Mount Road – a ride on a whim

What happens when you decide, on a whim, that you will rediscover Mount Road in one afternoon? You set out armed with a heavy but wonderful book on Madras’ Architectural Heritage and a pocket size digital camera. You remind yourself that your original purpose to ride along Mount Road was to complete an odd job near Island Grounds. But then you are cheaply delighted that you hit upon the idea of converting an errand into a joyride. “Oh yeah, I am getting a ride anyway and I am being smart at utilizing it so well”, you tell yourself.

There you are, having turned onto Mount Road from TNagar at the busy Nandanam junction, gaping in surprise at the empty and I mean really empty road. “Isn’t this the arterial road in Chennai? The one that stretches 13km and has been the lifeline of commerce, communication, entertainment and easy accessibility since the 17th century?” Memory’s archive files tell you that Mount Road was built, perhaps it evolved, in the 1600s soon after the Fort was set up as the hub of business. This road was named Mount Road for the simple reason that it connected the Fort, on the north-east, to the base of St.Thomas Mount.
When the age of commerce flourished in the 1850s, Mount Road became the centrepiece of ‘commercial architecture’ and the Round Tana was surrounded by several buildings, some of which, though old and worn, still remain, like the Art Deco place Curzon & Co and the Colonial style P.Orr & Sons.

You sit alert and poised in your seat, ready to capture any fragment sprayed with history or at the very least interest. Oh yeah, you are careful to avoid licence plates when you take shots of traffic, you also ignore the scowl that a few people offer when they incorrectly assume that you are trying to take their picture. Nah, you are not the stalking, secret admirer kinds, but they don’t know that do they? Hush, we are digressing. Where were we? Right, we were talking about the pictures. You actually end up clicking thirty seven of them. Not bad I say. For a 15 minute ride, you do well.

From the Nandanam junction the ride towards Fort St.George, though you don’t venture that far and stop near the Island Grounds, stops and sallies past several landmarks of Chennai on the cue of traffic lights. You look out at Anna Arivalayam on the right, Kamarajar Arangam a little further on the left, and the many lighting accessories shops that dot the sidewalk before the road curves and then straightens upward to flyover the Cathedral Road – Nungambakkam High Road junction below. The downward stretch leads you to the older part of Mount Road easing onto Thousand Lights Mosque on the right. Oh wait, you know what you try now? You put your head out and imagine that you can take a picture of the mosque above the heads of the many commuters. You don’t succeed too well and all you get is a shot of the grey curving wall.

You finally see reasonable traffic to convince you it is the road you think it is. You now keep moving all over the rear seat trying to click at the flying snapshots on both sides. Spencers Plaza, Higginbothams, Tarapore Towers, Bharat Insurance Building, Bombay Halwa House, Pallavan Transport Corporation office all whiz past as your head spins. You sigh in relief when you see Sir Munro posing elegantly on his horse because you have arrived at your destination. You mess up a lot of pictures but you do salvage a few. I see you are getting tired of having me tell you all you have to do when you decide to act on a whim. Go on, finish this yourself. Seriously, go on.

Sigh, what a ramble! Anyway folks, it was one wonderful ride. And my errand did not seem all that bad you know. Mount Road, renamed (like a zillion other things) Anna Salai a while ago, is indeed a pleasure to explore; even if you have lived in this city for several years. If it were December or January (the only months when Chennai’s weather is comfortable), I would have suggested a nice walk along Mount Road. But we are in the wrong month. So a ride it will have to be. Try it one nice afternoon…on a whim.

10 Comments so far

  1. Ravages (unregistered) on March 25th, 2006 @ 10:13 pm

    All my trips have been taken on a whim. I never plan my rides. Unless it is a ride to Tanjavur, which I think about for a week. This is a nice post Lavanya

  2. Lavanya (unregistered) on March 26th, 2006 @ 10:38 am

    I always plan my trips CCG :) Acting on a whim is one of those rare things for me!

  3. doclet (unregistered) on March 26th, 2006 @ 11:35 am

    hey there,
    neat penning. dindt know therez a bombay halwa house @ mount road. will keep my eyes peeled out 4 that wen i decide to take a joy ride along mt.road.
    keep it coming!

  4. Sushil J. Cherian (unregistered) on March 27th, 2006 @ 7:06 pm

    Hi Lavanya,
    Good to see you are part of this. Very good post brings back a lot of memories of old Mount road as well.

    Also Could you have someone check and fix the syndication links for this site as it points to a page reference that doesnt exist.


  5. Sushil J. Cherian (unregistered) on March 27th, 2006 @ 7:13 pm

    Sorry …my mistake …I had scripts disabled in Firefox :-) … no need to correct anything. All links are fine.

  6. Lavanya (unregistered) on March 27th, 2006 @ 8:18 pm

    @Doclet & Sushil: Thank you! We all have our Mount Road memories don’t we? :)

  7. tilo (unregistered) on March 27th, 2006 @ 8:36 pm

    Nalla post Lava. Muthiah will be happy on reading this. Where can I get this book?

  8. Lavanya (unregistered) on March 27th, 2006 @ 9:35 pm

    @Tilo – thanks! This book, I think, is available someplace in Wallace Garden (will check that and let you know). It is the INTACH guide – K.Kalpana & Frank Schiffer. It also has essays by Tara Murali and Mr.Muthiah himself. BTW, it weighs a ton.

  9. SLN (unregistered) on March 28th, 2006 @ 1:28 am

    Thats a well written post on Mount Road. Made me remember the umpteen times I have walked this road never mind the weather. I can still picture every single building there.

    Yet another (perhaps THE) Chennai fanatic

  10. tilo (unregistered) on March 29th, 2006 @ 5:09 am

    OK lava lemme know on the blog or off-

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