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(ARCHIVE) Vol. XIX No. 19, january 16-31, 2010
Our Readers Write

Eating out in yesteryear

I wonder how many remember the ‘hotels’ (restaurants) and hotels of sixty years ago, where you could eat well in hygienic surroundings at an unbelievably low cost.

Hotel Amin on Royapettah High Road was famous for its non-vegetarian food, particularly its mini mutton samosas costing one anna each. It was a congregation point for all those who patronised late night movie shows.

Swagath Hotel round the corner was started by Aythilia, formerly of Woodlands. It had comfortable rooms and an excellent restaurant patronised by people from Udipi, Mangalore and South Kanara.

Gupta’s Ajantha Hotel, headed by Mahendra Gupta, had single rooms with bath attached for Rs. 15/- a day. These were booked well in advance by salesmen. Its dosai, idlis and pooris were hot favourites. On its site now is Deccan Plaza, also vegetarian but more up-market.

Students enjoyed the snacks at Gupta’s States Hotel (now P Orr & Sons) on Bradie’s Road (Ramakrishna Mutt Road), Mylapore. Maruddis Café on Luz Church Road attracted shoppers, and the Universal Biscuit stall offered the best of cakes and bread. On Kutcheri Road, Naikers’ morning breakfast was a treat.

On Mount Road, Buhari’s was famous for its Ceylon Egg Parrota and Hotel Bilal for its Falooda. Both offered car service.

After Partition, Punjabi migrants started Kwality Restaurant, next to Higginbotham’s and Gaylord Restaurant near D2 Police Station on Mount Road. They were on the expensive side but introduced to Madras Chola Batura, Mater Paneer and other Punjabi dishes.

Opposite VGP’s, above Bata’s, was the airconditioned ‘Tea Centre’ run by the Government of India. It had a mini theatre where tea promotion films, documentaries and India News Reviews were screened.

On Wallajah Road near the Fire Station, Mrs. Clubwala Jadhav and other members of the All India Women’s Association started a middle income group restaurant called Annapoorna where South Indian dishes were served at nominal rates under the supervision of Mrs. Sarojini Varadappan, Mrs. Indersen and others. Last year, this was closed down. Across from it was Hotel Coronation Durbar which was well patronised for its biriyanis.

Gupta’s had an idli-dosai ‘hotel’ where Devi Theatre is and it was called Nehru Café or My Coffee Bar.

Rathna Café on Old Tram Road in Triplicane, connecting Wallajah Road and Mirzapet Market, was a treat at breakfast time.

Opposite Presidency College, on the Marina Beach Road, next to the Corporation Swimming Pool, was a restaurant that held Saturday evening dance programmes and was popular with Anglo-Indians.

Madras Café in China Bazaar, opposite the High Court, was a ‘conference’ venue for lawyers. Near it was Mysore Café.

India Coffee House, above India Silk House, had waiters wearing turbans and neatly ironed coats. They offered polite service and the best of coffee, South Indian snacks and omelettes.

Are there places like them today?

Bharat Hiteshi
3/54, IInd Cross Street
Gandhi Nagar, Palavakkam
Chennai 600 041

Respect heritage

The renovation of their Library by the Freemasons without altering the facade is laudable. The Indian Railways is another organisation which deserves a pat on its back – just look at their lovely bungalows in Sterling Road. All finished in correct white (no garish vaastu colours here) and the exteriors not suffering the ignominy of any modern annexures or appendages. I also hope they renovate the cottages in Perambur in the same manner, keeping the exteriors intact.

The cottage in the Horticultural Gardens is an example of what a restoration should NOT be like. That was not a restoration, but a caricature. I had admired the school buildings in St Ebba’s on Dr. Radhakrishnan Salai and also photographed the spires and staircases when our Club held a vintage vehicle rally there last year. Recently I was appalled to see modern annexures being built and attached to the old buildings without any regard for the architecture of the old buildings.

Joga Rao
Thirumullaivoyal, Chennai 62

Vedachala Garden

Vedachala Garden, near City Union Bank, Mandaveli, was formerly known as Pasupathi Agraharam where once lived Brahmins in the 27 independent houses with large kitchens, store rooms, living rooms, bedrooms and drawing rooms. Some of the houses were big enough to have kitchen gardens.

The houses were well above ground level with convenient steps for entry.

A Pasupathi Iyer, head clerk of a leading advocate in Mylapore, purchased 100 acres of land with coconut and plantain trees and built seven houses. Later, the property was bought by a leading cloth merchant on Mount Road and he built twenty more houses. Some five decades ago eminent teachers of P. S. High School, advocates of the Madras Bar, officers in the armed forces, film directors and others lived there.

Today, if you hope to see a garden with flora and fauna, you will be disappointed because the house owners remodelled the property by cutting down the coconut and plantain trees. Therefore, it is now only an apology for a garden.

There was no electricity till as late as 1927. The toilets were dry latrines. Now the entire colony houses advocates, businessmen, government officials, merchants and has all modern facilities. It is bounded by Mandaveli Street, Nor­ton Road, South Canal Bank Road and Adanjan Mudali Street.

P.A. Ranganathan
16/24, Vedachala Garden
Mandaveli Street
Chennai 600 028

Dogged memories

A Chennai breeder of indigenous dogs has extolled the virtues of the Rajapalayam, Chippiparai, Kombai, etc. and stated they are superior to imported breeds. If so, why hasn’t the Chennai Police inducted a single native hound in its dog squad?

Madras had some of the finest police dogs in India. In fact, when the Belur Srinivas Ayyangar murders took place in Bangalore, a police dog from Madras was sent there to sniff the scene of crime. That was in 1956. Later, there was the magnificent black Labrador Raja, who helped solve many a crime. And then there was that peerless German Shephered, Chief, and his daughter Mis(s) Chief. This Alsation was a veritable T.N. Seshan in his dogged devotion to duty. I am reminded of Chief whenever I read MMM’s references to the ‘Chief’.

C.G. Prasad
9, C.S. Mudali Street
Chennai 600 079

All good things...

How I wish I was still in good old Madras, frequenting again as I did the Safire Theatre complex, which housed Safire, Blue Diamond and Emerald theatres.

Safire was for English movies, Emerald was for Hindi movies, but it was Blue Diamond which was the safe haven for lovers, as they could sit through continuous shows from 9.a.m. to 9.p.m, if I remember right. Just imagine coming in at 9.a.m. and staying put till 9.p.m. I wonder how many people would have done that.Walking into the theatre all alone made you feel uncomfortable, because you felt that you were the odd man out. Now it has become part of history with the demolition of the building some time ago.

The other day I happened to pass Mount Road and found that another theatre had bit the dust with the pulling down of the Anand Theatre complex. As the saying goes, all good things have to come to an end.

Vidhu Balakrishnan
419, 9th East Street
Kamaraj Nagar, Thiruvanmiyur
Chennai 600 041


In this issue

Will bigger be better?
Road-widening no answer for increasing traffic
When the RK Math put down Madras roots
A collection well past its prime
Historic Residences of Chennai - 34
Other stories

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan
Dates for your Diary


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