Sunday, January 3, 2010

Madras Musings - When Chennai was still Madras

On Wednesday afternoon I was strolling down the footpath on North Usman Road in T.Nagar. I'd just finished lunch at Ganga hotel (of Ganga color xerox fame). I was amused by the fact that there were a couple of folks from 'North India' seated behind me and having lunch with their Tamil colleagues. I couldn't help but overhear. One of the guys was telling his Tamil colleague that 'Chennai hotels have different types of rice'. Much to my and the colleague's confusion. Then he explained, 'Sambar rice, Lemon rice, Curd rice.'. Oh. Like that.

Anyways, lunch completed, I was strolling back in the relatively mild December sun of Chennai, contemplating the ugly monstrosity of a 'mini-flyover' that has been built to bridge N.Usman road with Mahalingapuram. Bloody shame, I felt. At least some places were as before. Like Ganga hotel. And as I was walking along the pavement, I was thinking that there was a time when that part of Madras did not even have pavements, let alone ugly flyovers. My earliest memory of a pavement harks back to school days. My friends and I used to save the 50p, later revised to 70p bus fare and walk the 3-4 kms home. And there were no footpaths from Habibullah Road till Meenakshi college, save for the walking path on Kodambakkam bridge. And then one day in 93-94, we saw trucks emptying cement slabs on the existing 'footpath'. And lo and behold, in about 3-4 months lots of places in Chennai were proudly sporting paved footpaths. And one of my recollections of that period was how the cement slabs had the year of manufacture stamped on it. I was curious to see if the ones in N.Usman road were from that lot. Sure enough, I found one slab with MC 94 within a ellipse stamped on it. 94 for the year. C for Corporation. M for when Chennai was still called Madras.

Cheers. And have a happy new year.

P.S.: I couldn't think of a better title for this post. Sorry to rip it off so shamelessly from what is (was?) undoubtedly one of the best columns on Madras carried by the venerable 'The Hindu' newspaper.

P.P.S: Just got back from a 4 day trip (down memory lane) to Madras. I had 2 days of employer leave to be availed this calendar year, and I felt that spending it in Madras, catching up with old friends would be a nice way to end 2009 and ring in 2010. I drove down from 'Namma Bengaluru' on Wednesday (30 Dec). Fairly quick drive; left at about 7 am and reached Porur around noon. Guess it was lucky as well, considering the chaos that Bangalore was thrown into by the death of a local movie star. Again, return trip was fairly uneventful. Started around 11 AM from Madras, reached home by 4:30 PM. Did use the GQ NH4/NH46/NH7 route both ways.

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