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(ARCHIVE) Vol. XIX No. 23, march 16-31, 2010
Our Readers Write

Remembering Jaffar’s ice creams

There was a time in Madras, when eating an ice-cream meant Jaffarco (or Jaffar’s ice-creams). I am talking, of course, of a time 25 years ago and of the ice-cream parlour in a corner of the Eliphinstone theatre on Mount Road, run by Jaffar and his brother .

Those were days of leisure. You took your car out and drove out – usually in the evening – to end up parking in the Round Tana. (Can you imagine it, parking right in the centre of Mount Road!) No sooner you parked than a waiter would appear and clip a tray on to the door of your car and ask for your order. Or you walked into Jaffar’s ice cream parlour. Facing you as you entered was a counter, like a bar counter, with bar stools and a glass top, behind which stood Jaffar himself. He handed out a tacky, laminated card listing a number of ice creams and sundaes and ice cream sodas. Looking at the menu and deciding what to order (there were a lot of ice creams) was a ten-minute activity by itself, but for those who were regular and knew what he served, you didn’t really have to look. The choice was between Eliphinstone Special Rs. 5 (or Rs. 7, perhaps a princely sum for an ice cream those days), Jaffarco Special 9 also Rs. 5, or Peach Melba, a favourite with many.

To this day I really don’t know the difference between the first and the second special, but the moment you placed your order, Jaffar would disappear into his parlour and return with tall float glasses or sundae dishes (if it was Peach Melba) filled with little chunks of multi-coloured jelly (ooh, what a delight that was), great halves of peaches, jam, generous dollops of homemade multicoloured icecream with a garnish of cherry and a triangular wafer stuck on top.

You sat for the next half an hour, slowly going through the layers of ice cream and chatting with Jaffar.

The ice cream – especially the Peach Melba – was stickiest, most gooey ice cream you would ever have eaten and it was a delight to use the triangular wafer as a spoon to help the ice-cream on its way into your mouth. (For regulars, Jaffar would even give a second wafer!)

All the while, Jaffar would chat with you about the latest movie on at Eliphinstone. Those were the days when the theatre screened Hollywood movies like The Best Years of Our Lives and Confessions of a Nazi Spy. The night show started at 9.30 and by the time the trailer and a bit of the movie got over, it was time for an interval. The crowd would spill out into Jaffarco next door and occupy the family seating area with chairs and tables further inside. Jaffar would suddenly get busy , but you could just sit at the counter and watch them fill the place, while dipping into the last of Jaffar’s delicious ice cream.

Arun Ganapathy

Starting from scratch

Prominent Madrasis have felt that the heritage of Madras is not being properly preserved for posterity. Indeed the only heritage preservation seen is the vintage car rally every year.

Many old residents of Madras have been saddened that the sylvan surroundings of Rajaji Hall have vanished to make room for the new Assembly. Soon, the Madras Medical College will have a new campus on the erstwhile Central Jail land. As the old Central Jail, in addition to carceral function, was infamous for mosquito attacks from the surrounding Cooum, the medical students will literally begin their education from scratch.

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

Abused exhibits

I recently visited the Government Museum in Chennai and, like any other visit to a historical or archaeological site, I came back with a bag of mixed feelings. We visited three sections of the museum, the general wing, the sculpture section and, finally, the bronze collections.

The bronze exhibits from the 8th Century onwards are outstanding. The display is well organised in glass cases with descriptions. I have been to a few museums in the world and I would rank the Chennai museum as the best in bronze collections. But the staff present were not able to answer any questions. A visit would be more interesting if a knowledgeable person is around to answer questions.

The section housing the sculptures from the Pallava, Chola, Pandya and Vijayanagar periods had excellent displays but without any significant information on them. What appalled me was to see both adults and children touching these wonderful ancient creations in spite of the sign warning them not to do so. Sadly, the guards paid little attention to this. You will never see such carelessness in preserving a valuable collection anywhere else in the world. Why can’t these pieces be protected with at least a fence barrier, if not glass, to prevent people from abusing them? On some of these beautiful sculptures the areas affected by years of touching are clearly visible. What a shame!

The general section had contemporary paintings, sculptures and articles from the British period in India. Here again, the exhibits were not well cared for and had dust and dirt all over them. There are some great paintings by Ravi Varma which could use some better lighting.

The Victoria Hall, a beautiful building, is sadly neglected and is in need of renovation.

Overall, the museum has a great collection, but the Curator and other officials must make a greater effort to protect these wonderful exhibits from further decay so that they can be viewed and enjoyed by future generations. Indeed, the Museum itself is in need of preservation.

Manjeri S. Raman
4, Bishop Garden Road Extn
Chennai 600 028

The unsung doctor

There were several letters in MM some time ago on doctors. I would like to add Dr. S. Basheer Ahmad’s name to that list. A well-known orthopaedician, he and, along with him, Dr. M. Natarajan, were the two brilliant ortho-surgeons in the 1960s and 70s. They were at G.H., in a team headed by Dr. Thayumansamy, a stickler to discipline. Dr. Basheer later moved to Government Hospital, Royapettah, where he established the first 24-Hour Accident Ward in the State.

Many film personalities like MGR., Sivaji Ganesan, Sowcar Janaki and Nagesh were his patients. When MGR was Chief Minister, he dislocated his shoulder and I had the rare fortune to accompany Dr. Basheer to Ramavaram Gardens at 9.00 p.m. – where the Chief Minister insisted we have our food before giving him treatment.

As the doctor to the Indian cricket team and visiting teams to Madras, he had treated Imran Khan, Viv Richards, Kirmani, Gavaskar and Vengsarkar. Gavaskar has made a special mention about Dr. Basheer in his Sunny Days on how he was treated overnight and was able to play in the Test Match in Chennai versus Pakistan. (He scored 177 not out and gifted his bat to Dr. Basheer, which is still with the family.)

A no-nonsense man, he had 16 Assistants, and many famous surgeons of today were his Assistants. So many difficult cases, which could not be treated in major private hospitals, were brought to him and cured. In a cruel irony of fate, his eldest son, who was a brilliant and budding doctor, died in a tragic car accident just two days before his wedding in 1987. Dr. Basheer went into a shell after this, and passed away, unsung, a couple of years ago.

M. Fazal
11, Mosque Street
Chennai 600 064


In this issue

A landmark arising
What are we planning for the Buckingham Canal?
A waterway & an expressway in conflict
The Mylapore festival – that Sister Devamata witnessed 100 years ago
Historic Residences of Chennai - 38
Other stories

Our Regulars

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


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