Was Madras born out of one man's fancy for a woman in the Portuguese countryside?
I am asked this question sometimes by people who join me on the heritage walk of the Fort.
Obviously, they have read a little more than the core history of this fantastic place that led to the creation of Madras.
The story goes that one of the prospecting Englishmen of the Company who sailed down the Coromandel chose this piece of sandy strip of desolate land so that he could be closer to his lady love.
There isn't much to this story but there is more to the story of a dead body in the Elambore River which the Englishmen first let the locals handle by themselves but later intervened and introduced some laws for the land.
There are dozens of stories one can share on a Walk around the Fort. But they could distract from the variety that visitors can enjoy in this city within a city.
The moat, the underground chambers, the ramparts, the flagmast, the buildings and barracks, the church and memorial stones, Admiralty House and bungalows on 'Snobbery' Street and the Museum . . .
These heritage walks are conducted by people who are passionate about some aspect of the city. Its community, its history, its temples, Nature, the arts. . . .
But because the people who conduct them do so when their bread-and-butter assignments provide a break or when passion overtakes them, Heritage Walks are few and far between.
However, of late we have found that the interest in such walks is growing and so we floated Madras Heritage Walks with a web site ( URL - www.madraswalks.com) which would be an umbrella for info on such walks.
We hope to present at least 3 walks every month. Most will be the tried and tested packages but there will also be some nice surprises.
Some will be free, some paid ones but all of them, we hope will be enjoyable experiences.
Pradeep Chakravarthy will run the second edition of his hugely successful tour of an ancient Velachery Temple and its environs in late March while D. Hemachandra Rao is waiting for the tides to raise the level of the water in the Buckingham Canal to organise a slow boat Heritage Tour from a point off the East Coast Road to recapture the experience that your grandparents had when they went on a picnic to Mahabalipuram.
We also invite people who are experts in an area's history to design a Walk and offer it to the city and tourists. The markets of Royapettah, the churches of Broadway, the landmarks of Royapuram. You are not called to become a tourist guide. Rather, be a story-teller on a hour-long walk and do this when you are free.
The e-mail to use - firstname.lastname@example.org