Archive for March, 2006

Midsummer Night’s Dream in Chennai

An Indo-UK production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be touring Chennai from Apr 19-21. This version, directed by Tim Supple, is a Hutch – British Council joint offering.

Contact 044 4205 0600 for passes.

A moment of the past for the two super heros

When one thinks of Chennai, can Kollywood (the Thamizh cinema equivalent of Hollywood) be far behind and when one discusses Kollywood, can it be without including the two reigning super heros of the Tamil film industry – Kamal and Rajini? Here is a picture of Kamal and his first wife Vani attending the marriage of Rajini and Latha.


More such pictures from the Rajinifans website.

Chennai’s Original Skyscraper Changes Hands

TIAM House on Rajaji Salai is probably the first building that strikes your eye when you exit from the Beach Railway Station. This seven-story building belonging to the Murugappa Group is located bang opposite the Railway Station. The landscape of Rajaji Salai has largely remained intact with the Burma Bazaar on one side and Dare House, HSBC, Indian Bank GPO, SBI and UTI on the opposite side. Parrys was the original business hub as most of the banks, shipping companies, law firms and stockbrokers were located in the area. A short visit to the area would clearly reveal that most of the buildings are old and the streets are narrow and congested. In recent times, Parrys has been losing its relevance as a hub of business activity because lot of the new age businesses decided to establish themselves in other parts of the city. Because of some of the abovesaid reasons, the recent sale of TIAM House comes as no surprise.

The city-based Murugappa Group, which owned the building, has sold the seven-storey structure to Jesus Calls, a missionary and welfare organisation, for an undisclosed sum.

The building on Rajaji Salai had been the headquarters of the Murugappa Group since 1958. In 2002, the group decided to sell TIAM House following a consolidation exercise, which saw surplus office space.

Originally called Khaleeli Building, it was offered to the Murugappa Group by brothers Ameen and Khaleeli.

Khaleeli Building thus became the TI Group’s in 1956 and on its site was raised the city’s first fully air-conditioned tower block, with its owners moving into it from Armenian Street in 1958.

The change of the north beach skyline, dominated by classical style structures such as the General Post Office and SBI headquarters, began then.


This dated article in The Hindu traces the history of TIAM House. It has come to light that Jesus Calls paid more than Rs. 100 Crores for this heritage building. Jesus Calls is run by DGS Dhinakaran and his son Paul Dhinakaran. They are the ones behind the Karunya Group of Educational Institutions as well. Let’s hope that the new owners don’t demolish the old structure and build a taller skyscraper in the same location.

Happy Gudi Padwa to all the Maharastrians!

Did you know that there are more than 70,000 Maharashtrians in Tamil Nadu? And I don’t mean the people who have come over here recently for jobs. I mean there have been Maharashtrians who have settled in Chennai and the rest of Tamil Nadu for generations! Believe it or not, they have been here since the 17th Century!

Student violence

Recently there was the issue of some deemed universities around Chennai, namely Satyabama University and SRM deemed University loosing their AICTE status and this resulting in a management vs students standoff. All the major political students union like SFI and ABVP have thrown their weight behind the students. These students have gone on a rampage, destroying college property.

I hate …… Chennai

I needed that opening to hook you in :-). Now that I have your undivided attention, let me clarify what I meant by that line.

I hate that Chennai does not get its due share of credit from the “national” MSM (MainStreamMedia).
I hate that good news on Chennai often gets sidelined while moral-policing news hogs the limelight.
I hate that condescending attitude on the part of many clueless-about-Chennai armchair pundits.
I hate that Chennai often gets labeled as regressive because it is conservative (and the two not being the same).
I hate that non-Thamizh outsiders to Chennai who partake in its wealth and prosperity still harbor notions on why its Thamizh-character is uninviting to the general masses of “Hindi is the national language” zealots.

I hate that the only top-of-the-mind awareness items on Chennai for people who don’t feel an affinity to it are things like the hot-hotter-hottest weather, the water problem, the quintessential fleecing “Madras auto-kaaran” and the Coovum. In other words, not the following labels – “Detroit of India”, “medical capital of Asia”, “best for education with very good schools and colleges”, “international ports – land, air and sea”, “hard-working residents”, “intelligent people”, “finest quality movie industry with excellent post-production work, animation and technical skills”, “mecca for retail”, “highly qualified and talented labor pool with a history of harmonious industrial relations”, “second longest beach in the world”, “least polluted metro in India”, “safest metro in India”, “cheapest living costs among the metros in India”, “good blend of the traditional and the modern”, “variety of culinary delights”, “robust public transport and infrastructure”, “least traffic congestion among the major Indian cities”, “gateway to the South (with its better-preserved culture and heritage)”, “base of classical music and dance” and so on.

I LOVE THAT CHENNAI IS WHAT IT IS even now and doesn’t give a damn to what the world thinks of it :-). Its name does give a good idea of the quality and caliber of its denizens.

Chennai, you rock!

The Namesake*

I heard this little tidbit of information a long time ago. But I’m not sure how many people know:

* Chennai was formerly called Madras. (No surprise there)
* Madras is a city in Oregon. (Surprise! Surprise!)
* It was supposedly named after the checked cloth that was sourced from Madras, India.

So the next time someone calls you a “Madrasi,” you know what to do. :)

*With my sincerest apologies to Jhumpa Lahiri.

Sunday evening walks

For the past few weeks, a friend and I have been trying to get some over due exercise in the weekend by taking a long walk. We lead such sedentary lives what with most of our time spent in front of the computer that we try to squeeze in some exercise on the weekends. So, on Sundays, we meet at a pre-decided place that is close to both our houses in Adyar. Our usual place to meet is the ICICI ATM, which also doubles up as a landmark. From there we proceed to take the long Besant Avenue road to Besant Nagar.

The Besant Avenue road is wide road with sidewalks where a pedestrian can actually walk. In Chennai, walking means walking on the road. The sidewalks are mostly empty or filled with sand from construction sites or something unmentionable. And the city corporation in its enthusiasm to widen the roads have made the sidewalks so tiny that sometimes there is nothing left of it apart from a painted black and white ridge.

As soon as we pass the red-saree clad Konica cutout lady saying namaste, the bus stand comes into view. Not many know but there is a royal palace tucked away right behind it. The black board hanging on the open gate tells us that it’s Ramaniyam, the Travancore Royal Palace. I know because I have lived here forever that it belongs to the descendents of the Raja Ravi Varma dynasty. In fact, the bharatanatyam dancer great great grand daughter-in-law Gopika Varma runs a boutique from one of its out houses.

Lalbagh Express

In case you are planning to take the Lalbagh express from chennai to bangalore, think again.

Recently the railways department announced additional stoppages for this train. The train now halts at Walaja, KR Puram and some more stations. Add to it the waiting for crossings. Due to this the travelling time has increased but the timetable hasnt been changed.

For the past one month the train is running 45 mins to 1 hour late. Every single day! The train starts at chennai by 03.45 PM and reaches bangalore by 10.10 to 10.20 PM every day.

You end up paying superfast fare for a normal train. And the coaches arent well maintained like the brindavan express or bangalore mail(Other superfast trains in this sector).

News Courtesy: Indian Express print edition, Bangalore.

Reason behind names

Did you know how the place AVADI got its name?
Armoured Vehicles and Ammunition Depot India :-)

Here is a link where you can get to know, how some parts of chennai got its name.

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