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Vol. XXXIV No. 1, April 16-30, 2024

Archives: Vol. XXXIV No. 1, April 16-30, 2024


Good tidings from Gokhale Hall

-- by Sriram V

The built heritage of Chennai has never had it so good. It was only a few months ago that we in Madras Musings had reported on how Bharat Insurance (Kardyl) Buildings is soon to be restored, with the Life Insurance Corporation of India, the owners of the heritage structure, moving ahead at long last with the task. Now, we are happy to report that yet another cause celebre may soon come to a satisfactory conclusion. And that is historic Gokhale Hall on Armenian Street. As per a letter received from IIT Madras, which is published in page 3 of this issue, there has been considerable progress on paper at least, in the process of restoration of the heritage structure.

Both Bharat Insurance Building and Gokhale Hall were catalysts in moving forward the battle to secure the built heritage of the city. In the first decades of the present millennium, it was the practice to dismiss all structures constructed during the colonial era as vestiges of an unwanted past. The Government actively encouraged demolition of such buildings and put up very poorly designed modern high rise in their place. The trend had begun even in the 1980s but it was only from the 1990s onwards that real estate within the city became serious business and every inch was viewed only from the commercial angle. The list of Government-owned heritage buildings that have vanished is long.

It was in 2010 that the tide turned. The High Court had already


Bigger not always better – Can Chennai Airport convert features into strengths?

-- by Varsha V.

JetArena – a handle on X (formerly Twitter) that covers news and insights from Indian Aviation – recently announced that FlyDubai airline will stop operations between Chennai and Dubai from mid-May, opting instead to ply flights between Kochi and Dubai. The update recalls the media coverage earlier this year which stated that the Chennai airport is seeing a decline in the number of flights owing to Bengaluru and Hyderabad stealing patronage both domestic and international. In a quote to The Hindu earlier in February, aviation expert Govindarajan Bashyam pointed out, “While building a second airport is the key to drastically improving the economy of the State,


Heritage Watch: A Brief timeline of Gokhale Hall

It was in 1914 that Annie Besant founded the Young Men’s Indian Association (YMIA). She planned a home for the association which would have hostel facilities for outstation students, a library, a gymnasium, canteen facilities and above all a central hall which would function as an oratory. Constructed by her close associate A Ranganatha Mudaliar,


Breaking the Fast during Ramadan

-- by Roshan Zahin

When it is time to quench the thirst and appease the hunger after a long day’s fast at dusk, and the Azaan radiates a sparkling and magnificent voice, that is when the Ramadan ambience comes alive. The Big (Wallajah) Mosque stands tall with all its glory and grandeur in Triplicane and is certainly the nerve centre during this pious and sacred month.

The Sindhi followers of the Sufi saint Dada Ratanchand under the Sufi Dar Trust serve food at the Wallajah Mosque for the entire month of Ramadan. Dada Ratanchand moved to Madras during Partition and stayed on here. The trust aims to spread the teachings of the Sufi saint


The great flap of 1942 – How the Raj panicked over a Japanese non invasion 

-- by Sushila Ravindranath

Book Review

India is a very under-researched country with many gaps in its long history. Its recent history too is not that well recorded. The younger generation may not even be aware that between 1941 and 42, fearing Japanese invasion, there was an exodus from Madras with people fleeing away from the city. The Great Flap of 1942 by Mukund Padmanabhan – the title is a reference to the British term for the subject looks at the panic that gripped people in that year.

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