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(ARCHIVE) Vol. XIX No. 21, february 16-28, 2010
Our Readers Write

The way we treat our visitors!

My son, with his children and friends, came to India for a short holiday and planned a day’s visit to Agra to see the Taj. I enclose what he has written about that visit. It was indeed Incredible India!

I am sure that there is need for vigilant security, but to carry it to the point that all tourists are turned away does not augur well for our attempt to promote tourism in the country.

Vibodh Chandhok’s chronology of January 7, 2010

1. We arrived in Agra around noon and went straight to the Taj Mahal. We were told that there were dignitaries from the Commonwealth Games Committee slated to visit between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and it would be closed for that period.

2. We went and had a nice lunch and headed back to the gate around 2 p.m.

3. They said it would be open to the public only around 3.30 p.m. as there were delays due to the train/or the lunch which took time to consume. Rumours started circulating (and the hotel repeated them) that the gates might not open that day.

4. We visited the Agra Fort and saw some beautiful silhouettes of the Taj Mahal from there. We had a good visit there till around 3.30 p.m.

5. We decided to try our luck again and headed to the outer gate. Now they said that because the dignitaries took longer it would be around 4.30 p.m. that they would actually let people in and it would be open a while longer than the usual, till 6.30 p.m.

6. So, we headed off for a little shopping to buy some marble mementoes and miniature Taj Mahals. We headed back around 4.30 p.m.

7. We still were not sure they would open the gates. But we got in line almost in the front.

8. They opened the outer gate around 5 p.m. but the tickets needed to be purchased about 3/4 km away inside the area. If they had been sold at the outer gate, everyone would have been able to visit. Anyway, Zach, Benj, Jenna sprinted ahead of the pack. Zach had the entrance fee of Rs. 3000 for four adults – kids under 15 were free. He was seventh in the Foreigners’ line. Only when he was 2nd from the window they closed the ticket counter that had been open only for ten minutes and said there was not enough time to visit before closing time. This was around 5.15 p.m. We tried to get the kids under 15 in since they were free, but the security guard indicated guides/adults had to accompany them. We left disappointed and Jenna/Ilia saw some ‘real’ crowd rowdiness/displeasure. It was worse in the Indian nationals’ line.

A simple solution would have been to keep the inner gates closed and let the folks in early upto the inner gates. They would have made a ton of money and people would have been happy that their visit was fruitful. Anyway, 200+ officials of the Commonwealth Games had a good visit with a lengthy lunch at the cost of a ton of visitors. We saw German, British, and other tourists too there who had waited outside the gates all day for a chance. Unfortunately, the next day was a Friday and it was closed.

I did not realise they could close the entire area off for groups. We probably should have checked the tourism site or something. Anyway, the group got some mementoes and Jenna bought a guide book with beautiful pictures!

B. Indu Chandhok
12, Wallace Garden, 3rd Street,
Chennai 600 006

Lighting up

Tube light! Yes, that’s what I have been feeling like in the last few days after reading in the newspaper about “subsidised electricity” being supplied to the Mega Parks on the OMR which seem to be celebrating every night as if it is the 4th of July!

I want to share some facts with you:

1) In the early 1990s, when we moved into our little nest on the Muttukadu Road, south of the city, and when we had power cuts at nights, the overhead lights (the stars) used to brighten up enough most of the times of the year to go through a meal sitting on a bench outside our house (no kidding!).

2) The only light that competed with the milky way was what became megalopolis ‘Chennai’, and if we went to the terrace of our home, we could see that huge glow in the North. We often thought of the rain flies being attracted towards light (my brethren and I being “the flies” in this case, and Chennai being “the light”, rushing away soon after sunrise to earn the bacon).

3) In the last few years, ever since the street west to ours became the famous O.M.R, there is a new glow from the western hemisphere – the ‘IT Parks’. You cannot imagine the amount of lights these buildings shed (God knows for what reason – as they are not “show shops” or “landing strips” nor do the fishermen at sea seem to need these shining examples of “subsidised beacons” to find their anchorage).

We feel helpless and, therefore, ask: Are there some people in this list who can bring this up with these organisations on the OMR? For all the power these buildings waste on the OMR (the other day the newspaper reported that some of these software parks were misusing subsidised electricity), think about the huge ship/trainloads of coal and nuggets of uranium that are being irreversibly modified to pollute the environment. Just to light up the neon sign on these buildings? If some people in this list are employed at these “parks”, they may want to highlight this waste on their Intranet or in their in-house magazine after they have thought about it.

With public cries about “high cost of energy”, we sometimes feel that one sure shot (and unfortunate) way to minimise consumption is to keep things expensive. I wonder if the amount of smoke exhaust will decrease if cost per litre of diesel/petrol climbed to Rs. 250 a litre. Or, will it also have no effect?

Navaz Currimbhoy
2/157, Karrikatu Kuppam
Muttukadu, Chennai 603 112

Pugh’s Gardens revisited

When you started putting your excellent publication on the web, I started reading it there. To say I was surprised when I saw ‘Historic Residences of Chennai – 32’ (MM, December 16th) is an understatement.

I lived in Pugh’s Gardens for about two years from early 1956. As far as I can remember, Best and Co. rented the whole property and the Managing Director, Tom Rogers, and his wife lived in the garden bungalow and the very run-down main house was a company ‘chummery’ with upto four bachelors sharing the building.

I knew the building was a left-over from the East India Company days, and was built after their normal manner for such buildings. Very much open-plan, with shuttered windows all round to catch the breezes. The roof was very thick and heavy. By the time I moved in, the weight of the roof and also the middle floor were too great for the structure to support and each was held by substantial timber supports. The roof leaked in the monsoon and we made certain that the drain holes of the roof were always clear so that the weight of rainwater didn’t add to the load.

The electric wiring must have been the original, installed in the 1920s (red cotton and rubber covered flex).

The lovely Burma teak-curved staircase was as good as new, but needed a lot of tender loving care.

I can’t remember who the other bachelors were, except for Ian Forrester (Shaw Wallace), Peter Turpin (Best & Co) and myself. There was another chap who was addicted to Western classical music. Most of the records were 78 r.p.m. and he played them with thorn needles which required resharpening after each play.

In the monsoon, dips in the grounds filled with stagnant water and I had to get the Corporation to come and spray them with a paraffin/DDT mix to control the mosquitoes.

In 2002, which I think was my last trip to Madras, I stopped on the road-side and viewed Pugh’s Gardens; the poor old place did look as terrible as is described in Madras Musings. I had thought that the plot would have been built over by now. Maybe it is the subject of a court case.

Michael Stamford

Am I correct?

While I learnt about many hotels through reader Bharat Hiteshi’s letter, I presume that he means Murudi’s Cafe in Luz, though mentioned as Maruddis Cafe, and the Rayer Cafe has been mentioned as Naikers Mess, if I am right.

The Indian Coffee House used to exist in many places and I well remember the one at T’Nagar junction which, if I am right, even had some old black and white photographs of erstwhile leaders.

Baskar C.S.
17, Ramarao Road
Mylapore, Chennai 600 004

More to remember

Reader Bharat Hiteshi (MM, January 16th) has missed one of the most popular restaurants on Mount Road – Harrison’s. The popular lunch consisted of rice, mutton curry (just like your Mom made at home!), vegetable poriyal, buttermilk and papadam.

All this for just Rs. 2-3-0, if my memory serves me right. You just couldn’t beat it!

Then, of course, there was Pals Restaurant, famous for its cabaret.

Rayar’s of Mylapore was, and still is, the best place for hot idli-s in the morning.

Besides these, there were a host of little ‘messes’ in the bylanes of Triplicane, run by brahmin women, where you could have three wholesome, homely meals a day for as little as Rs. 3-5-0.

Those were great days for bachelors and students. You hardly missed home.

P. Madhusudan
1-C, Cambrae East
40, Dr. P.V. Cherian Crescent
Egmore, Chennai 600 008


In this issue

Planning for better days for the Cooum
Pedestrian safety – a matter of low priority in Chennai
Three men, a sidewalk and a morning Tamil paper
After the SVS days – the slide
Historic Residences of Chennai - 36
Other stories

Our Regulars

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


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