Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXXIII No. 12, October 1-15, 2023
Every once in a while, our city’s Corporation Council passes resolutions renaming some road or the other. While some of these are fuelled by mere whims and no logical basis, there are some renaming exercises that are undertaken with a serious view to commemorate a prominent citizen who lived in the vicinity. These are much-deserved recognitions, but the city’s governing body is rapidly running out of roads to name. And this is where it needs to consider taking a leaf out of European capitals and begin the practice of placing commemorative plaques by the sites of historic locations. There is only so much renaming that can be done.
In the beginning, it was all easy – the city was full of streets and roads commemorating colonial governors, army officers and civilians, apart from East India Company servants. Starting with 1972, the Government, via the Corporation, renamed many of these after freedom fighters, social reformers and intellectuals. That was widely welcomed though some did feel that retaining the original names would have been best and the Indian worthies could have been commemorated in roads and streets in the newer areas of the city. That plea fell on deaf ears given that it was a minority view anyway. The city itself got a new name in 1996 and the practice has since continued.
But now we are seeing a new trend – renaming roads
According to the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC), this year Chennai saw over 1,300 pillaiyar idols immersed in spots around Kasimedu, Thiruvottiyur, Pattinappakam and Palavakkam, marking the end of Pillaiyar Chathurthi. The next day, the city woke up to around 50 idols and a slew of debris that had washed ashore due to low tide. The GCC swung into action with more than 300 workers to re-immerse the idols with cranes and clean the beaches.
The Lead 1 story (Can heritage be commemorated with plaques instead of renaming roads?) set us off on a search of what were the commemorative plaques that we do have in our city. There are very many, all in the need of some maintenance but what is a wonder is that most have survived. The practice from what we could see, began with just two plaques – one being placed at Chepauk Palace and the other on the wall of the Great House on Charles Street inside Fort St. George. The two are of identical design
While I grew up in Bangalore, that erstwhile pensioner’s paradise, it was Madras that enthralled me to no end. The city’s refined culture compensated for all the humidity; the classical music and the all-pervasive scent of jasmine had me hooked. I’ve always been drawn to textiles – I find that the clothing people choose to wear is quite telling of their culture and background. Perhaps it is rather poor to compare, but Madras society, I discovered, was rather staid in its choice of apparel. This did not dampen my enthusiasm for the city. I loved her people and adored her culture with such passion that I was soon dubbed
Readers may kindly note that the first part of this series on Kalidas by Sa Muthuvel – originally penned in Tamil – contained two errors in translation. The film Alam Ara was screened in Chennai, not shot in the city; and the film Kalidas fell short of standard in the quality of its sound, not cinematography. Kalidas had been produced at a time when sound recording technology was still in development.
– Associate Editor
This deserves to be specified upfront. Even those who are quite well-informed ask, ‘Have you seen the film Kalidas?’ The primary difficulty in the study of old films is that they are largely lost to us, having not been preserved. Of the roughly 250 Tamil talkies that were released until 1940,