May 15, 2010

Housing Board colonies become history

K. K. Nair used to be a battle-scarred veteran in the Sports Department of the Indian Express when I started freelancing for this newspaper in the early 80s.
He was the sort who never knew retirement.
I lost contact with Nair when I went my way, though I heard later that he was given an assignment with the group’s publication on astrology!
Recently, I renewed contact with him.
We run a column called ‘Rewind’ at the Arcot Road Times ( which features senior residents of this neighbourhood who recall their early days in the area.
It is, in some ways a social history document. We ask people to talk about the geography and the features of the area, their living experiences and the day to day practices that dominated their lives in the 50s/60s/70s.
Nair was not exactly the first set of people who came to live in K. K. Nagar, a neighbourhood designed and promoted by the Tamil Nadu Housing Board to provide affordable housing to people.
Those were the days when the Board either sold plots or built apartments of the ‘M’ and ‘T’ type - in K. K. Nagar, Anna Nagar and in Besant Nagar.
Nair was aware of the Board’s offers but he says he did not have the money to think of investing in property till somebody forced him to apply, put in a word and a plot was allotted to him under the journalists’ quota!
Nair had loads of stories to share for the ‘Rewind’ column including one on how the thick scrublands and small groves in West K. K. Nagar and Nesapakkam provided just the conditions for small groups to brew local liquor and sell it after dusk.
And he still could not forget the day he had to employ men to chop down a huge mango tree in his compound that gave abundant fruit every year and was a kind of landmark on his road.
Today, the face of all these Housing Board colonies that were promoted in the city is changing. And the change is rapid.
All the ‘M’ and ‘T’ type blocks, the artisan plots and the larger houses are giving way to rows and rows of new blocks of apartments.
Since all these plots were large, the space to develop is substantial and real estate companies are happily grabbing the rights to demolish the HB blocks and build modern ones.
In many ways then, the Housing Board features which dominated the neighbourhoods of Ashok Nagar and
K. K. Nagar, Besant Nagar and Thiruvanmiyur, Anna Nagar and Mogappair are lapsing into history.
Nair, like many others, now lives in an apartment, having sold his plot to developers. But he is happy that he lives close to a Sri Ayyappa Temple where he is an active volunteer.

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