Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXIX No. 9, August 16-31, 2019
The first time I attempted to find Chepauk Palace, my driver and I drove in endless circles around Victoria Hostel Road, finally coming to a stop behind a dignified red-brick structure. “Madam, I asked everyone, and this is the palace,” my driver informed me, flinging out his hand with a flourish.
In front of my dismayed eyes stretched a long clothesline, hung with underwear.
This, I felt, could not possibly be the Chepauk Palace. It may no longer be the fantastic creation dreamed up by Paul Benfield, embellished with awe-inspiring cupolas, arches, curlicues and columns, and no longer the much-vaunted residence of the Nawabs of Arcot – but I defied any palace, old or new, to greet me with underwear.
I spent the next three years hunting the area in vain, looking for the holy grail it seemed, spurred on by historical and eyewitness accounts, but never finding it. So mythical seemed this historical structure that I despaired of ever seeing it – and my disappointment worsened each time some heritage enthusiast exulted that he or she had glimpsed its glory and walked in its hallowed grounds.
They say that once you’ve given up on what you seek, it seeks you. And one day, as I was rumbling along Wallajah road, returning to the beach, I stopped at a traffic signal. My bored eyes drifted above the tree-line – above the flyover – and landed on a turret. And there, in front of my dazed, unbelieving eyes, rose the top of Chepauk Palace, a glorious façade of red, white and ochre, set off by the rich green of trees.
Although I eventually did visit Chepauk Palace, its first view was what held me in thrall – which I’ve presented through this miniature. Happy Madras Week!
Description: 3.5” by 5” approximately
Medium: Steadtler Fineliners, colour.