Madras Yenga Madras…
Every year for Madras Day I do a blog post on the city I grew up in and lived for a majority of my life. Having had my entire life turned topsy-turvy recently (in a good way) I was noticeably reluctant to do one this year as I am pretty badly exhausted by the time I get home from work and sitting down in front of the computer to type sounds less and less appealing as the days pass by. But enough of that. My blogger friend Susan Deborah has initiated a blog theme on “what I would like to change in madras” and she has provided me the much needed spark to park my butt down and type this post.
So what would I like to change in madras? Well, off-hand I would say “nothing at all, the city’s fine as it is”. But that sounds too glib, doesn’t it? On further reflection I do find that there is one thing I would love to change in madras, but more about that later in the post. Right now as part of madras day celebrations I would like to record for posterity (hahahha….feel free to laugh too- at my expense) a few unforgettable landmarks of my childhood days – which are now in the unique peril of being forgotten by everyone except a certain generation who grew up in the madras of those times.
I would like to record my remembrances here of a few places like:
Maskanchavadi – also known as Koli market (Chicken market)colloquially, it was THE place to go to buy a pet, any pet you fancy- right from a cockatoo, an angora rabbit, love birds, mynah birds, any kinda bird or dog or animal you fancy- you name it and the dealers there could procure it for you. The maskanchavadi market was at a tri-street junction off Broadway, right opposite the old Broadway theatre building and it used to function on Sunday mornings- when the crowds came from everywhere to just look around the menagerie. But repeated raids by our efficient local police force to check for illegal/rare bird selling businesses has driven down the entire market to death and it now exists as a paltry few shops selling broiler chicken for the table. Times move on and what was once considered commonplace- now resides in memory as a quaint old place.
Satti-Panai Kadai – right off koli market as you keep moving towards the interior of Broadway you run smack into the Pots and Pans market- where once people who cooked exclusively in earthenware pans and drank water off mud pots used to come to buy the stuff. Now that the market has shifted to aluminum and eversilver (stainless steel) cookware the pots and pans of earthenware have died a natural death and returned to earth (so to say).
Roundu-Kuzhai- As the name indicates it was a big rotunda with a municipal pump bang right in the middle of it all with various streets branching off in all directions. It was situated off Mint Street and connected most of the other streets parallel to mint street in one single place. People used to give address locations as “you know round kozha? Take the 2nd right….etc” in the pre-Google maps era. The area was also notorious for being the place where most riots started and you often learnt that some political party or the other had declared a bandh/hartal when the stones started flying around the roundu kozha area.
Broadway Theatre/Padmanabha Theatre/Prabhat Theatre/Murugan Talkies- none of which exist as theatres now but places where a lot of film history was made. In the end of their cycle as viable entities going to murugan was often synonymous with going to watch a bit-film….you know the ones where in the midst of a normal/boring movie they insert a little pornographic slide or two just to wake up sleepy audiences? That’s what I mean…Murugan along with Parangimalai Jothi theatre was the pre internet era’s easy access porno knowledge providers to a whole generation of boys growing up without official sex-ed.
Krishnappa Naicken Tank Agraharam- would you believe an honest to god kumbakonam style agraharam (a brahmin community only) kind of locality in the midst of busy Broadway? Yeah, it existed once- situated roundabout krishnappa’s tank- in concentric streets off the tank area.
Finally Diamond Tea Stall- the place where boys turned into men- the fag end of Mint Street right opposite mint bus terminus- this was THE hangout spot for all the rowdies and roughnecks of GT area- where awestruck people used to point them out as celebrities. The language was all pukka madras bhashai – starting with kasmalam and asking about nenjullu erukkara manja soru. And dress code? Strictly Lungi…pants were for sissies.
I could go on and on…but what the point? These places even though they no longer exist physically still stay on as evergreen memories in all long term residents of George Town area.
And oh about the changing madras thing? I would of course like to change madras’s politicinas – the ones who didn’t hesitate to jettison the wonderful old name madras for chennai under the guise of langauge pride in the hopes of a few paltry extra votes.