Madras Musings

The Bird That Changed a Canal’s Course

The Bird That Changed a Canal’s Course

 In 1836, T.C. Jerdon, a 25-year-old surgeon, arrived in the Madras Presidency. After training at the General Hospital, he was sent to treat troops battling insurgency in a district nearly halfway to the Calcutta Presidency. Once that rebellion was quelled, he joined his cavalry regiment as medical officer and served in various parts of India in a three decade long career. But why do we care about yet another employee of the East India Company, though admittedly, he was an odd bird, who died insolvent? […]



The Lady With The Diamond Nose-Stud

The Lady With The Diamond Nose-Stud

Vermeer, the Dutch master, was famous for his “Girl With a Pearl Earring”. In South India I am convinced he would have been pressed upon to depict “Lady With a Diamond Nose-Stud.” The middle-aged couple arrived at the famous Madras-based doctor’s clinic in their Rolls Royce. With her check-patterned silk sari, ruby earrings, and chunky gold bangles, the lady seemed dressed for a wedding reception, but she was really there for a consultation. Her medical complaint: Every afternoon, she took her tea outdoors in the […]



Meterpodu : A Work in Progress

Meterpodu : A Work in Progress

Once upon a time, auto rickshaws in Madras had functioning meters, so the legend goes.Asking the auto drivers to turn on that boxy contraption today is like committing a small crime. The unrevised, state-fixed fare is blatantly unfair to these men in khaki. But pay the arbitrary sum they demand and, chances are, it won’t fair to you in the long run. What gives? A tech-savvy NRI, recently returned to his hometown, wanted to do something about this. Crowd sourcing, a form of distributed problem […]



New Use for an Old House

New Use for an Old House

If the preservation of a heritage building delights us, then we rejoice doubly when an old building is put to new use. Take the case of this 49 year old, two-storied bungalow in Nungambakkam that now houses Rasvihar, a jewelry shop, and Sarangi, the Kanjivaram sari store. This is such a perfect setting for the traditional merchandise: you have to wonder why no one thought of this idea before. The very space, with the mango tree in the well-tended garden, must make for a very […]



Not Arriving Shortly– Arrived

Not Arriving Shortly– Arrived

The poem was written on a sort of impulse. It was triggered by a comment I heard from a friend of mine – quite a culture-vulture himself – about another writer based in Bombay. My friend said that this writer was “so Bombay”, meaning so typically a Bombayite or a Mumbaikar. It got me thinking about how he or others might see me and so this poem got written. At the core of it, of course, lies my own love for the older version of […]



Definitely Not Shakespeare & Co.

Definitely Not Shakespeare & Co.

    I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” – Jorge Luis Borges, “Poema de los Dones”             Supermodel Padmalakshmi is in Chennai. Southern India’s oldest newspaper, which clearly knew its readership, reported that the celebrity was visiting her grandmother. I too am visiting my hometown, but I plan to stay clear of relatives. Other than them, I know so few people here anymore. Most things I liked in my neighborhood are gone too like […]



What is the funda?

The sylvan campus of the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras is a good degree or two cooler than the rest of the city. Here, deer prance alongside runners in the tracks, rhesus monkeys hang around the residential hostels. At dusk, red-beaked parrots flock over tree-canopies. And the humans – particularly the undergraduates who pass a grueling exam to enter this premier institute – speak to each other in a tongue outsiders cannot understand. Campus slang is, of course, not supposed to be intelligible to outsiders. But […]



Photowalks for the city

Chennai-based copy writer Chandrachoodan Gopalakrishnan, or CCG, as he is known in the blogosphere, has pioneered photowalks in the city – walking expeditions through interesting parts of the city with a camera in hand. “Because I’m this guy who is obsessed with the city’s history, my routes are always through old Madras,” says this blogger. Read the entire article. pdf