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(ARCHIVE) Vol. XIX No. 10, september 1-15, 2009
Foundation stones, but no commemorative plaques
By A Special Correspondent

A slew of welfare measures has been announced in North Chennai.

This is now a routine practice with foundation stones being laid and then most of the projects languishing for want of funds or due to their being planned without taking any of the ground realities into consideration. The present crop of welfare measures is not different with as many as eighty being announced in one day. Foundation stones and commemorative plaques were unveiled at all locations. While such developmental measures are all to be welcomed if they manage to take off, what is sad is that the historical importance and significance of North Chennai is fast being forgotten and there is not even one plaque to commemorate the contributions of that part of the city or the people behind them.

Here are just a few examples.

Among the various schemes unveiled yesterday was the upgrade of noonday meal kitchens. Yet, just a few metres away is the Hindu Theological School whose Headmaster, Kurichi Rangaswami Iyengar thought of and implemented such a scheme at the school decades before it was brought into use by K. Kamaraj and later M.G. Ramachandran. There is no tablet of any sort that records this.

The houses of several historic personalities that lived in North Chennai have been razed to the ground and have been replaced by high-rise, a most ill-advised and unsuited development for such a congested area with real estate development being the only motive. But what is sad is that none of these places has any commemorative plaques. The home of Arumuga Navalar is virtually impossible to locate now. Crown Cinema, one of the pioneering theatres built by R. Prakash has vanished with its façade alone standing for God knows how long. The Ottrai Vadai Theatre on Walltax Road has long ­vanished and it is only with the help of an old-timer that we can identify where it was.

A multi-crore upgrade has been promised for the Tondiarpet Communicable Diseases Hospital and improvements are ongoing at the Stanley Hospital, which has the historic Monegar Choultry next to it. But where exactly on Broadway was T.S. Sankaranarayanan’s modern hospital, the first nursing home of its kind? Today, when Chennai is considered to be the capital of India’s healthcare industry, surely this deserves commemoration?

What about the dubashes who virtually built the city and gave it its commercial foundation? The north is a hotchpotch of long forgotten names which if revived and presented afresh will show the history of the city in a new light. The temples that these men built are suffering the brunt of unplanned development in their neighbourhood. The continued relaying of road surfaces has seen several historical temples of north Chennai become subterranean shrines, or almost.

There is continuous talk about a revival of the North. But what about remembering industrial houses such as Binny’s whose establishment sustained a large part of North Chennai by way of employment and also the rise of the trade union movement? Not a single commemorative stone to mark this landmark enterprise now no longer with us. The list is endless.

In this issue

Thank you, Chennai
Foundation stones...
19th & 20th Century...
Historic Residences...
Other stories

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
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Quizzin' with Ram'nan
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