June 09, 2012

Let's record local histories

Narasingapuram is a small colony off Mount Road, now called Anna Salai.

Its more famous landmark is Ritchie Street. Once the biggest radio market, it is now a buzzing hub of the electronics, computers and peripherals trade.

Prof. Paul Montgomery from the UK is keen to know lots more about Narasingapuram because he has an Anglo-Indian ancestry and this will be part of his book on his family.

One thread in his genealogical spread leads to this little colony which has been over-run by the computers market.

Prof. Montgomery assumes that the lady who married a Scots soldier, the male progenitor must have been born in 'Nursingpooram' and that her dad got pensions from the FINS (Friend in Need Society), located on the busy Poonamallee High Road.

FINS is yet another vintage institution of our city. Started in 1822 by the merchants and community leaders of the city for the less abled, it has provided shelter to mostly Anglo Indians.

FINS and the Anglo Indians who once resided in Narasingapuram may provide leads for the professor's research.

And since I had written about Narasingapuram in an earlier column, the World Wide Web made the connection and I have been relooking at a colony that was once my backyard.

Revisiting the past in small neighbourhoods can be a fascinating exercise.

To help the UK professor, I will also make a trip to Christ Church and try to delve into the wedding registration records here.

This church, which has for its neighbours the Devi Cinemas complex (it celebrated its 42nd anniversary in May) and Cosmopolitan Club also has a unique history.

It was built in the 1850s on land which housed the stables of Englishman Waller when the Eurasians (later called Anglo Indians) sought a church for the growing community of Protestants in the Mount Road area.

Christ Church also shared space for an Anglo Indian School which survives today. For youngsters who lived in this area the 'must do' thing at this school in the 60s and 70s was to attend the annual Shakespeare play put up by its senior students.

Will any of these past students provide a link that the UK professor will be glad to have?

For me though, revisiting these places and jotting down fascinating threads of people is engaging.

Would it not be a worthwhile effort if a small group in each locality record local histories?


Leela Soma said...

Hi,Fascinating to read about the Prof looking for facts of Narasingapuram. I have two novels written about Indian and Scottish connections.'Twice Born' set in Madras and Glasgow and Bombay Baby set in Bombay and Glasgow. If any of your readers are interested do look at my website: www.leelasoma.com and my blog Tartan and Turmeric.

I really enjoy reading your blog and reminisce often about Madras my birth city. I also follow S. Muthiah's column in the Hindu online newspaper. I would love to find out who Dr. Nair of that Dr. Nair Road T. Nagar was, as we lived there and my dad sold the house no. 17, to Dewar Films. Now the place is a set of four flats and a Mercedes Benz showroom! How the city has changed!

Vijayalakshmi Venkat said...

Narasingapuram! Last week I happened to read about Narasimhapuram. It was amazing record of this locality in Mylapore by a school student. It is on the children's website www.yocee.in. Now this is another locality that deserves recording of its history.

Vincent D' Souza said...

Thanks Leela and Vijayalakshmi for the response.

Good to have books which are based in Madras. Yours Leela will be also a social record of sorts.
If am right the Dr. Nair you mention must be one of the senior leaders of the Justice Party. Many roads in T Nagar are named after such men.

Thanks for the Yocee lead on Narasimhapuram in Mylapore. We must have more and more people recording these histories.

Leela Soma said...

Thanks Vincent, I'll try and look up Justice Party in T.Nagar. I wonder if the local municipality will have records of the roads and who they were named after? Keep up the good blog, it is so interesting for someone who is far away from Chennai.