Exhibition Madraspattinam captures the flavour of the city through photographs from The Hindu archives
If a sixty-something clucks his tongue at college students riding on the roof of a bus and pontificates about the lack of decorum in today’s youth, this photo can serve as a telling riposte. Pulled out of the photo archives of The Hindu, this black and white image, dated October 1973, proves youngsters of his generation were not any better. It shows an unruly mob of students riding a bus, some perched on the roof, some standing on what looks like a protruding rear bumper and the others sticking their heads and limbs out of windows.
This myth-busting photo is among an assortment of Madras-related images from the newspaper’s archives that are displayed at Abirami Mega Mall on Purasaiwalkam High Road, as part of Madras Week Celebrations. ‘Madrasapattinam’, as the exhibition is called, brings out facets of Madras that illustrate the fact that the metropolis has changed considerably without losing its essential character.
Despite undergoing considerable physical changes, certain areas are still recognisable by their intangible features. To give just one instance, a 1961 photo shows a fleet of hand-pulled carts clogging up a road at a congested Kotwal Chavadi. Despite its vegetable market being shifted to Koyambedu in 1996, the area evokes the same sense of congestion.
The collection also portrays how the unstoppable march of time mows down buildings, landmarks and names. A photo shows East Nook on Marshall’s Road, where the AIR Madras operated from June 1938 to July 1953. With a multi-storeyed building now standing where it did, East Nook is gone. So has Marshall’s Road — it is now known as Rukmani Lakshmipathy Salai.
‘Madrasapattinam’ (on till August 25) also traces the beginnings of many things. A photo shows the Kodambakkam overbridge under construction and another shows “baggy-trousered, be-turbaned members of the Madras City Police Dog Squad”, one of the first in the country.
Then, there are photos that capture trail-blazing exercises. A snapshot of a biplane that was brought by the Burmah Shell Petrol Company to Madras in August 1930 to offer flying demonstrations for the public and a Heron from a fleet of aircraft owned by The Hindu and pressed into the work of delivering copies of its paper around Southern India.
Images freezing historical moments involving interactions between great men and women also figure in this wide-ranging collection, which makes an eloquent statement about Madras.