Those days of Trams, rickshaw pullers and steam-engine buses and lorries

January 9, 2007 at 9:51 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

I remember the Madras of yore with its tram rails steam powered lorries and handrickshaws. 

I was residing in Triplicane where I remember travelling by trams.  Triplicane High Road had tramrails and overhead cables and the slow moving trams.  Even at their maximum acceleration it was easy to get into the tram with its wide entrance with a vertical hold provided, and  I have used the trams a few times.  Long after the trams were scrapped the rails were still there for quite sometime.  I don’t remember the tram fare but it must have been dirt cheap.  One can go to Parry’s Corner and beyond upto Clive Battery, if my memory serves me right.  The Reserve Bank Subway had not yet come up and people have to cross the rail tracks to reach the Madras Harbour and onward into the Marina Beach and the South Beach Road.  I also remember the old Light House in the Madras High Court Complex, the East India Company complex which presently house the Tamil Nadu Secretariat and the State Assembly.  The old landmarks which are still extant there are the St. George’s Cathedral (I don’t know if I have identified the Church properly), the moat around the complex and some of the fortress walls of  the Fort St. George still intact.

Near the Labour Statue erected  in Chepauk facing the Madras University complex, if you walk in the sand towards the waterline, you will come to a place where you can still find traces of an ancient sea wall built of bricks.  The  statues numbering around a dozen, adorning the beach road culminating with the Statue of Mahatma Gandhi near Queen Mary’s College, were not yet commissioned by the State Government.  Nor were the Memorials for the late Chief Ministers  C.N. Annadurai and M.G. Ramachandran, were there, as they were created only after their demise.

The Madras Presidency College campus is facing the beach, as it has been standing for over a hundred year and more.  Another landmark building complex is the one that houses the offices of the Director General of Police.  In between Presidency College and the Madras Univrsity are many edifices among which is also the Arcot Nawab’s Palace, which is one apart from the Amir Mahal on Pycrofts Road, the properties extending in an unbroken compound which ends on Dr. Besant Road on the  other side.  Amir Mahal is the residence of the family of the present Nawab of Arcot, H.H. Nawab Mohamed Abdul Ali, whom I have seen in person at close quarters  a few  times during my tenure of service in Chennai.

The lowly handrickshaw pulled by one poor human being carrying another human being riding in the rickshaw, was another familiar sight of those times.  The five time Chief Minister of the State had eradicated the handrickshaws to put an end to this inequality, donating cycle rickshaws to each one of those dispossessed rickshaw pullers.

I also remember having seen if not buses, lorries run on steam power like the old steam  rail engines.

Some more unique sights of Madras of those days were the ‘sundal’  ‘kaimurukku” and raw mango slices beautifully serrated like an open fan with garnishing of raw chillies powder and salt, which salivates our palates at the mere mention or mental picture of this delicacy, a poor man’s favourite snacks along with hot roasted peanuts, all sold on the Marina Beach stretch.

I remember the old Movie theatres like Paragon, Elphinstone, Plaza, which have given way to shopping complexes and malls.

I remember Ayodhya Mandapam with its poojas, festivals and music concerts.

I remember my daily long walks every evening to the Marina to soak up the evening breeze and plodding my way back after it was dark, sweating and sweltering in the summer evening heat as I moved away from the beach through the crowded roads and streets.

I remember chewing through a bunch of Kumbakonam Betel leaves sitting with my mother.  I remember my sister practising her Carnatic music, I mimicking her all along, subconsciously learning almost all the Geethams and Sarali Varisais, etc., and also a smattering of big Krithis too, though I never learnt to identify the raagas even today.  I had a high tenor voice which I haven’t totally lost even now.  My voice sounds like an Alto and people address me as Madam if they are talking over the phone, even after I mention that I am Mr. Narayanan.  Apart from my voice there is nothing feminine about me; I am a hot-blooded total male, though I have become a little senile now, what with my wife having been sick through her last six years and I being totally faithful to her.   Well that is that for this Post.

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  1. […] Narayanan goes down the memory lane talking about Chennai in those (g)olden days Some more unique sights of Madras of those days were the ’sundal’ ‘kaimurukku” and raw mango slices beautifully serrated like an open fan with garnishing of raw chillies powder and salt, which salivates our palates at the mere mention or mental picture of this delicacy, a poor man’s favourite snacks along with hot roasted peanuts, all sold on the Marina Beach stretch. […]

  2. Thank you Mr. Krishnan. I visited Blogbharti and saw you contribute articles regularly. I am still shaky and directionless. I never had any reporting or writing experience earlier. I hope to improve as I go on posting.

  3. […] மெட்ராஸ் நினைவுகளைப் பகிர்ந்து கொள்கிறார்…. I was residing in Triplicane where I remember travelling by trams. Triplicane High Road had […]


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