When Madras froze over

April 18, 2015

Tambora wind route

Our city has only three seasons — hot, hotter and hell. Given this, would people believe me if I said that the temperature once dipped below freezing in our city, and that too, in the sweltering month of April? It would probably be dismissed as an April Fool’s Joke. And yet it happened exactly 200 years ago, in the last week of April 1815. The morning temperature was 11 degrees Celsius on Monday, April 24, and by Friday, April 28, it had dipped to minus 3 degrees Celsius. There are unverified reports of snow falling too but that may be an exaggeration.

The cause of this freak phenomenon was the volcanic eruption of Mount Tambora in distant Indonesia. At that time, this was the tallest peak in the archipelago which formed that country, rising to a height of 4,300 m.

Lava burst forth from it on April 10 and 11, 1815, with such ferocity that the explosion killed around 12,000 people and was heard 2,000 km away. It holds the record for being the largest volcanic activity ever in world history till date.

What followed next is best described in Tambora: The Eruption That Changed The World, by Gillen D’Arcy Wood — “Tambora’s dust veil, serene and massive above the clouds, began its westward drift aloft the winds of the upper atmosphere. Its airy passage to India outran the thousands of waterborne vessels below bent upon an identical course, breasting the trade winds from the resource-rich East Indies to the commercial ports of the Indian Ocean. The vanguard of Tambora’s stratospheric plume arrived over the Bay of Bengal within days”.

Madras was perhaps the first to feel it two weeks later, with the temperature dipping to freezing point, thanks to the aerosols in the volcanic cloud absorbing heat from the sun and the earth. Given that our public dons monkey caps and earmuffs in December each year, what was the fashion statement in freezing April 1815? There is, however, not one East India Company record that notes the reactions of the colonial masters or the people to this freak occurrence. There is also no mention of a tsunami. Pumice stone, however, washed up on the coast for a long while.

What followed thereafter was not as pleasant as the cold weather. The ash cloud spread globally, making 1816 the ‘year without summer’. In Madras, and the rest of India, it also meant a year without monsoon. Crops failed, as they did internationally. Famine in India was followed by cholera, which is now directly attributed by scholars to the volcano. Over 70,000 people perished globally, due to Tambora.

In August 1815, the brig Catherina — the first vessel from Java after the eruption — arrived in Madras. The Madras Courier interviewed the craft’s master for an eyewitness description of what happened. He also brought with him a bag of volcanic ash, which was forwarded to Calcutta for further analysis. But nobody linked the big freeze in Madras to the volcano!

This article appeared in The Hindu dated April 18, under the Hidden Histories column.

TN’s Global Investors’ Meet – Cosmetics as usual

April 15, 2015

The State Government appears serious at long last about conducting its Global Investors’ Meet. After two postponements last year, now scheduled for May 23rd and 25th this year, the plan is to garner Rs. 1000 crore in investments within these two days. This may seem ambitious, but in a vastly urbanised and industrialised State this can be achieved provided the planning for the event is right. There are, however, many rumblings at ground level that indicate the usual slap-dash, and last minute efforts are the order of the day. The question is: Are global investors not going to see through it all?

Take for instance the question of city beautification. Can this be done in a matter of two months? And yet that is what the Corporation hopes to achieve. You would have noticed a sudden proliferation of bollards along footpaths and medians. On the anvil are road-sweeping machines and a wall art initiative. The former, incidentally, are to be used only along specific roads – those on which the delegates to the investors’ meet will be driving to and from their places of stay. What of the rest of the city? Well, that is not going to be seen by these visitors from overseas, so why bother?

The wall art initiative, good though it is in intention and deserving of encouragement, can never be a success unless we educate our political class, the cinema world and the Tamil Nadu printing industry that wall spaces are not meant for posters. These are the worst offenders, apart from petty advertisers hawking quack cures. Taking a cue from these role models, the average man on the street has also begun putting up posters, commemorating anything and everything from births and deaths and thereafter to first, second, third and nth anniversaries. Can wall art really make an impact in a city whose populace is so insensitive to it? Let us also not forget that Corporation Councillors, past and present, are themselves not above putting up posters and covering walls with political graffiti. The recent arrest of an octogenarian activist who tried to remove banners and posters shows where the sympathies of the administration truly lie.

The powers that be need to realise that, unlike in the past, the world is extremely connected today. With the social media being what it is, no city is really an unknown entity to a newcomer. The investors who come in are likely to be almost thoroughly clued about the real conditions in Chennai. Considering that the Investors’ Meet was originally scheduled for 2013, we have had ample time since then to plan a proper event, with the necessary infrastructure in place for it. But we have gone about it in an all too familiar fashion – bringing about cosmetic changes when our core remains as weak as ever. After all, a Dubai that began working in 2014 to prepare itself for its Global Expo 2020 cannot be very wrong, can it?

There are a couple of other aspects of the Investors’ Meet that merit introspection. Firstly, is May really the best time of the year to present our city? Or is it driven by the logic that once you showcase the city at its worst, everything else will appear better anyway? Secondly, the local industrial houses seem to be completely unaware of the event. A casual survey reveals that Chambers of Commerce have not even been involved. Would not a potential investor want to engage with those already present here to assess risks and opportunities? Lastly, given that land prices in Chennai have made investment in large industries completely unviable unless the Government subsidises the purchase, would it not have been better to have showcased a Tier II city such as Coimbatore?

A Chola Gift to Chennai

April 11, 2015
Veeranam Tank

Veeranam Tank

The lake that you see there is not within the geographical bounds of our city. But though it is 235 km away, it would be no exaggeration to state that it is Chennai’s lifeline, supplying roughly 50 to 180 million litres of water to the city every day. Nothing prepares you for its vast expanse — 11.2 km in length and 4 km in width (as per Wikipedia), and when full of water, it is an awesome sight. I allude to the Veeranam Lake, located in Cuddalore District.

We need to thank the Chola prince Rajaditya for this. In the 10th century, he assigned his men the task of excavating this tank, to collect the surplus waters of the Kollidam River. When completed, Rajaditya christened it Veeranarayana, after one of the many names of his father Parantaka Chola I. This is now Veeranam. Kalki R. Krishnamurthy’s magnum opus, Ponniyin Selvan, opens with the hero riding along and admiring this lake.

In the 1830s, (later Sir) Arthur Cotton, the engineer who later harnessed the waters of the Krishna and Godavari, studied the tank in detail. He noted that there was no serious defect in the tank (this, 900 years after it was constructed) apart from the narrowing of the mouth of the Vadavar River that connected the lake to the Kollidam and the tendency of the bund to breach when filled to the brim. Interestingly, Cotton’s report is full of anglicised Tamil terms — totie (thotti or tank) and calingula (from kalingu or sluice) being two commonly used words.

In 1967, C.N. Annadurai, then freshly elected Chief Minister of the State, mooted the idea of supplying water to the capital city from Veeranam. He died in 1969 and it was left to his successors to execute the plan. The project, estimated at Rs. 21 crore, was then the biggest to be sanctioned in independent India. The contractor put up a plant at Tirukazhugukundram in collaboration with a Greek firm for making the pre-stressed concrete pipes.

What happened next reflected no credit on any of the parties involved. There were allegations of corruption, delays in sanctioning foreign exchange and quality issues. With the DMK government being dismissed in 1976, the matter was taken to court, and in the middle of it all, the contractor suddenly died. The pipes were abandoned all along the Cuddalore-Madras route and were put to good use — entire families were raised in them and some others became latrines.

The project languished thereafter for over three decades only to be revived in 2000, and by then, the cost had ballooned to Rs. 720 crore. The local ryots were none too happy at the metropolis guzzling their precious resource, but water began flowing into Chennai in 2004.

Standing on Veeranam’s banks a couple of weeks back, I wondered at Rajaditya’s vision and what he could achieve. Then I pondered over what he must be thinking about us present-day people. But that is best left unexplored.

This article appeared in The Hindu under the Hidden Histories column dated April 11, 2015

Disappointing budget from the Corporation of Chennai

April 8, 2015

The Corporation of Chennai has gone through the motions of presenting yet another annual budget. The financial plan has disappointed on many counts – the cut in expenditure on necessary civic infrastructure being the most important issue. What is worse is that the Corporation has not delivered on several plans that were included in last year’s budget. That makes for a very poor performance and will definitely have an impact on the quality of life in the city.

Last year we had reviewed the budget in this publication and given it a rating of A. The most commendable features concerned the focus on non-motorised traffic. Pedestrian zones had been planned in Mylapore, T’Nagar and Chepauk. Granite footpaths were to be laid along 100 bus routes. A seven kilometre cycle lane was to connect Fort St. George to Foreshore Estate, the route going along the Marina. Cycles for these users were to be available on hire at various places en route. The scheme was to be extended along the Metro and MRTS corridors to provide last mile connectivity.

The next praiseworthy inclusion was the scheme to set up 100 new parks and the introduction of rainwater harvesting and drip irrigation in all the parks in the city. Solar energy was to be tapped for public lighting. Public fixtures for civic hygiene were to be washed regularly. The Corporation also pledged to look into the matter of parking fees and the possibility of collecting a congestion fee in places such as T’Nagar, the money so accruing to be used for civic projects.

Not one of these schemes has seen the light of the day. The only one on which some progress has been made is the laying of footpaths along a handful of arterial roads. According to the Corporation’s own admission, 165 of its planned schemes are yet to be acted upon! The civic body’s honesty in admitting this is to be commended, but that is not going to take it far.

These worries apart, what is also causing concern is the Corporation’s financial position. 2016 being an election year, it has been decided that property taxes will not be revised. This is a myopic stance, considering that very few property owners really vote in any election, civic or otherwise. The Corporation is, therefore, faced with falling revenues and is resorting to borrowings on a large scale to fulfil its promises. The loan component has increased from Rs. 546 crore the previous year to Rs. 1020 crore in 2015-16. The interest burden has jumped from Rs. 14 crore in 2014-15 to a whopping Rs. 105 crore in the coming year. Given this situation, it is but natural that the civic body is cutting down on all capital expenditure – roads, bridges, lighting, parks and stormwater drains. Now what does a city corporation exist for if it is unable to cater to these needs? And how does Chennai hope to be an international city if it does not spend on the upkeep of its infrastructure?

Apart from stagnant revenue, the Corporation’s finances are in poor shape because it has had to contend with a vastly increased area. The new zones have had to be brought to some level of parity with the older areas of the city and so have swallowed a significant portion of the money available. The slew of welfare schemes, beginning with the canteens, have not done much good to the bottom line either. Lastly, you would have expected that a civic body that confessed in the High Court that many buildings in the city are illegal (George Town alone had 90 per cent illegal structures) would have some significant incomes from fines, wouldn’t you? Well, the net fines collected under this head for the year were Rs 1000! That’s the way it goes.

Parking Meter About Turns in Mylapore

April 7, 2015

The Man from Madras Musings was one of the many innocents who lauded the installation of automated parking meters all along North Mada Street. He hailed it as the coming of a high tech dawn to this international city of ours. Alas! Those meters have, like the proverbial Arabs, long folded their tents and vanished into the dead of the night. Those that remain have ceased functioning. And, so, matters are back to where they started from – a man who claims to be an employee of the Corporation (and to prove it, he wears a faded luminous jacket with the civic body’s logo) is now controlling the parking.

Shopkeepers who do not want vehicles in front of their outlets have long since squared him up and so, within the narrow space that is available, there are slots that are out of bounds for the average vehicle. The man does not issue receipts for the fee that he collects and woe betide anyone who has the gumption to ask for one. The rates quoted are arbitrary as well. A placard above the once-upon-a-time space for a parking meter has it that the rates are Rs. 5 for an hour, Rs. 10 for two hours and Rs. 15 for three. But the man on the ground does not recognise anything but a ten-rupee note and multiples.

The other day MMM was guided into a slot by attendant and then asked to pay Rs. 10, which MMM did without a murmur. Returning after a half-hour visit to the temple MMM got into his car and was reversing (with, it must be acknowledged, much guidance from the parking attendant who, from the way he shouted and waved his hands, could have been a coxswain on a boat) when his eye fell on the placard that clearly spelt out the rates. MMM then made bold to ask the attendant for Rs. 5 as he had parked his car in the slot for less than an hour.

The attendant could not at first believe his ears. Then he looked rather pityingly at MMM for his audacity in asking for a refund. Seeing however that MMM was rather persistent about it, he said that MMM had been away for two hours and so there was no question of any return of money. To this MMM (the honking traffic that was building up notwithstanding) said that he would call a neighbouring vagrant as witness. The vagrant, sensing that he could make money immediately, turned up and nodded.

The attendant knew he was beaten. He paid up grudgingly and muttered under his breath about cheapskates that came in cars and sought accounts for a paltry Rs 5. MMM was not bothered about it and gave the money to the vagrant who went off happily. Well, at least someone benefited from the whole matter.

However, what is sad is that our Corporation, having taken the correct step of mechanising the collection of parking fees, has gone back to such a primitive system that is prone to chronic misuse.

The Oriental Insurance Building, Armenian Street

April 6, 2015
Oriental Insurance Building, Armenian Street

Oriental Insurance Building, Armenian Street

Armenian Street has several interesting buildings to its credit. Some are historical, while others demand attention for being significant works of architecture. One of the few that has both claims to fame is the Oriental Insurance Building.

The eponymous company that owned the property prior to its nationalisation came into existence on May 5, 1874 as the Oriental Government Security Life Assurance Company Limited in Bombay. Its founding fathers were famous men of that city – Cumroodeen Tyabji, jp, Member of the Bombay Corporation and Solicitor was the Chairman; the other Directors were R N Khote, jp, Merchant and Member of the Bombay Corporation; Jehangir Rustomjee Mody, Merchant, and (later Sir); and Pherozeshah M Mehta, Bar-at-Law and later Chairman of the Bombay Municipal Corporation.

The Oriental fared very well in the first decade of its life and kept the pace going thereafter. In Madras, the company operated through its Managing Agents, McDowell & Co, whose handsome offices on Second Line Beach have long since been demolished. By the turn of the century, Oriental decided to have its own branch in Madras, and this came into existence in McDowell’s premises on April 1, 1901. It was the first regional office of the company. By 1906, business had grown in Madras Presidency and the firm decided to move into its own premises. A suitable site with an existing building was identified at the intersection of Errabalu Chetty and Armenian Streets and the operations shifted there.

The Company decided to build a new edifice on the site in 1935 and the task of designing it was entrusted to the firm of L M Chitale. What emerged thanks to his conception and care came to be rightfully known as the first building in the city to follow ‘modern Indian architecture’. Structurally, it was the first building in the city to be entirely of reinforced concrete with floors, beams, columns and foundation using this medium and the filling in between being done in brick work and cement mortar. It was also the first planned six-storeyed building in the city.

That was an era of edifices with corner entrances. The Law College had shown the way at least three decades earlier. Later, Sir Edwin Lutyens had put this to dramatic effect in New Delhi’s circuses, especially at Princes’ Place near the Government House where Hyderabad and Baroda Houses had corner entrances along a circular periphery while opening out into the rear in a butterfly pattern. Oriental Building on Armenian Street followed in the same tradition with a dramatic corner entrance and a central tower, thereby allowing for extensive frontage along two streets. In an article written on the occasion of the inauguration of the building in 1936, Chitale was to hope that the other three corners of the intersection would soon have complementary structures thereby making way for a circus, but that was sadly not to be.

An interesting feature of the building is its sunken basement, designed exclusively to house a safe deposit vault. The first of its kind in Madras and the biggest in South India, this came to be occupied by the Kothari-promoted Madras Safe Deposit Co Ltd. In its time, the vault was designed to withstand any form of attack – burglars, fire, flood, earthquake and air raids. The basement was to consume a significant part of the overall concrete usage of 1000 tonnes. Two doors, each weighing six tonnes and specially made by Godrej, led to the vault. Each floor above had an entrance hall with access both by stairs and electric lift. The top-most floor was designed as servants’ quarters, while the ground floor had a commodious garage, accessed from the north.

The entire structure was noted for its use of materials largely sourced from within India, the flooring in particular being a combination of mosaic and marble. The steel doors and windows, an essential feature of the art-deco style then making its way were fabricated at the historic Beehive Foundry on Broadway, a firm that is still functioning. The Oriental Insurance Building is not as well maintained as it ought to be, but it still catches the eye.

You may want to read these stories about other Chennai landmarks:

The Raja Annamalai Mandram

The National Insurance Building

The General Hospital

The Egmore Women and Children’s Hospital

The Guindy Races

The Victoria Technical Institute

The Moore Market

The AASI Building

The Egmore Railway Station

The Old Meenambakkam Terminal

The Gurudwara on GN Chetty Road

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

Government House, Government Estate

Sparring over the Reserve Bank of India

April 4, 2015
Sir Benegal Rama Rau, pic  courtesy Mint Road Milestones, the RBI at 75

Sir Benegal Rama Rau, pic courtesy Mint Road Milestones, the RBI at 75

The Reserve Bank of India is celebrating its 80th year. Earlier this week, the Prime Minister participated in a special event in Mumbai to commemorate this. The Chennai branch, as befitting a regional office, will, I am sure, have its own programmes to observe this important milestone. In all these years, a continuing thread of debate has been the status of the RBI. Is it truly autonomous or is it merely an agent to carry out the Finance Ministry’s wishes? Ironically, the first time this debate occurred was when two men from Madras were at the helm of affairs — T.T. Krishnamachari as Finance Minister and Sir Benegal Rama Rau, ICS, as Governor of the RBI. Sir Rama Rau held the post from July 1, 1949 to January 14, 1957, a long tenure that sadly ended in an abrupt resignation owing to the fight for supremacy between the bank and the ministry. In his wonderful biography Nice Guys Finish Second, B.K. Nehru, ICS gives us an almost blow-by-blow account of the quarrel that resulted in Rama Rau’s exit. It had to do with that persistent grey area — control over interest rates. TTK being a dictatorial personality considered it his prerogative while Rama Rau believed (rightfully) that it was the RBI’s responsibility. TTK dismissed this, claiming that the RBI was a subordinate office to the Finance Ministry.

Matters came to a head when TTK levied imposts on certain transactions that immediately caused a rise in interest rates. Rama Rau protested but when he found no response from TTK, took the matter to Prime Minister Nehru, who in turn put the matter up for discussion at a Cabinet Meeting to which Rama Rau was also invited. TTK considered this a personal affront. What happened next is best told in Nehru’s own words — “Sir Biren Mukherjee, Chairman of the Indian Iron and Steel Company and I were waiting to see the Finance Minister in the ante room to his chamber. TTK came into the room through one door, Rama Rau through the other. TTK let fly in no uncertain terms, and in the loudest of voices. Rama Rau, the mildest of men, did not know how to handle this unmeasured onslaught. Biren and I disappeared through the door leading to the verandah. It would not have been appropriate to witness this undignified brawl.”

The PM and the Cabinet closed ranks in support of TTK. Having been embarrassed in public, Rama Rau immediately resigned, only to be succeeded by another Madras man — HVR Iengar, ICS. The fallout however, resulted in an immediate loss of autonomy for the RBI, something that it has recovered only in the last two decades to an extent. It was also one of the earliest instances of a high-ranking and capable bureaucrat being made to quit owing to an uncontrolled ministerial outburst. An interesting aside is that most of Indira Nagar, Adyar, came up on property owned by Sir Benegal Rama Rau and his wife Dhanvanti.

This article appeared in The Hindu dated April 4, 2015 under the Hidden Histories column.

When Govt. Sar met MMM Sar

April 2, 2015

The Man from Madras Musings has received several emails and messages asking whether the meeting that MMM Sar was to attend with the Government Sar (ref ‘Short and Snappy’ in MM issue dated March 16th) ever took place. To this MMM is very happy to respond by stating that the meeting did happen, and how!

The meeting was rescheduled to a particular date at 3.00 pm and promptly at 2.45, MMM could be seen, by those who cared to notice, walking up a broad staircase that was spick and span and, what was more, devoid of any posters or billboards praising the ruler of the day. The corners were also free of any betel juice. MMM was asked to present himself at an electronic identification counter that, having checked MMM’s retina and made sure that it was indeed he, allowed MMM in.

Having walked ahead, MMM was welcomed by a smiling receptionist who then ushered him into a meeting room where the Government Sar was waiting. The other invitees came in and the meeting began on the dot of three. The Government Sar had read all his notes and no time was wasted on picking up lost and tangled threads. The Government Sar also informed the attendees upfront that the meeting would last exactly thirty minutes by which time he expected everyone to have reached a conclusion on the matter at hand. He also said that the minutes of the meeting would be circulated within an hour of the meeting with clear action points and dates for everyone concerned.

The meeting then proceeded apace, but not before Government Sar requested everyone to keep his/her cell phone on silent mode. His own, he said, he would keep switched off during the meeting so that he was not distracted in any way. Thereafter the only other interruption was a tea lady wheeling in a trolley from which each attendee could select the beverage of his/her choice apart from a snack or two. Government Sar took copious notes, was all eyes and ears and made extremely pertinent observations. A budget was worked out for the task to be done and, being within Government Sar’s discretionary powers, it was sanctioned at once. As the clock on Government Sar’s desk buzzed the half hour, it was time to shake hands and leave.

As committed by Government Sar the minutes of the meeting were ready for MMM to see via email as he reached his office. From then on, most discussions were over phone and the planned task was completed to the satisfaction of all by the agreed date. The inauguration was a simple matter, Government Sar opining that this being a routine development, there was no reason for any fanfare.

Taken all in all, it was an excellent experience. MMM was delighted by it all and hopes that he will be called in to work on committees with the Government more often in the near future. Government Sar and MMM have also become good friends and the former often drops in to pick the brains of the latter and, when he does come, he always drives his car which, incidentally, is sans a revolving red beacon on its hood.

Now, friends, MMM trusts that the above story satisfies you all. Before you move on to the story below, remember that this issue of Madras Musings was printed on April 1st. You are advised to use discretion in believing the contents of the above story.

Mylapore’s Dolls’ House

March 30, 2015
The Bommai Chattiram endowed by Vyasarpadi Vinayaka Mudaliar

The Bommai Chattiram endowed by Vyasarpadi Vinayaka Mudaliar

With the ongoing Mylapore temple festival, my mind refuses to think of any other subject. And so, at the risk of being monotonous, I am writing once more about the same area. This story is about an otherwise innocuous rest house or choultry, located on South Mada Street that comes to life once each year, during the 10 days of the annual festival at the temple.

Earlier known as the ‘Chittira Chattiram’, now it is called the ‘Bommai Chattram’ or the Dolls’ House. There is a good reason for the names, for during the temple festival, the building hosts a display of clay dolls, paintings and leather puppets. Most of these are over 150 years old and were collected by Vyasarpadi Vinayaka Mudaliar (1803-1869), the builder of the edifice.

The man’s taste is evident in the construction of the chattram, though his descendants have since then been doing their best to detract from it. Two broad stone platforms supporting granite pillars flank the heavily carved door, which leads to the central hall that has the proper exhibition. It would appear that in later years, in order to save the entrance area from vagrants, an arched enclosure was built. This has recently been let out to shops that have fitted steel shutters. Another not so aesthetic addition is a first floor that is in no way in keeping with the architecture of the rest of the building.

The inauguration of the chattram in 1851 was a gala event. The great Tamil scholar Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai happened to be visiting the city. He composed 100 verses on the building and its founder, which came to be collectively known as Chittira Chattira Pugazhchi. Pillai’s most illustrious disciple U Ve Swaminatha Iyer, quotes a sample verse: apparently the remaining three streets around the tank felt jealous of the South Mada Street for its good fortune. Pillai was gifted 100 gold sovereigns for his work and the poem was published as a book in 1856.

Vinayaka Mudaliar decreed that the building would be run as a wedding hall on all days of the year barring the temple festival period. It was to be administered by a Trust that had to feed Brahmins at the chattram on the 12th day of the waxing phase of the moon. And whenever Kapali came out in procession, camphor would be lit and waved before Him at the chattram entrance. To support the maintenance of the place, a shop on NSC Bose Road and a grove in Nungambakkam were gifted to it. The Trustees would be Mudaliar’s male descendants and those of his brother.

It is said that Mudaliar began the tradition of the dolls’ display and it has continued unbroken ever since. In the recent past there has been an unfortunate tendency to touch up the dolls and the paintings with modern materials. This has done much to mar the beauty of the exhibits. But we must be thankful that the tradition has continued.

This article was published in The Hindu under the Hidden Histories column on March 28, 2015.

You may want to read these other articles on Mylapore:

The Men who Built the Mylapore Temple

Keeping the peace at Kapali’s Festival

Mylapore Kapali Ther 2014

Can the Mylapore Temple Festival be better run?

When Mylapore comes alive…

The Mylapore Temple Festival in 1910

Mylapore in 1910

Rishabha Vahanam at the Mylapore Temple

A nun in Mylapore

Music and dance at the Mylapore temple

The Mystery of Mathala Narayanan

Mylai Velli Vidai/Rishabha Vahanam

Adhikara Nandi at the Kapaliswarar Temple

Bhikshatana procession at Mylapore

Singaravelar Procession

The Ballad of Arupathu Moovar

A 150 year old Thanneer Pandal

Some of Kapali’s Vahanams

Adhikara Nandi Sevai at Kapali temple

The quaint ritual of Vana Bhojanam

Papanasam Sivan

Kapali Karpagam Kalyanam!

Articles on other temples of Chennai:

Patnam Temples

The Kalyana Varadarajaswami Temple, Colletspet

The Chintadri Pillary Temple

The Velleeswarar Temple, Mylapore

The God who gives vision

Karthikai Deepam at Velleeswarar Temple, Mylapore

Car Festival at Coronation Pagoda, Mylapore

Music at the Madhava Perumal Temple, Mylapore

Triplicane Parthasarathy Swami Temple

The Kamakala Kameswarar Temple, Triplicane

The Mallikarjuna Swami Temple, Linghi Chetty Street

Ekamreswara Swami Temple, Mint Street

Kacchaleeswara Swami Temple, Armenian Street

The Angala Parameswari Temple, Mundagakanni Amman Koil Street

The Agastyeswara Swami Temple, Nungambakkam

The multiple hues of Royapettah

March 25, 2015

Have you been to the Royapettah hospital of late? Before you take offence, let The Man from Madras Musings assure all of you that he does not wish you ill. All he means is that he wonders if you have recently passed by that historic edifice. In case you have, you may know what MMM is writing about.

Till a couple of years ago, this noble pile, by which MMM means the old building, was painted a sickly pink. It was then painted yellow for a while and then one day reverted to the old pink. Then there came a day last year when it became red, more or less the same shade as Central Station. And mind you, it did not look bad at all, particularly after the borders and the ornamental brick arches were painted white to give it a nice contrast. The compound wall, however, remained a prominent eyesore. It always had posters on it and some were of such a lascivious nature that many a motorist would pause to gaze rapturously at them, only to be collided with at the rear by someone who did not pause to stand and stare.

Such accidents were more or less commonplace here and the locals had perfected a routine. The police would continue resting near a tree unless it was a particularly disruptive incident. In all other cases, those from nearby shops would direct traffic, the soda-vendor would give the injured a cooling drink and, after the usual colourful exchange of words of endearment between the collider and the collided, everyone would go his respective way.

For years the hospital and the local councillor put up appeals on the wall requesting that it be spared of posters. They grew plants below it to prevent easy access but that only added to the problem for the bushes provided a convenient place for committing nuisance, this despite a pay and use toilet being a stone’s throw away. And then someone in the hospital decided to take matters in hand. The wall was scraped and given a rough finish to prevent posters being pasted. The bushes were removed and the wall was painted white. It looked lovely till the hospital no doubt discovered that it had a stock of green paint. For some reason they decided that the compound wall was the best place for it. And so bilious green clashes with the red and white. MMM shuts his eyes each time he drives by. Hopefully he will not be collided with.

You may also want to read the following stories on Royapettah:

Running about in Royapettah

A brief profile of Royapettah

Old Woodlands Hotel

Memorial to a multifaceted man

Dr KN Kesari, a profile

The Kesari High School


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