June 26, 2010

Renaming Chennai Streets

There is a move in Sastri Nagar, a neighbourhood in Adyar to rename the streets and roads.
Some busy bodies said that since the City Fathers have decided to consign most British names to the bin and rename streets after Thamizh scholars it is time a nagar does its bit.

I have been invited to put in my two-bits because some one said I indulge in history and heritage.
So they said as long as I refrain from suggesting Portuguese and Armenian names I could contribute.
But there is a lot of work on our hands. There are 15 Cross Streets and 10 lanes in this nagar. And one main road.

I agreed with the busy bodies that the Cross Streets are pretty dull as far as names for streets go.
When I first moved to this neighbourhood I thought the simple names made sense. It would be easy for guests and visitors to locate our places since there was a logical process in naming the streets.
But when a young man came looking for ‘Pepsi’ Uma’s residence and we made some enquiries, then we realised there were a few bends in the location of some streets.

15th Cross Street was not located after 13th and 14th but on the fringe of the nagar. The Corporation officials must have got it wrong somewhere when they plotted this place.

I find that most people do not use the name of the street. They know them by the name of the personalities who reside there. I used to refer to Vazhapadi Ramamurthy’s place when he used to live closeby till his death. My istriwallah kept referring to the Governor’s street as his alternate space! ‘Pepsi’ Uma, the TV anchor joined the name call more recently.

So here we are with the grand idea of dumping the Cross Streets and Straight Lanes of our nagar. Our busy bodies say we act fast to pre-empt the City Father from burdening us with names that are two metres long. And of people we never knew or have not seen.

Veteran Congressman P. Ramachandran used to be our neighbour so I wonder if our street may want to have his name. Maybe the City Fathers should leave it to the community to rename their streets.

Whatever our busybodies do, I would not want them to change Cart Track Street! This is a small patch that links two busy roads. It used to be the only path for carriages from this part of Adyar headed to the sandy swathes now called Besant Nagar. The past is important for the future.

Cart Track Street - it is there in the Corporation’s records!

June 19, 2010

List heritage places

If you are aware of red brick buildings built in the 19th century in the city, one man is interested in your leads.
D. Hemachandra Rao is back at his research and documentation desk for another project.
Documenting the red public buildings of Madras.
A retired civil engineer and heritage enthusiast, Rao has many documentations to his credit.

Last year, he completed an assignment on the classical bridges in our city and made it the theme of a special postal cover. Since then, he has been writing to the Chennai Corporation to make the best use of these old bridges, known for their architectural design and not to demolish them.

Rao has gone on to shoot pictures of the red buildings. And there are a good number around. The landmarks inside the Museum complex in Egmore, the buildings along the Marina and in the Goshen Hospital campus in Triplicane (‘Gosha Hospital’) and the Veterinary Hospital campus in Vepery.

He has some more on his list, including the oldest set of police stations like those in Mylapore, Royapettah, Chintadripet and Triplicane.

And if you do know of others which stand out for this unique building style, Rao will be happy to get your leads (you can call him on 98408 70172).

If you are proud of our heritage there a bit more you can do now.

Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) has invited us to suggest a listing of all heritage buildings which it will locate, evaluate and notify later.

It accepts suggestions on places which are of historical significance in terms of people who lived there or events that took place on the premises. You can also suggest buildings for architectural design and spaces of cultural heritage.

CMDA intends to work towards drawing up a Heritage Act that will protect these landmarks and provide their owners with bonuses like special land development rights.

You can send suggestions to the CMDA office in Egmore or e-mail them to cmdaheritage@tn.gov.in

Look around your neighbourhood and start listing.

June 12, 2010

Exploring St. Thomas Mount

I play a tourist guide when relatives and friends pass through this city. And there is one tour that I promise them for obvious reasons.

A church tour.

This tour starts at the Cathedral in San Thome, touches the Annai Velankanni Church in Besant Nagar and the church atop the ‘little mount’ in Saidapet and ends at Saint Thomas Mount.

Recently, my friends suggested that they would have time for just one destination and since they were to take a flight out, I suggested Saint Thomas Mount.

I did not take them directly up the hill to the church. Rather we decided to explore the area at the foothill.

St. Thomas Mount was a cantonment of the British. It began in a small way and expanded over years to include the areas of Meenambakkam and Pallavaram.

Today, a Catonment Board runs the administration of this region of our city. Little of the heritage of the 18th century survives, but a walk around the foothills of the mount is rewarding, especially if you do it on a Sunday morning.

Barracks, offices, an ancient Garrison church, the polo ground, garages, stables, parade grounds . . . this area has a lot to offer the interested traveller.

The walk up the hill - you may choose the pathway of steep steps or the metal road - is a nice experience. And at the summit, the tour of the small heritage church and the splendid views of the city are a reward for time well spent.

An ideal way to maximise the fun element of this trip is to include a picnic brunch/lunch, partaken on the top of this mount. Sandwiches, juice, fruits and cakes!

There are many neighbourhoods on the fringes of our city which are attractive picnic destinations.

Some are dominated by temples, some retain architectural classics, others treasure the relics of the British, a few retain the village that the area once was and a few others are home for trees, birds and butterflies.

If you have been to some exciting destinations in or around our city, do let me know.

And if you haven’t had a picnic for some time, plan one now.

June 05, 2010

Vox pops on sensitive issues

What do you do when a cardiologist at a well known hospital insists that your dad has to undergo an angiogram without waiting for the results of the preliminary tests and you begin to have doubts about the consultation?

And you soon get feedback that the doctor likes to take his patients to the operation theatre?

First, you seek an alternative and save your dad from an ordeal. Two, you warn others of dangers that lurk in our hospitals, however reputed they claim to be.

Earlier this week, I received a mail from a person who said he had a tense time at a city hospital. The mail detailed his unnerving experience and the things he had to do to get out of the situation.

Obviously, this mail was doing the rounds of all those who were on the correspondent’s contact list.

How does one handle issues that relate to medical services which are sensitive and complex?

How do we brief people on our ‘experiences’ at hospitals and clinics when we have to deal with ‘grey areas’?

You can take the serious issues to court.

But what about basic issues that bother us at hospitals, banks, temples and police stations?

Today, the Net provides the space and medium to highlight these issues as and when they happen. Also, they reach a larger number of people and sensitises them to slack services, hefty billings, crafty schemes or shoddy work.

When our readers write to us on such issues, we publish the letters that touch on broader issues which we think affect the lives of the community.

There must be some space for vox pops.

Banks, hospitals and state agencies certainly do not take kindly to the publication of such issues.

‘Had it been brought to our notice we could have easily handled it.’ This is what many would say.

Today though, lots more is being communicated on the Net. And some of it is shaping opinion and impacting on the people, businesses or agencies they are critical of. Especially when the observation is genuine and reasonable.