Shanghaiing of Chennai
Madras. Chennai. Shanghai. No Chenghai. And the way things are going in terms of developmental issues Chennai could well be India’s Shanghai. Rather Chenghai. After all, changing names is nothing new to us and our ably talented governments. While on one hand Shanghai is the city which every city in the world wants to emulate for its rapid development, many are also following the footsteps of Shanghai for another thing. Which aint healthy at all. Shanghai is also known for its rapid destruction of heritage property. And western capitalism, which is the buzz word today, is a bigger threat to the city’s architecture than probably even communism which is slowly spreading across the country.
In Shanghai, the area in front of the waters had over a hundred buildings which was a legacy of the colonial past. Thanks to devlopment they planned to reduce it to ten and with intense campaigns by conservationists they took it up to 25. The area in front of the waters was called ‘The Bund’. In Chennai it is the Marina and over 180 colonial buildings facing it. It is just a matter of time. We need to wake up now else this stretch will be like the downtown Manhattan with every possible MNC vying for space. We already had Jayalalitha wanting to move the Secretariat to Queen Mary’s college and make the DGP office into a swanky 7-star hotel. Shanghai atleast has some good roads, state-of-the-art infrastructure etc. We don’t even have that. We are just not going anywhere with these stupid governments fighting over each other leaving aside developmental issues. One saving grace in the recent times, is the resotration of the Senate Hall. I would rather don’t even want Chennai. Forget Shanghai. I would be happy if they give us back Madras in whatever form it was and let the city be itself.
Crdts: With inputs from Madras Musings, Oct Issue.