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(ARCHIVE) Vol. XIX No. 9, august 16-31, 2009
Memories of Kilpauk and Purasawalkam (1935-1955)
V. Theetharappan

Orme’s Road

The prominent personalities who lived on Orme’s Road on Pathala Ponni Amman temple side were S. Govindarajulu Naidu (former Vice Chancellor, Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupati), M.K. Thiagaraja Bhagavathar, J. Venkatanarayana Rao Naidu (former Commissioner of Madras Corporation), the Raja of Parlakimedi, and N. Raghavan (former Ambassador). On the opposite side lived T.M. Narayanaswami Pillai (former Vice Chancellor, Annamalai University). There were also Sylvan Lodge, a bungalow in a very large open space, CSM (Bain’s) School, and Sunview, a bungalow owned by an Andhra business magnate.

On Orme’s Road Annexe (Orme’s Road, Third Cross Street) was Bellevue, a palatial bungalow set in the spaciousness of 30 grounds. It was then owned by an English woman. When she was leaving for England, Bellevue and its acreage were purchased by a group of eminent persons for Rs. 350 a ground. They included Dr. K. Venkata Rao, K. Gopala Rao (Secretary in the Government of Madras), V.V. Sarma (retired Superintendent Engineer of P.W.D.), V.A. Patnaick (Chief Electrical Engineer, Corporation of Madras), Capt. Seshadri (Harbour Master of Madras Port), R. Nataraja Mudaliar, a Director of Union Motors, S. Ganesh Rao (of Oxford University Press), M.G. Rao who later became a senior executive in Air India, Kanniah Naidu, a businessman, and my father, Dr. S.V. Mudaliar (Principal, Madras Veterinary College 1948-1950; Principal,Andhra Veterinary College 1954-1956). We had a mega-size well in our four grounds. Dr. Venkata Rao bought the main bungalow and a surrounding area of nearly 10 grounds. One of our last tenants (before we sold the property for Rs. 33,000) was Justice R. Sadasivam and he paid a rent of Rs.200 for the ground floor portion. After 5 or 6 months he purchased K. Gopala Rao’s big bungalow (in an area of 8 grounds) for Rs. 1,50,000. Bellevue was an area with many trees and plenty of fresh air. You did not need a fan!

Barnaby Road

Living here were Dr. K.M. Sambandham, a leading physician in Royapettah, Inder Mohan, a top police official whose family had a cine studio in their ancestral property, and Dr. A. Thirumalaiyah Naidu who later became an Assistant Director of Public Health.

Waddells Road

Mr. S. Kuppuswami Aiyer of the Accountant General’s Office lived here for a long period. One of his sons, K. Lakshminarayanan, retired as General Manager of Hindusthan Shipyards, Visakhapatanam. K. Krishna Menon, Principal of Madras Law College for nearly 25 years, lived in Goodwood. His son, A.K. Menon, retired as the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.

Dr. Muniappa Road

Dr. A. Krishnaswamy, m.p. (son of Sir. A. Ramaswamy Mudaliar), N. Vinayagam Pillai  (Chief Translator to the Government of Madras), V. Rajagopalachari, a leading advocate of Madras High Court, Phadke, the proprietor of the Typewriter and Office Appliances & Co., Armenian Street, and Dr. Muniappa Pillai, a veterinary doctor, lived on one side of the road. On the other side was the Parlakimedi Raja’s palace.

Landon’s Road and Vasu Road

The residences here belonged to Dr. S.T. Achar, Dr. S.T. Narasimhan, Dr. C. Siva Raj, Dr. S. Chandrasekharan, T. Vasu Naidu, Major T. Murari, M.R. Parthasarathy Naidu, P.S. Loganatha Mudaliar and P. Balasubramania Mudaliar (retired Assistant Inspector General of Prisons). At the junction of Vasu Naidu Road and Taylor’s Road (southern side) was the Citadel Studios owned by Joseph Thaliath (Jr).

Balfour Road

Dr. Rathnavelu Subrama­niam, J.H. Tarapore, Sivasanka­ran, E.R.C. Davidar, and Guntoor Narasimhan lived on this road. The eastern side of the road (nearly three-fourths of its length) was the western boundary of CSM (Bain’s) School.

Miss Bain was the founder-Headmistress of this Church of Scotland Mission School. During 1942-1943 Madras Christian College School was in three places, in George Town, in Tambaram in the College premises, and in a large bungalow in Spur Tank Road, Chetput. Students from Bain’s School were also accommodated in the Chetput branch. The Raja of Parlakimedi’s palace was opposite C.S.M. School and the present Manikaswari Road divides what was the old palace grounds.

Branson Garden Street

The superstar of yesteryear P.U. Chinnappa had a bungalow here. So too did C. Jacob, a retired Assistant Headmaster of M.C.C. School.

Harley’s Road

Dr. Giri’s  Musuem with its collection of studio sets for rental and the Kilpauk Post Office were situated here. At the western end of the road, the first bungalow was advocate S.K.L. Ratan’s. Next door was the Tamil Nadu Talkies Laboratory (owned by Soundarraja Aiyengar) and then came Newtone Studios (now the Bharathiya Vidya Bhavan’s Rajaji School campus). Newtone Studios was promoted by R. Ramanathan Chettiar, M.K. Thiagaraja Bhagavathar, sound engineer Dinshaw K. Tehrani, cine photographer Jiten Banerjee and art director F. Nagoor.

Kilpauk Garden Road

At Orme’s Road’s western end was Kilpauk Garden Road and the first bungalow on it in a large acreage belonged to the Chambers family who owned the Chrome Leather Company, Chromepet. Roy Chambers, the last of the family, was of young age at the time. The next bungalow was Barbican, the mansion of C.Arunachalam Mudaliar, the Zamindar of Chunampet. Its garden extended upto the eastern end of Taylor’s Road. Barbican has been replaced by the Headquarters of the Tamil Nadu Special Police. In its compound are several blocks that serve as quarters for the police.

The first Radio Engineer of the Government of Madras had his office in Kilpauk Garden Road. He was V.V.L. Rao who later became the first principal of the Regional Engineering College in Warangal. The Directors of the Madras Electric Tram Company (who were all German citizens) also lived on Kilpauk Garden Road. During the War years, they were interned in their bungalows.

Taylor’s & Hall’s Roads

The eastern side of Taylor’s Road was the boundary of the Chunampet Zamindar’s bungalow. The first house on the western side was B.D.V. Ramaswamy Naidu’s. He was then the Managing Director of B&C Mills Ltd. (He was the brother of Prof. B.V. Narayanaswamy Naidu, the Principal of Pachiayappa’s College and the first to start a B.Com. degree course in India.) Appah Gardens hosted several large bungalows belonging to the partners of Appah & Co., leading pharmacists. One of them was K. Venkataswami Naidu, who was a Minister in the Rajaji Ministry. The Appah family are descendants of Beri Thimmappa who helped found Madras. Thaliath  of Citadel Studios also lived in Appah Gardens. The last bungalow on Taylor’s Road (before Hall’s Road) was the factory of Resa Radios. Near the Taylor’s Road Hall’s Road junction was the bungalow of K.P. Ramaswami, Director of Parry & Co. Next door was the palatial mansion of Kenny, a senior official of M & SM Railway. Children from the neighbouring homes used to play cricket in the garden of this bungalow.

Alagappa Nagar

Kv.AL. Rm. Alagappa Chettiar laid out Alagappa Nagar as a large residential area with many streets. This was land owned by him.

Flower’s Road

The large mansions of V. Emberumaner Chetty and Rajah Sir S.V. Ramaswamy Mudaliar were here. On Purasawalkam High Road, at Kelly’s round tana, was Diwan Bahadur V. Shun­muga Mudaliar’s bungalow. He was a Director of the Imperial Bank. Next to his residence lived a Joint Director of School Education and her husband, a senior government servant. Their daughter Kalyani was one of the five students who joined Madras Veterinary College in 1949, the first girls to join a veterinary college in India.

That’s as far as I can remember of Orme’s Road and nearby roads.

In Purasawalkam we had Pankaja, Easwari, Sri Rama’s Cafe and Roxy Cafe for vegetarian fare and Savoy, Doveton and a few more for non-vegetarians. Bengal Bakery and Whitefield catered to the needs of Kilpauk and surrounding areas to which Spencer’s also reached out. The three had tricycles manned by men in fine livery worn with peaked caps. They would visit each residence every day after 3 p.m. with fresh bread (white and wheat), cakes, plain table butter, and Cheddar cheese. They also used to bring ice creams. Each had a long note-book and they used to enter the next day’s needs for every house.

P.V. Chandra Sekhara Aiyer’s Sri Rama’s Cafe was a meeting place for writers, journalists and film artistes.  Amongst the regular visitors were R. Kunchithapadam, the Advertisement Manager of Kumudam, T.S. Sridhar (‘Marina’, ‘Bharaneedharan’), a son of T. Sesha­chalam, a leading publisher of those days, R. Balasubramaniam of the silver screen and Vittalacharya (the famous maya jaal Telugu films of those days).

The Kilpauk bus terminal was at Kelly’s junction near the Kumudam office. Next to Kumudam were the offices of Jupiter Pictures and Bell Pictures. Only three bus routes operated from this terminal, No. 14-Kelly’s to Mint; No. 16-Kelly’s to Mount Road (Casino Theatre); and No. 22-Kelly’s to Triplicane (Gosha Hospital). No. 20, Parry’s to Villiwakkam used to stop at the junction. SRVS operated the first three routes, while No. 20 route was operated by P.T. Services. The rate to Mount Road was 2 annas and to Triplicane 2½ annas. Bedford buses with bonnets were playing.

The tram service terminal was at Ezhumalai Coconut Shop in Purasawalkam. The service was to Parry’s via Choolai Basin Bridge. The fare to Parrys was 4 annas. Minimum fare was just ¾ anna. The tram service was operated by a German company. In those days, even those owning cars used such public transport. The tram staff were mostly Naidus and the bus services had many Malayalees.

The milk supply in Kilpauk was mainly from the Ayanavaram Milk Supply Society. The vendors of the society used to supply ghee and butter also. The first milk factory (processed milk) was a private British concern, M/s. Vernon & Co., whose Managing Director was an Irishman named Ian Cumming. 

Every morning in those days, a group of eminent personalities – officials, lawyers and businessmen, all between the ages of 55 and 70, many with a walking stick (a few in khaki shorts) – could be seen busily walking on Orme’s Road, Kelly’s, Balfour Road and Waddell’s Road. Today, there are few who take a morning constitutional on these roads.

There were only independent bungalows in those years and the bungalow gates would be opened at 6 a.m. for the newspaper boys and milkman and would close only at 9 p.m. Leading heroes and heroines, other bigwigs of the cine world, eminent doctors, heads of educational institutions, prosperous businessmen, all used to travel alone in these areas in large chauffeur-driven cars like  Buicks, Chevrolets, Olds mobiles, etc. During the War, as there was petrol rationing, the residents of Kilpauk used to follow a pooling  system for cars when going to work or taking the children to school. By turns, the neighbours would adjust. We can never find such cordiality these days.

One more unique feature in those days in our area was that even though we had three prominent film studios (Newtone, Citadel, and Tamil Nadu Talkies) the surroundings remained peaceful.

The famous character actor D. Balasubramaniam, wearing his popular silk angavastram around his shoulders, would look more like a big landlord or zamindar than a film star. M.K. Thiagaraja Bhagavathar would also be similarly attired. None of these prominent film personalities had any fan clubs to boost their image! It was a time of dignified behaviour, no matter how important the person was.

In this issue

Officialdom looks...
Down memory...
Arch Bridges...
Madras Week..
Memories of Kilpauk...
Karpagambal Mess...
Thiruvalluvar's shrine...
New Cricket stadium...
Chennais first ...
Historic Residences..
Other stories

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