Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXVII No. 17, December 16-31, 2017
Work on demolishing the World War II air raid shelter in Royapuram. (Photograph: Shantanu Krishnan.)
For years, this square shelter made of concrete has been lying uncared for on the side of the Ennore Express Highway. It has been used as a makeshift urinal and toilet, it has been lived in by squatters, and from the numerous bottles found in it, has been used as a bar as well. But nobody can deny that this is an air-raid shelter left over from the World War II. Known affectionately as the pillbox, it has been around for quite a while. This is not an architectural landmark. But it is certainly a historic marker. It reminds us of a war from which our city actually benefited in a big way, never to look back thereafter.
Only now, it is squarely in the path of a proposed pipeline of Chennai Petrochemical Corporation. And efforts are on to demolish it. Last week the wreckers began hammering away at it when locals from the Kasimedu area gathered around asking the reason for the demolition. The Hindu was alerted and it carried a detailed story. That did the trick and work stopped, but not before some damage was done. But a whole plethora of questions have since emerged, all of which are indicative of a larger malaise in the way heritage is handled in our city.
Whom does the shelter/bunker belong to? The army has no records of its existence, or at least there is no one there who knows. The Archaeological Survey does not have anything to do with, it as it recognises only monuments that are classified as ancient. The Heritage Committee of the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority says this is not within its jurisdiction as it has, in its blinkered fashion, decided to restrict its scope to just the 400 and odd buildings given to it by the High Court of Madras. And even there, it is doing precious little. The Corporation, to give it credit, is willing to organise a shifting of the shelter to somewhere else, provided some agency or private donor is willing to bear the cost. Of course, transferring this structure is no easy task as it weighs several hundred tonnes. Bureaucracy is unlikely to consider this matter top priority, but to the few who are concerned with the matter, the lack of proper documentation and ownership may prove a deterrent. In the absence of anyone coming forward, the bunker may have to go. Not that we protected it or maintained it well when it was standing undisturbed. What is also amazing is that not one person in officialdom had any idea about the history behind the structure. And they did not bother to find out as well.
The Sivaji Ganesan Memorial in Adyar.
The relocated Sivaji Ganesan memorial in Adyar and the controversy surrounding it highlight the need for an objective and impartial policy on memorials, their type, scale and location.
After the High Court said it was a traffic hazard and blocked the view of traffic on the Beach Road, the statue was removed to a location near the Adyar Bridge. It is now housed in a mandapam-style structure costing Rs. 2.8a crore and taking up 28,400 square feet, equivalent to nearly 12 grounds of land space.
The framing of the new High School syllabus by the State Council of Educational and Research Training has been a herculean effort, involving many teachers, educationists, members of academic institutions and bureaucrats for over six months. There was a sense of excitement for all the people connected with the educational scenario, hoping for new perspectives in the curriculum, particularly in the field of humanities. Unfortunately, the new syllabus has fallen far short of expectations – at least in the Social Sciences.
The syllabus for Social Sciences is staggering in terms of content (as it always has been), both for the students and the teachers. There has been no change in the new syllabus. It is just flat wines in old bottles. The content is so vast that students will develop a distaste for the Social Sciences – which compresses History, Geography, Economics and Civics into one general subject. There is a stress on information rather than knowledge. Teachers are still going to struggle
Some weeks before the State Council of Educational and Research Training Committee announced its new syllabus for Tamil Nadu High Schools, your Editor, in his personal capacity as a person connected with Education for forty years, made the following suggestions to the Anandakrishnan Syllabus Committee. An interaction was promised and that was the last he heard of it. As suggestions are still being called for, he repeats them as an open letter accompanying the views of two veteran Social Science teachers.
1)Humanities must get as much attention as the Sciences. As in my day, History, Geography, Nature Study/Environmental Science
Announcing MS singing at Soundarya Mahal.
For the December Music Season audience of today, this name will make no sense. Yet in the 1920s and the 1930s, this was the venue of choice for all music and dance performances. It was also hired by political outfits, social service organisations, and labour unions. Located on Govindappa Naicken Street, George Town, it was the smaller option for organisers who did not want to hire the Gokhale Hall on Armenian Street, which could seat at least 700 people.