Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXXIII No. 11, September 16-30, 2023
Just as we at Madras Musings were rejoicing over the positive developments at Bharath Insurance Building (see Heritage Watch), there comes a blow by way of development plans at the Central Station as announced by the Indian Railways. While it must be acknowledged that the place needs to improve on all fronts by way of amenities and ease of access, these need to be done keeping the heritage character of the edifice in mind. That sadly seems to not be the case at least as far as the illustration that has appeared in the media following a press release by the railways. Which is indeed a pity. The plans are on the same scale as what was announced for the Egmore station a few months ago. An elevated concourse behind the existing façade will facilitate passenger drop off and pick up. Arrival and departure will be at different levels and the lounges air-conditioned with the best food retailers putting up their stalls on the premises. Lifts will provide easy access to the multiple levels and facilitate passenger flow. There will be barrier-free transit to the Metro and suburban train stations. All of this is to the good. The railways need to ponder on a few things.
The first is the sheer volume and type of passenger they cater to. An airport experience may not be the best model as it differs markedly when it comes to these two criteria. Has any railway passenger asked for air-conditioning? Secondly, the airport
“I don’t know how long it will take for me to get back into crowded spaces,” writes a Twitter user in an email to the organizers of a concert recently held at ECR’s Adityaram Palace Grounds. The event was a traumatic experience not only for her but for many other concertgoers; acute overcrowding at the venue resulted in a crushing throng of bonafide ticket holders – who paid thousands for their passes – unable to enter the venue. Stuck outside, many members of the audience reported experiencing anxiety and panic attacks that persist still. Unfortunately, leaving the premises was not an easy task either, for the entry and exit points were not well planned. Multiple reports of molestation are emerging from those caught in the chaos.
The future of Bharath Insurance Building suddenly seems to have brightened up. After mouldering away as a roofless shell for over a decade and practically given up as a lost cause by heritage activists, the structure is all set for restoration. This is probably the best gift that the city could have had during Madras Month. Information on the conservation project has come from the current owners of the property – the Life Insurance Corporation of India. They were responding to an article that had appeared in The Hindu dated August 29, 2023, drawing attention to the pathetic state of the building.
Karthik Bhatt stumbled on a treasure trove recently – the archives of Stella Maris’ college magazine. He shared with us a delightful poem published in a 1950 issue where the author describes Madras as she saw it then from her college terrace, offering beautiful sketches as well in accompaniment. We are glad to share it with Madras Musings readers.
Behold the towers and steeples;
The lighthouse from afar;
And the packed buildings glimmer
As lights from many a star.
The cool Marina breezes
Run to the bay, embrace:—
Thus ever, open, searching minds
Are filled with light and grace.
Nearby, the dear Cathedral
With tower against the sky,