Madras Unlimited – Thalankuppam

As the countdown to Madras Day picks up speed, I thought I would go out and do a bit of – a) exploring the city, and b) unveiling parts of the city that have been forgotten as we went from a village, to a town to city to a metropolis.

And as is usual with me, I begin at the beginning. In this case, I went to the place Chennai started off – as a small factory on the sandy shores of a land no one wanted. North of the Fort and north of Royapuram, Kasimedu and Tiruvotriyur, north of Ennore is Thalankuppam

A distance of 17 kilometres from the city, due north of the fort. While the distance is just 17 kilometres, the experience is almost 100 kilometres from anywhere near Chennai. This place marks the extreme north of the city, beyond this is a few miles of no-man’s land – just sand, the sea, dirty water and crumbling buildings and fisherhuts.

Locals in Thalankuppam talk fondly of the days past, when they were in demand for work in the docks, the industries around Ennore and Tiruvotriyur. But, with the new economy firmly entrenched in Chennai, and with a more diversified population, Thalankuppam is no more wanted. Yet, they are happy for one little fact: Fish. Thalankuppam is, according to the locals, and outsiders, THE PLACE for fresh fish in Chennai. With the sea right next to them, and a rivulet that’s fast drying up, this claim doesn’t seem far fetched at all. Every day here, fisherfolk from these parts bring their catch to the market area (in reality, one stretch of a very badly maintained road) and begin hawking. One can either buy in small lots, in individual units, or the most popular way – bid for a whole basket/crate. And people from across the city of Chennai, those who are particular about the fish they eat, come here, take part in the bidding process and go back to their shops and their homes. Their catch, and the fishermen’s, in their little cloth bags.

The fish tradition in Thalankuppam, the locals say, is as ancient as the city. The British founding fathers too, in ages past, had travelled from their little fort in the town to this outpost to stock their shelves. Every marine creature worth its flesh were bought and sold in this edge of the city. And it continues to this day.

My ride to this part of town has inspired a few dozen stories, and this post. So, take a ride, next time you are in Chennai. You might come back with a catch better than just the freshest fish.

3 Comments so far

  1. WA (unregistered) on August 13th, 2006 @ 11:50 pm

    Cool series, looking fwd to more

  2. shek (unregistered) on August 15th, 2006 @ 1:18 am

    I’ve travelled by this place quite often.It lies very close to the kottalaiyar river and behind Ashok Leyland factory.Fishing’s the main occupation of the people there.Some buses like 1D and 56N pass by this place before touching the ennore coastal expressway that takes you straaaaaaaaaaaaaaight to Broadway.

  3. Venky (unregistered) on August 15th, 2006 @ 10:33 pm

    Hopefully there are more to follow in this series…Nice read! Keep up the good work

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