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(ARCHIVE) Vol. XIX No. 5, june 16-30, 2009
Our Readers Write

Saving Prison Heritage

Thank you for the valuable comments in Madras Musings, March 16th, on the initiative of the Prison Department to ­establish a Prison Museum. All Central Prisons located in Vellore, Coimbatore, Salem, Madurai, Cuddalore, Trichy and Palayam­kottai are buildings constructed over one hundred years ago, the oldest being the Vellore prison. We have planned to ­develop a museum covering the historical events in the respective prisons.

However, your suggestion that the History of Madras ­Penitentiary should not be off the tourist track is indeed timely and relevant. We will try to locate a suitable place near the old Central Prison complex for establishing the proposed museum.

R. Nataraj
DGP Prisons*

Editor’s Note: This letter went walkabout and, so, the delay in publishing it. But published at this time, it could not have been at a more opportune moment. In a recent issue of The Economist, London, there appeared an advertisement whose highlights are quoted below:

Becoming of two French Prisons
Saint Joseph and Saint Paul in Lyon

Call for proposals

This call for proposals is aiming to explore, before the ­selling, the outlooks of a total or partial protection of these disused ­prisons, which are located in the new area called Confluence in Lyon.

Prison Saint Joseph - 12 quai Perrache - Construction 1827-1831

Architect : Louis-Pierre Baltard

Total surface : 9941 m2 (2,45 acre)

Surface of the property : 11,170 m2 (2,76 acre)

Located along the Rhône river. Chapel in the central span.
A tunnel links the two prisons.

Prison Saint Paul - 33 Cours Suchet - Construction 1860-1865

Architect : Antonin Louvier

Total surface : 9944 m2 (2,45 acre)

Surface of the property : 11,704 m2 (2,89 acre)

Panoptical architecture with 6 branches around a dodeca­gonal tower, with a chapel on the first level.

Deadline: Final closing date for receipt of proposals is:
4:30 p.m. 15th ­September 2009 (GMT+2)

Mr. Nataraj as well as the Government would do well to take a cue from the above and see how they could team with the Metro on developing a portion of the Madras Penitentiary as a museum that will be an integral part of the railway station that is planned for this spot.

* He has since been transferred.

Lakshmi location

Bharat Hiteshi (MM, May 16th) listed several now-forgotten theatres of Madras.

He said Lakshmi theatre was in Ayana­varam. I think ­Laksh­mi theatre was the one in Aminji­karai.

Ayanavaram had a theatre named Sayani, behind which there used to be a godown of Poppat Jamal & Sons, adjacent to which our school was situated. Probably because it was run by Dhun Tarapore Trust, the property developers had come up with a few flats where Sayani stood, in the early 1990s.

My father made it a routine to take us to Sayani almost every Friday during the mid­ 1970s, when Laurel and Hardy films, some thrillers and Tamil devotionals were regularly shown. After watching the movie, we used to walk down till railway quarters with no traffic or honking bothering us.

(Mrs.) A.P. Chakraborthy

Movie nostalgia

I thank reader Bharat Hiteshi (MM, May 16th) for jogging my memory. I remember seeing several Hindi films with my mother at Star. There used to be a ‘Women’s Only’ partitioned area for burqa-clad women at Star. As a little boy, I was allowed into this area by the ticket collector who was a woman and a friend of my mother. I strutted about wearing a ‘Jewel Thief’ cap for some time. I saw Taj Mahal at Midland. Midland’s exterior was done up like the Taj when Taj Mahal was released.

I saw many fine English ­pictures at New Elphinstone, Ode­on, Minerva and Blue Diamond. I was not allowed in to see El Cid (at Rajkumari), as it was an ‘A’ film.

I well remember the cold coffee and rose milk served at Odeon. I saw the Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night on a morning show at the Odeon. Before the main film was screened Odeon used to screen Woody Woodpecker and other cartoon shorts, which we children ­eagerly looked forward to.

When Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines was screened at Safire, a bi-plane from the Madras Flying Club was parked outside the theatre. Cleopatra was the first film ­released at Safire.

Sivaji’s Karnan and MGR’s Vettai Karan were released ­simultaneously at Shanthi and Chitra respectively. The front of Chitra Theatre was covered with cardboard mountains and foliage, with animal cutouts as if it was a “Western”. For Karnan, Shanthi theatre’s exterior had a huge ratham whose wheels of coloured lights kept “turning”.

Watching movies in the theatres during the 1960s was indeed a great experience.

I. Joga Rao
3, 9th Street, Thenral Nagar
Chennai 600 062

Missing trees

Drive along Marina Beach, especially near Presidency College, and you will see on the seashore side that many 50-year-old trees are missing. They have been chopped down, increasing global heat and making visits to the beach impossible, especially between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

The Government preaches tree planting and gets money from Centre for this purpose, but is busy giving contractors money to cut down full-grown trees. Why was this done? Who is to blame for this environment-unfriendly act?

Bharat Hiteshi
L-404, “The Atrium”
22/49, Kalakshetra Road
Chennai 600 041

Bus shelter seats

Chennai is shortly going to have sophisticated bus shelters with all modern facilities, according to a recent press release. There is one aspect that requires careful attention. Generally, the benches provided in shelter are used by the most undesirable elements, especially during the night. This should be totally eliminated.

To achieve this, I offer this suggestion. In London, the seating arrangement in bus stands is not a back bench but an inclined board fixed firmly to the posts holding the roof. It is made up of planks to give a width of nearly a foot and a half with a downward curvature that does not allow a person to lie down, but provides the comfort for resting with the body weight fully transferred. Moreover, it is fixed at a convenient height so that an average person can rest his feet firmly on the floor to avoid strain. The curvature given is such that the body will not slide either.

I wish that this design is kept in mind when plans are finalised by the Government.

K.S. Krishnaswamy
B1, Ashok Suparna
27, Third Main Road
Kasturba Nagar, Adyar
Chennai 600 020

Confiscate them!

The write-up on the cell phone (MM, May 1st) was timely. In fact, I have long been upset by people disturbing the serene atmosphere, talking on the phone, often saying the wrong things in the wrong place.

With umpteen laws in this country, one more to save the poor concert-goer will be ­welcomed by all. In the Akshar Dham Temple in New Delhi, they forcibly take away your mobile. Why not in our auditoria?

M.R. Krishnan

Summer of discontent

That man Chaucer in Can-terbury Tales called April the cruellest month. Any Madrasi will laugh at this, as the May/June heat in our beloved city drives us nuts. This year our agony has been compounded by mosquitoes. Over the years we had a tacit understanding with Messrs. Mosquitoes that they will not take advantage when we strip to the barest during the heat of the night. Strangely, this summer the mosquitoes are active, thus committing a breach of trust with us Chennaiites and we don’t know where to hide.

Apart from mosquitoes, the other bane of Chennai is the rat problem. They seem to know which wire to bite in the car to cause utmost misery to the owner. Carnatic music, I believe, has several therapeutic ragas like Ararithavarshini for rain, Ananda Bhairavi for controlling B.P., Sankarabaranam for relieving stress, Bilahari for curing queasiness of stomach, and so forth. But it is most unfortunate that it does not possess the raga played by the Pied Piper of Hamelin to get rid of rats. He ought to have been Chennai’s Aasthana Vidwan.

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


In this issue

A need to learn...
Tiger! Tiger!...
A priceless collection...
Where they see, hear...
Historic residences...
Other stories in this issue...

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Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan
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