Every person has his own way of showing their affection for their city. Some take pictures and travel around and some create gorgeous memories by joining old and new pictures together to take you down a wonderful memory lane. And that is what photographer Raunaq Mangottil did. I am Madras shared this lovely album of pictures created by Raunaq which will not only make you nostalgic but will also remind you of how aesthetically beautiful the city is.
“All I wanted to do was to establish how this glorious city has changed over the years, and how few things haven’t changed at all. I wanted to capture the old and the new and give you a feeling of traveling time in a single image.”
The process was not easy. The artist had to struggle with traffic, metro rail constructions around the city, heat slaps, and puzzled crowd; even the police also found their act suspicious.
“I rummaged through the Internet for old pictures of Madras, of the city’s most iconic landmarks, monuments and places. I then shot the same locations from hopefully the exact place the old picture was shot from, using a torn portion of the old picture. The result is for you to see, enjoy and share if you like it. Each picture has a story of its own, which you would fall in love with if you haven’t already.” Seyon, a group of designers assisted the artist in taking the pictures
1. Statue of Thomas Munro, Park Town
Then: Thomas Munro was an official of the East India Company who arrived in Madras in 1789 and served the firm for close to 50 years. But why would we still have a statue of an East India Company official? Well, Munro wasn’t any ordinary imperialist like his colleagues…he was a man the peasants loved, and was responsible for the favourable ‘ryotwari system’ of land settlement. 12 years after he died in 1827, this statue was unveiled on October 23, 1839.
Now: This is one of the very few areas in Mount Road that is free from traffic, and still feels like bliss to take an evening walk. Thanks to the area being controlled by the Military, no vehicle is allowed to park here. Mr.Munro rests gracefully on his horse in a well-maintained garden, as well as in the hearts of those who know his story.
2. The Hindu Office
Then: Commuters stop by to check ongoing Test Match scores on the manually-operated scoreboard on the balcony of The Hindu office.
Now: You can hardly stop for more than a minute outside the Hindu office today, thanks to the wonderful, constantly moving traffic. The traffic is such that it even warranted a subway to cross the road to the side that hosts the defunct Secretariat.
3. Spencer Plaze Signal, Mount Road
Then: Even in the 60’s, apart from Ambassadors, bullock carts frequented Mount Road. There’s no median, and you can see the Kashmir Art Palace, the Old Curiosity Shop and Agurchand Mansion leading to the LIC Building.
Now: Do we really need to talk about the frustrating one-ways?
4. Corporation Of Madras
Then: Constructed in a Neoclassical style, the all-white Madras Corporation building was one of the finest structures in Madras, with its own pond that you can see.
Now: Off-limits to passers-by, it is now impossible to even stop and stare at the Ripon Building which is now shielded by the Metro Contstrucion blue sheets. Which makes this one of the toughest shots to catch!
5. Higginbothams & Poompuhar
Then: Another shot of India’s then-largest bookstore as vintage cars park comfortably, and its occupants to grab their favourite literary classics. The building next to Higginbothams is Poompuhar, the popular textile shop.
Now: If you park outside Higginbotham’s today, you’re probably gonna be pulled over by the cops for obstruction of traffic, thanks to the Metro Rail work going on right opposite.
“We braved through traffic, metro rail constructions, blistering heat, confused onlookers and a few suspicious cops to make it happen.”
6. Casino Theater
Then: It was a time when Mount Road was a cart track leading from Fort St.George to St.Thomas Town, as well as functioning as a haven for film buffs. Casino was one of the first few theaters of Madras, and screened only English films for a long time. It was a sophisticated work of art than just a movie theater. In the old image you can see ‘The Virginian’ playing at the theater.
Now: After several attempts to revive it, Casino is now unfortunately a terribly-managed lost landmark. However, thanks to Street Art Chennai, the theater now sports a striking portrait of Madhubala, and a bit of its old-world charm.
7. Chennai Central
Then: Old ambassador taxis plying in and out, while the rest of the commuters preferring to take a cycle. Before its expansion in the 80’s, Madras Central station was a relatively calmer, charming alighting point.
Now: A symbolic landmark of the city, Chennai Central looks as majestic as it ever was, but terribly buzzing with thousands of people who visit it every day. And unfortunately, the Central signal has become a nightmare for those who’ve visited it (pretty much every Chennaiite)
8. Egmore Station
Then: History says that, ‘Madras Egmore’ was previously a fort called the Egmore Redoubt, a place used to store ammunition for the British.
Now: Even with CCTV cameras and round-the-clock security, Egmore Station still retains its old-world charm and calm(relatively) in the otherwise buzzing Egmore area.
9. Rajaji Salai
Then: There was no Burma Bazaar back in the day, yet, First Line Beach Road was one of the main commercial centers of Madras. And right opposite the line of buildings, the road would open up to the Beach Station and then harbour. Imagine walking on those roads with absolutely no traffic!
Now: Traffic speeds by between the iconic SBI Buildings and Burma Bazaar, the haven for smuggled goods.
Then: Started by an English librarian named Abel Joshua Higginbotham, Higginbotham’s, arguably India’s oldest bookstore opened its doors around 1844. By the middle of the 20th century, Higginbothams expanded to almost all of the railway stations. Higginbothams remained the largest bookstore until the 1990’s.
Now: A visit to Higginbotham’s is like stepping into a whole other world, going back in time, with the arterial Mount Road / Anna Salai outside constantly buzzing with traffic and the Metro Rail construction. What’s amazing is how they managed to maintain the building so well, even if it’s lost most of its customers to its competition.
Like the artist said, “If this touched your heart in any way and rekindled old memories and stories, Share it with everyone you know.” :D