A Road, A Walk

Yet another hot afternoon. Hot as in stuffy-hot. The busy signal stays busy. 90 seconds of waiting guaranteed at that junction no matter what time of day it is. I walk from that signal onto the road that leads to the heart of the city (as some like to call it). Various streets branch off from this arterial road. On my left I cross one of the many amman temples that dot the area. On my right I notice the neon board that will light up in a few hours to flash GLM Meridian. I walk on past the Thakkar Baba institute and the huge BP petrol station. Yet another junction stops me in my tracks.

Green. Yellow. Red. Man Green. Wait! Not your turn, says the rude cyclist who did not bother looking at colours. Reflexes always up, even when permitted to cross. What’s a red light against the workings of impatience? I cross the junction past the Gujarati Vidyalaya, where are the old buildings? Across sits Temple Trees. I think of Tilo. More accurately of her post on this road, In a stroke of genius, the guy who named the complex combined the two things which made that location special – she wrote in that post.

I find myself in the middle of the road. No, not the median middle. But the halfway point. Nandanam signal being one end and Panagal park being the other. A quick salute to TTD’s Venkatachalapathy is executed as I cross its entrance. I simultaneously wonder how a booking office transformed itself into a Saturday-snake-queue temple with just two ingredients – the right God and mass faith. A week later, on Vinayaka Chathurthi evening, I will know that there is no single right God because a fruit-and-vegetable Ganesha will be installed outside JYM Kalyana Mandapam and people will queue up to get a darshan there. Then I will tell myself that all we need is an idol, our beliefs will take care of the rest.

Natesan park, after a facelift (or so they say), looks more walkable. However the charm of whitewashed walls, lamp poles and benches seems to be missing there. I look at the face of the platform dweller as he stares back. The colour of poverty and madness is green-brown. Venkatnarayana Road changes tack at this point. Suddenly I am confronted by tall buildings that have corporate stamped all over them. Ramaniyam’s Oval housing Irevna and a whole list of ITES companies, Bascon Futura IT park adjacent, Kochar Towers with an iflex logo opposite, a still-under-construction Kuppus Arcade further down. Sitting forlorn in one of the few old buildings standing is a Blooming Buds playschool and daycare. KPN Travels, JYM Kalyana Mandapam, T Nagar Club, Ramakrishna Mission School reassure me of familiar landmarks. Will I identify this road if not for these buildings I remember them by? I see the green of Panagal Park ahead but I turn around and walk back to the Sringeri Sharadambal temple, to wait for it to open for the evening. Maybe a year later, someone giving directions to Sharadambal temple will say, it is next to Kochar Towers or opposite the Oval. Venkatnarayana road, then, will be remembered for different things, by different things. Like this city. Like life.

5 Comments so far

  1. Ravages (unregistered) on August 29th, 2006 @ 11:35 am

    Lavanya, a great post. Venkatanarayana Road for me was the road I took to go to my friends place (in madley road) and all my memories of it will be of the days I spent in his house.

    One road that for me means many things, especially the way you describe it, is the Kotturpuram road – from the bridge all the way up to IIT. The changes there are not as apparent as they are in TNagar, but still, the road changes face, it acquired a new landmark (at least for me) recently.

  2. tilotamma (unregistered) on August 30th, 2006 @ 2:12 am

    Here is the real question I want to ask:

    Is’t it time that the Temple stopped choking the life out of Vnekatnarayana Road? I liked it better when it was just TTD.

    I know quite well – just moving that temple to the outskirts of the city will not solve all the traffic problems of Chennai or even ol’ Mambalam -but should the gateway to Tirupathi be located in one of the busiest roads of the city?

    I thought that a move was promised in this report:


    Please read it and tell me if my reading of it was ALL wrong.

    That will of course never come to pass or so it appears.

  3. david (unregistered) on August 30th, 2006 @ 10:20 pm

    Great post Lavanya. I grew up in T Nagar and used to take Venkatnarayana Road to college for two years! Brought back great memories of those days. Your description was so very Madras, I could actually feel the heat and smell the street (aided by my memories I am sure!).

  4. Anand From Washington (unregistered) on September 12th, 2006 @ 10:29 pm

    Wonderful post……It helpmed to take a small trip back to my memories….I used to take this road to go to TTD….I can’t wait to see this Venkatanarayana road again after a long gap……. Hopefully my next trip to my home town will be soon.

  5. Anand From Washington (unregistered) on September 12th, 2006 @ 10:32 pm

    Sorry for the repost…

    Wonderful post……It helped me to take a small trip back to my memories….I used to take this road to go to TTD….I can’t wait to see this Venkatanarayana road again after a long gap……. Hopefully my next trip to my home town will be soon.

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