Madras Musings

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 […]



The Bird That Changed a Canal’s Course

The Bird That Changed a Canal’s Course

 “Kudos” is always nice — especially from someone whose work you’ve read and enjoyed.   Jerdon’s volumes The T.C. Jerdon article (MM, September 1st) was an impressively written piece. The story of a pioneer ornithologist was told with great warmth. I hope the author is writing his biography. In the 1990s, while serving in Ahmadabad, I was invited for lunch by a former rajah to his palace in a small town nearby. Near the dining table stood an almirah and there, among other books, 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