July 31, 2010

St. Thomas Mount. Triplicane. Hertitage and nooks

What is bunk tea?
Tea made in the bunkers? Tea not made from tea leaves?
We were at the foothills of St. Thomas Mount. Richard O’Connor had come to meet me because we wanted to make a recce of this area and find out if there was a possibility of hosting a Heritage Walk for the Madras Week celebrations.
It was 4.30 p.m.
‘Would you like to have bunk tea before we set out?’
I was puzzled.
There exists a colourful lexicon of the Anglo-India language and though I have moved with them for many years, I had not heard of ‘bunk tea’.
Richard, who works for the Customs at Chennai Airport Complex and lives on the ‘hill’ pointed out to the tea shop with the asbestos roof, as if to answer me.
‘That’s the bunk!’
I got it.
And from the teashop owner there was more to learn when I asked him why the tea looked orangish.
‘People want it strong so we mix Kannan Devan and 3 Roses’.
I thought of that blackboard kept outside the old India Coffee Depot off Mount Road, behind India Silk House and the coffee mix they offered to customers.
There is so much you discover, experience and feel when you volunteer to take a closer look at places.
Anwar, photographer and researcher was tentative about hosting a Heritage Walk that took you to the last days of the Nawabs.
So I joined him for a recce of the Palace of Chepauk and of Triplicane. This area was our haunt when we were teenagers. But Anwar had the history of places we took for granted included a simple arch over a street that is 6 feet wide.
When we looked around for a tea shop, we stopped at a nook that sold samosas, vadas and a sweet made from beaten rice and sugar sold in a street where once the devadasis are said to have lived that bordered a
quiet mosque.
Madras Day / Week will hopefully show you a city you have not known or seen or felt. www.themadrasday.in is your guide.

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