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Vol. XXXII No. 6, July 1-15, 2022

A place called Park Town

Park Town – two little words that conjure up a host of emotions and memories! It is a small neighbourhood situated close to Central Railway Station and Anglo-Indians lived mainly on four streets – Jesson Street, Kolandai Street, Anthony Street and Pereira Street. Come with me as I take a walk down “memory lane” trying to picture the way things were in Madras!

Many Anglo-Indian families lived there once upon a time. I can remember the Martins, Maidens, Alexanders, Kelus, Foncecas, Allens, Rabels, Donaghues, Daniels, Halliburtons, Somasundarams, Kauls – all great families! Loving, kind and caring!

St. Anthony’s Church.

St. Anthony’s Church stands in the middle of Kolandai Street. A small church, but a very huge and important part of our lives. As I gaze at the closed church door, I image the Park Town people passing through that door – dressed up for Sunday Mass or Adoration (Holy Hour) or perhaps the Way of the Cross. It also reminds me of the procession taken out in honour of St. Anthony. I can see the little flower girls dressed in white and the men and boys taking turns to carry the car bearing the statue of St. Anthony. The old ones, the young ones – everybody taking part, I can almost hear the prayers and the choir singing! Suddenly the Church bell shatters my reverie – but it also brings memories of all my friends playing happily on the streets. At the sound of the Angelus Bell they run home to recite the Angelus with the rest of the family.

Park Town Anglo-Indian children at a birthday party.

I turn around and look up at the Rabels’ house – and my mind conjures up a vivid image of Mr. Frank Rabel – the “Sheriff” of Park Town. At once, I think of all the fantastic picnics organised by him. I can picture the town folk enjoying themselves at Ennore or at Covelong beach. Some playing in the water or in the sand, somebody playing the guitar and of course the singing! Ah… wonderful and happy times! I glance at the Parish Hall and the memories come flooding in – Whist Drives, Tombolo, Socials, “Catechism Day” concerts, the indoor games, and the little library tucked away in the corner.

Doris Fonreca used to assist children for their First Holy Communion.

My thoughts meander on to December time and I find myself shopping at the once-­famous Moore Market and looking starry-eyed at the Christmas decorations. The celebrations leading up to Christmas are a week-long event at Park Town. Each day is ear-marked for some celebration or the other – Children’s fancy dress, Adults’ fancy dress, tea and games for children. Socials and Amateur Nights. On Christmas Eve, Santa distributes toys to the children. Their happy faces outshine the lights on the Christmas Times. As I stroll along I can almost hear the carol singers as they visit every house, and then something unique – groups of children serenading to the homes of their friends and neighbours. As I linger over this image, I can almost smell the home-baked cakes. kul kuls and rose cookies! Those days will never come back!

Anglo-Indian wedding at Trinity Chapel.

Suddenly, I remember a little park called “Bandstand” – a perfect place for teenage boys to hang out and smoke that forbidden cigarette. It was also a perfect place for the girls to “accidently” stroll past and be admired by the boys! As I chuckle at this memory, I come down to earth with a hard bump! There, reality stares me in the face! All I can see are hotels, lodges, and wholesale plastic shops. I sadly realize that I have come to the end of my walk down “memory lane”.

I leave Park Town, with a heart tilled with joy and happiness for everything that WAS. At the same time, my eyes fill with tears, as I bow my head in sorrow to mourn the death of this wonderful place – a place called Park Town… – Mary Forbes (Courtesy: Anglos in the Wind, April 2022.)

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