i have to admit it, i cannot lie. i visited chennai every summer when i was in school and recently lived there for two whole years but i didn’t know all these things about chennai. when i visited last week, i decided to act like a tourist and comb the streets for facts, fiction and stories that quenched my thirst. and wow, what a find!
i dare you, each of you chennaivasis, to see how many of these points below you knew. be honest and tell me – leave a comment.
1. chennai has more than 40 lakes
yes, you read right. don’t rub your eyes, don’t google to check if i am right. isn’t that amazing? and no i’m not talking about mylapore temple-tank like lakes, but actual lakes. when i close my eyes and think of chennai, i get images of yellow… heat… burning… sun… there is definitely not even a pinch of blue in that. but there you go, more than 40 lakes! the government plans to restore and give these lakes a new life (they said so more than a year ago) and while they muddle over it, why don’t you go visit some or join this brilliant organisation environment foundation of india (efi) and help clean the lakes.
2. there is fort in chennai
i do not mean the area fort like bombay that is just a name for what used to be here. but i am talking about an actual fort, with the original walls and a moat running in front of the walls and with roads that have names that just reek ‘army settlement’.
3. even better, you can walk around INSIDE the fort
the secretariat is within the fort, but that doesn’t mean its cordoned off. you need to write your name in a little book and then walk right in… into the fort. you can spend as much time as you want, visit the museum, the old church and check out all the cool buildings including the barracks. and you are back in the 18th century, all in a days work! (detailed post coming up)
4. art deco roams around in chennai too
well, i am a true blue bombay snob and have always thought, mumbai has the most art deco second only to miami blah blah blah.. and looked down on every other city. chennai has art deco too! having said that, yes there are just a few buildings, but those were a sight for my art-deco-appreciative eyes. i went oh oh oh… maybe i shouldn’t have been so kicked about it, after all the same architects were going around the country building paris-inspired art deco buildings. but, i was and still am amazed. the next time i’m in chennai i want to go scouting around old areas of the city looking for art deco bungalows – am sure there are way better examples than the one below. don’t you think?
5. shivaji prayed to kali in chennai and then won wars
yes, the very same shivaji maharaj, the maratha king from the south of the vidhyas… there is a temple in chennai dedicated to kali where you can see a picture of shivaji on the wall. the claim: shivaji worshipped kali at this temple in 1677 and they even have the date written on a placard below! the common local belief is that after he worshipped the goddess in this temple he won many battles… i don’t know if that is true or just an old wife’s tale, but either ways it’s interesting!
6. chennai has the oldest existing station in india
it was the third station to be built in india – after victoria terminus, bombay and howrah, calcutta. but the original structures of these two stations don’t remain. (the present VT is a refurbished version) and so this station is THE OLDEST EXISTING station in india.
(drumroll) presenting the royapuram station.
the government wanted to demolish it but activists and heritage conservationists have fought to keep this station still standing. (detailed post coming up)