Archive for August 2010

Heritage Walk: The Garrison Church, Chennai

This year, as part of the Madras Week celebrations, a series of Heritage Walks were organised all over the city. Organised by different individuals and organisations like INTACH, the walks covered some interesting routes like 'Heritage Walk of Madras Christian College', 'Railway Buildings of Perambur', 'Fort St. George', 'Temples of Madras'. The spouse and I went for the Heritage Walk at St. Thomas Mount on 22nd Aug - considered as the day when Madras was founded.

For those of you who do not know, St. Thomas Mount in Chennai, is a small hill near the Chennai airport. It derives its name from St. Thomas, the apostle of Christ, who is believed to have been martyred here. Organised by Vincent D'Souza and Richard O'Connor, the heritage walk started at the St. Thomas Garrison Church and ended at the historic St. Thomas Mount Church on top of the hill.

To be honest, my going for this heritage walk was a matter of chance. When the spouse first mentioned it, I did not pay attention. When he mentioned it again on Friday night, it finally registered. Seeing a golden blog opportunity, I jumped at it. When I sat down to write it though, I realised that just one post would not suffice. There was so much to write that I decided to write it as a series of posts. The first one is about the Garrison Church.

6AM on Sunday saw a bleary eyed me and spouse at the gates of the Garrison Church. We were the first to arrive and were apprehensive that the walk had been canceled due to rains the night before. A while later people started arriving and we were set to go.

Our first stop was the Garrison Church itself. Situated just off the GST road on the way to the airport, this church is 175 years old. It being a Sunday, some of the regular church goers had arrived to offer prayers and were kind enough to share the history of the church. In fact, one of the ladies present had done her M.Phil thesis on the Garrison Church. What a stroke of luck!

Till the 70s, the church had a three storey spire. It had to be lowered to make way for the air corridor due to the construction of the Meenambakkam airport. Here is a picture of the church:

Inside the church, there were many interesting artifacts. Three of these caught my attention. The first was this memorial tablet:

This was put up in memory of one Lt. Charles Wade Crump who died in September 1857, aged 32, fighting under General Havelock at the 'Relief of Lucknow'. It was put up by his 'Brother Officers' to salute his bravery. Very nice and noble indeed. But I'm sure you will understand that my sympathies are for the Indian side in the war.

The second was a painting over the alter. Of Doubting Thomas. You might have used the term many times to express disbelief. It has its origins in a Biblical anecdote, that Thomas, one of the disciples of Christ, refused to believe in Christ's resurrection and asked to feel his wounds before being convinced. St. Thomas being the patron saint of the Garrison Church, it was but natural to have this painting hanging over the alter. Here is the only photograph I took of it:

The last was the Baptismal Font. A baptismal font is an object that is used in the baptism ritual. Unfortunately I did not pay attention when its unique features were explained (probably busy capturing other Kodak moments!). I tried to supplement the gap with some net research. Unfortunately I could only find information about the Baptismal Font at St. Mary's Church in Fort. St. George. Here is a picture of the Baptismal Font at Garrison Church

A bit of trivia before I sign off on this one. The rolling greens beside the Garrison Church serves as a golf course today. We were told that it used to be a polo ground during British times and the place that is now the Chennai airport was the erstwhile golf course.

Seeing planes taking off and landing from the airport runway, it was difficult to imagine it as an idyllic setting where the sahibs and memsahibs whiled away their leisure time.....

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Fly Well? I Don't Think So!

I traveled back from Mumbai last night by Air India. I know I keep posting about my fear of flying. But I simply must write about this. I was less than satisfied at the overall flying experience I had last night. The aircraft was badly in need of maintenance.

For starters, the interiors were dirty. The overhead cabins for example were streaked with dirt and grime. How much does it take to clean it? Then, in the section where I was seated, the AC was really noisy and there was a dull roar which I heard throughout the flight. That, coupled with the turbulence, did nothing to soothe my jangled nerves (did I mention I am a nervous flyer at the best of times?).

You know the panel above your seat from where the oxygen mask is supposed to pop out in case of emergency? Well the panel near about seat no. 10 was hanging in mid air. I mean hanging like how a switchboard panel would hang if you unscrewed it. The airhostess did try to pound it back into its slot. But it kept dropping back.

Then of course there were the assorted holes in the carpet, loose back rests that suddenly shifted backwards even though you did not push back, and broken arm rests.

The flight ticket cost Rs. 6093. But there was absolutely no value for money. When we landed, the air hostess did her usual announcement, ending with 'If you choose to fly Air India again, we would be happy to serve you". Are you kidding me?! After this experience, why would i CHOOSE to fly Air India?!

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Aging Lotharios, PYTs And Visualising Melody

Lately I have taken to viewing old Hindi film songs on youtube. Last night I came across the song 'Jaane bhi de sanam mujhe' from the film Around The World in 8 Dollars. Made in 1967, the movie stars Raj Kapoor and Rajeshwari and is shot in some exotic locales - for that period - all over the world. I saw this movie many years ago. Cannot remember what the story was about. But I do remember the songs and they are wonderful. The songs feature the voice of Sharda Rajan Iyengar, a lesser known singer. Even though she had a lilting voice, sang beautifully and won a Filmfare Award. But this post is not about her.

Ever wondered, how some songs are lovely to listen to-but when seen in the movie, the visual impact is less than what you expected, leaving you disappointed. For instance, the chemistry could be absent between the actors on whom the song is picturised and would make an otherwise excellent melody fall flat on its face. Classic example - the song 'Roz Roz Aankhon Taley' from an obscure movie called Jeeva starring Sanjay Dutt and Mandakini. Superb melody from R.D.Burman and sensuous lyrics from Gulzar . Picturisation? Pits! Take a look:

Watching the song 'jaane bhi de sanam mujhe'I was disenchanted. It is an enchanting song. Its the sort of song where the gentleman ought to be tall, dark (or fair as is your taste) and impossibly handsome and be conducting himself in a manner where the girl breaks out in sweat!

So does ole' Raju Awaara Kapoor do that? NOT! He's chubby and looks distinctly avuncular. Poor Rajeshwari can barely get her arms around his portly person. To give him his due, he tries. He's not a bad actor and has done the yearning lover perfectly in the past. Remember Barsaat when he plays the violin and Nargis flings herself into his arms, driven by helpless passion? In this song, he attempts the intense yearning look, holding hands and titling his girl's chin to gaze into her eyes. But his age defeats him and he ends up looking like a fond parent instead of a lover. Add to this a black leather jacket rolled up at the sleeves and its a recipe for disaster.

Watching him struggle, one barely notices Rajeshwari. A PYT and the object of the hero's desire, one doesn't expect much from her. Though I must point out that her styling in this movie is reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn complete with the bangs and doe eyed look.

Not everybody can be Cary Grant, romancing women with panache at age 60. What do you think? Watch the song and tell me if I'm being too harsh and judgmental.

P.S.: Apologies for the video quality. I got it from youtube.

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Musings From The City Of Joy

I had a stop over of about four hours in Kolkata today, enroute to Chennai. I spent this time wandering through the city and taking pictures. You may have seen these pictures a million times. And I have nothing new to offer. Except - to me these pictures are reminders of a happy childhood spent in Kolkata, the City of Joy.

The first set of pictures are of the Victoria Memorial which have come to represent Kolkata as much as the Howrah Bridge. Wikipedia says the foundation was laid in 1906 by Lord Curzon. Here's an interesting tidbit. The funds for construction were not given by the British. Instead it was given by British Indian States and individuals who wanted to find favour with the British. So, apart from being a Memorial to Queen Victoria, it is also testimony to the sucking up and toadying done by Indians in the past.

The picture brings back a faint memory of when we had a picnic in the beautiful gardens around Victoria Memorial. I remember going into the museum with my father. I think there is a gown of the Queen on display. It was this delicate garment with some glittering embroidery or lacework on it. If being a Queen meant you got to wear grand gowns, then I wanted to be a Queen too!

Here's a picture of the sidewalk outside Victoria Memorial on the Fort William side. It was raining at the time that I took the photograph and the rain washed side walk with the greenery made for a pretty picture.

Here is a view of the Second Hooghly Bridge, also known as the Vidya Sagar Sethu. Taken from Fort William. It is beautiful no doubt. But somehow cannot compare to the majesty of the original Howrah Bridge (Rabindra Setu).

Walking down Park Street, I wandered past 19, Park Street. What is special about it? It is the address of the District Grand Lodge of Bengal of the Bengal Freemasons. It is tucked away between two large buildings and the lodge itself is not visible from the road. I didn't venture in. The signboard and interwoven letters on the gate intrigued me. Freemasonry is so secretive and Dan Brown has certainly added to its mystique.

Moving on to matters gastronomical - I had lunch at Flury's. Started in 1926, Flury's describes itself as a 'tearoom'. The website claims it to be the only tearoom in British India. Whatever the case, the food was good and the strawberry and cream sundae out of this world!

And finally, the drive to the airport in bumper to bumper traffic. Amidst the mounting stress of not knowing whether I would be able to make it in time to catch my flight, I took the time to be amused by the sight of traffic constables directing traffic while holding up umbrellas in the pouring rain. No pictures available of that though. You'll just have to take my word for it. It was a funny sight.

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