shore up its battered economy is looking to green initiatives as revenue and employment generators. Our city for instance, could do with some imaginative solutions as regards its waste problems and also the condition of its waterbodies. In the latter area, the last great initiative was the rain-water harvesting scheme that was implemented by the same regime in its previous stint at power. Can we hope for more?
As regards heritage, all world-class destinations for business and investment recognise it to be vital ingredient in a winning mix. Not so in our State where anything of heritage significance is considered to be an impediment to modernisation and progress. That is a 1960s socialist mentality that the Government will do well to come out of in keeping with the latest trend. And it would do well to include the protection and proper presentation of heritage in its action plan.
Historic Senate House is open to the public once again. The Madras University’s heritage showpiece, which was the subject of a high-profile restoration exercise a few years ago and which has since remained out of bounds, is now hosting a photo exhibition documenting the University’s history. But the merits and demerits of the exhibition apart, what strikes the general visitor is the general degradation in the interiors of this building. And that is a great tragedy, given the amount of time, money and effort that were lavished on it just a few years ago.
The most evident damage is to the walls of the interior. The plaster is peeling off in many places. The fate of the decorative work done on the pillars is even worse. These have discoloured and in one or two places, the impact of atmospheric moisture has caused them to bulge out like tumours on the walls. It is quite clear that the University has neither the expertise nor the inclination to set right these damages. Apart from pasting notices (is that permissible on the wall of a historic building?) stating that restoration is due to happen, pretty little action has been taken. It is open to question as to whether even routine cleaning is going on, for the bird droppings on the verandahs appear to have accumulated over a fairly long period of time.
The flaking off of the decorative work and the peeling off of plaster could be because of two reasons. The first could be indifferent workmanship and this is likely, given that it is almost impossible to locate artisans with the necessary know-how, such being the casualty of the speed with which we have embraced modern building techniques. The second, and this is even more likely, is that keeping the building closed for so long has taken its toll. In a humid atmosphere as in Chennai, it is extremely vital that buildings are opened for fresh air regularly. That not being the case here, moisture has collected and begun eating away the decorative work.
Senate House’s fate should not come as a surprise to those familiar with the background. The building was restored with professional support thanks to an extremely enthusiastic Vice-Chancellor. Funds were collected from corporates, old and current students and other well-wishers with an informal understanding that the restored building will be governed by a trust and used for public events. The inauguration and re-dedication were done in 2007 by the then President of India during the University’s sesquicentennial celebrations.
Subsequently, there was a change in Government and also a change in guard at the University immediately thereafter. The succeeding Vice-Chancellor had the Senate House locked once again and it is also rumoured that the principal engineering contractor for the restoration is still awaiting payment. The building was used once again for storing examination sheets which, given our city’s record with heritage buildings, means an ideal situation for a conflagration.
Matters appeared to have taken a turn for the better last year when the next, and present, VC announced the formation of a three-member governing council for Senate House. However, nothing happened beyond the announcement. The current exhibition is the next development. The opening up has, however, also exposed what the last few years of inaction has caused.
Now that the matter is out in the open, it is necessary that the University immediately wakes up to the damage and sets it right. It needs to recall the team that did the restoration and explore ways and means of rectification. And once that is done, it needs to keep up with regular maintenance. Can this be hoped from our University?
There is plenty to grumble about anyway. INTACH lost, the weather is bad, power cuts are rife, the traffic miserable…And then there are the small things that make life interesting.
This afternoon I had a long car journey to make. And as always, I listen to music while driving or being driven. Today I selected Kamala Murthy’s Kathakalakshepam on Neelakanta Nayanar from the three CD pack of Charsur. I love Kamala Murthy’s style. I have heard her live only once and have been a fan ever since. She does not perform now citing old age but then there is this 3 CD pack. I must have heard it a million times.
Anyway, we were 5 minutes into the journey when my driver asked as to who the old lady was. I explained. He then said her command over Tamil was stupendous. This from a young fellow who is probably a hardcore Thala/Thalapathy/Surya/Dhanush fan. He enjoyed her jokes and when we reached our destination, she was talking about Neelakanta Nayanar swearing off women. When I returned from the meeting and asked for the audio to be switched on, I found the story nearing its end. I was wondering about it when my driver explained that he found the story and Kamala Murthy’s style irresistible and so had heard it all out while I was away! We heard the rest and a goodish bit of Kannappa Nayanar on the way back.
Then I went to the Madras Cricket Club. Had an omlette and ordered a coffee. The latter when it arrived was top class. Not the usual tepid brown water. Enquiries were made and it transpired that the usual cook being away for some time, the coffee had been made by an untried assistant who rose to the occasion like Robert Clive at Trichinopoly. I barged into the kitchen and warmly thanked the chap (and rewarded him as well), much to the amusement of the rest of the staff. He was most embarrassed. But these are talents that deserve recognition. May he rise to become a world-class chef, do TV shows and write cookbooks.
Having read what I wrote, I realise that it reads exactly like the writing of an upper class snoot as one of my fan mails described me after the P Orr & Sons debacle. But I dont propose altering a line. So there.