Thursday, December 10, 2009


Hi Friends,

I am quite sure you would be as shocked as I was when I first came across this picture, if you knew what this place is.

Before I give out the name, kindly take a close look at this place...there is a vital clue available in it.

For those who have still not identified the place, pls.ready yourself for a shock...this is the Spencers Junction!!!!

Can you ever imagine Spencers Junction like this now even at the dead of the night??

Just take a look at all the greenery...

It really pains to see what an active part urbanization has played in creating the mess we find ourselves in today...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Our Deputy Chief Minister M.K.Stalin formally announced the inauguration of the River Cooum cleaning up project. This project is aimed at cleaning up the Cooum of all its dirt and sewerage and developing it as the pride of the city much on the lines of how Singapore developed its waterways from an eyesore to a clean river.

While this project is no doubt a critical one necessary for the beautification of the city, one wonders how much progress the project will actually make given the fact that a lot of money has literally gone down the drain in the past without tangible results.

If the previous paragraphs have left you wondering as to when this blog transformed from one being dedicated to heritage to one dealing with civic issues taking digs at various Government actions, let me assure you there is a reason behind the introduction. In the Civil Administration Report of the Madras Municipality for 1871-72, I came across this particular paragraph that caught my attention:

"THE COOUM:This river continues to be in the same insanitary and unsatisfactory conditions as in the former years. The Government expressed their willingness to transfer the river to the Commissioners and to hand over the usual Budget grant for conserving it; but the Municipality were unwilling to accept it on these terms; and proposed that it should either be handed over in a state of proper conservancy, or funds supplied by Government for the Commissioners carrying out the necessary works.

The river Cooum, which ought to be an ornament and a blessing to Madras is now only a source of disease and the receptacle for the sewage for about a third of the population.

An expenditure of 1800 Rupees was incurred by the Government in the removal of the worst of the silt banks in its bed and the raising of the banks with the material taken from it".

From the above extract, it is evident that nothing much has changed.The Cooum has been in this state at least since the 1870s.Its only gotten worse over the years thanks to pollution, mindless dumping of wastage and other human factors. Only thing that has changed is the cost- Rs.1200 crores is the allocation for the current project.

Will this too go down the drain? Lets hope it does not.Instead lets hope that this project succeeds and the Cooum is transformed into "an ornament and blessing to Madras".

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


The administration reports of the municipality of a city, the body that is its guardian and which oversees its growth are the best indicators of the evolution of the city into its current form.

I happened to come across a set of administration reports of the Madras Municipality from the 1870s. They give a wonderful overview of the city as it existed then and the way in which the various aspects of administration were carried out.

I wish to share with all of you a glimpse of the city as it existed then. I hope to do this as and when I make further progress with the reading of the reports.

My first post is about the Divisions of our City.


The city was divided into 8 divisions, each division comprising of 4-5 villages as follows:

DIVISION 1: Tondiarpettah, Washerman’s Pettah, Monegar Choultry(the site where the Stanley Hospital now stands), Royapooram and Cassimode (Kasimedu).

DIVISION 2: Pedoo Naick’s Pettah, Big Parcherry(a place in Black Town), John Pereira’s(was classified as a district even way back in the 1850s as seen from an extract of 1858 street directory of Madras) and Fort St.George

DIVISION 3: Moottealpaettah and Uttapaulliam(?)

DIVISION 4: Gunpowder Mills, Perambore and Veyasarpady

DIVISION 5: Choolay, Pursewaukam, Pareamoot(Periamet), New Town, Vepery, Poodoopettah, Egmore and Comaleeswaram

DIVISION 6: Kilpauk,Chetput, Nungambaukam and Mackay’s Garden

DIVISION 7: Poodoopaukkam,Chintadripettah, Narasinghapuram, Triplicane and Theroovatteeswaranpettah

DIVISION 8: St.Thome, Alwarpettah, Royapettah, Meer Saib’s Pettah, Kistnampettah and Tanampettah.

One name missing from the above list is Mylapore. Though one of the oldest parts of the city, it does not seem to have found a place in the official records of the municipality at least until the 1870s. Of course, going by the logical grouping of the places, Mylapore should have been classified under Division 8.

Each of the divisions was led by Commissioners. It is quite interesting to note that the first time elections were used as a mode to appoint Commissioners was in 1879. The first Municipal Elections were held in April 1879. The number of people eligible to be appointed as Commissioners were 271 and 2196 people were eligible to vote. About 45% poll turnout was recorded. This elective system was the chief feature of the new Municipal Act V of 1878.

P.S:The first municipal elections of the city seems to have been conducted peacefully as there is no record of any kind of disturbance or law and order problem. How times have changed!!