June 08, 2007

Walking down Mount Road . . .

Which is your favourite road or street?
Mine is Mount Road. They call it Anna Salai today.
For me, it was, is and will be Mount Road.
I spent two decades and a half on and off Mount Road; so when I get time and the mad rush-hour traffic has died down, I take a short walk down a stretch of this road.
Sometimes from the Simpsons end to the subway near the statue of Annadurai which once was the address of two city landmarks - Elphinstone Theatre and Jaffers Ice Creams.
Sometimes, I do the stretch from Spencers to Thousand Lights.
Recently, I did this stretch in the reverse.
I started walking north from the Greames Road end. A slow walk allows you to take in the streetscape and the landmarks that may have impinged on you. You have the time to stop and stare. Or linger.
And that is what I did when I was in the Thousand Lights area.
I wasn't impressed by the all-glass newly constructed multi-storeyed building a private bank had occupied.
Wasn't this the place where our favourite Chinese restaurant Nanking once stood?
Was it Nanking or did it go by some other name?
It didn't matter. Nor did it when those decorated, engraved doors of this restaurant seemed to cast a spell on a bunch of teenagers, as if it was the door into the unknown and the foreign.
But once inside, it was just like home. And when the Anglo-Indian steward switched over to rock 'n roll on an outdated music system, he had set the mood for a large dinner.
We did not get a hint that Nanking had to face the bulldozers. One night, after watching a movie at Sathyam Cinemas, we walked down to our favourite foodie nook and found that the wreckers had been at work.
Personal landmarks disappear over time and yet a road or a street or a precinct often retains a little of its charm, its possession, its treasures.
They survive for another generation.
And it is for this generation that the 'Namma Mylapore' group is about to offer a unique project for the schools of this neighbourhood in the new academic year. A classroom session devoted to sharing the history and heritage of the area and its relation to our lives today. Followed by a ninety-minute walk that takes students to the temple, the tank, the inner lanes, the tiled houses and the landmarks of the area.
Perhaps, similar projects can be undertaken by local schools in their neighbourhoods.
Simple ones. 'Nizhal', an NGO, recently took a group around Gandhi Nagar in Adyar to 'discover' all the trees in the area. And the students had a good time.
By the way, if you know something more on the Nanking folks, do leave a post on my blog.

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