Balachandar Sivaswamy on living in Chintadripet at a rent of Rs. 12 and memorable tram rides to college

My journey from Kumbakonam to Sunkuvar Agraharam in Chintadripet in the Madras of the early 1940s is etched in my memory. We were 10 tenants living in an oblong house, jokingly referred to as Kothwal Chavadi, and that too for a rent of Rs. 12 for two bedrooms and a kitchen. On Sundays, my father would take us by walk to the Marina Beach via the offices of The Mail, The Hindu and Government Estate. At the beach we enjoyed dipping our feet in the frothy waters and listening to the AIR news that used to be broadcast through cone speakers. We returned by bus buying a ticket for one anna.

I vividly remember the Cooum flooding its banks and clear water flowing past our doors. Another memory is of watching the score board on the balcony of

The Hindu office being manually operated to give updates during Test matches. The tram journeys to Vivekananda College were an experience to cherish — it was delightful to watch the driver slowly push the speed handle, the conductor punch the ticket and pull the bell at each stop. Town buses crisscrossing the tram lines were another wonder. The college cricket team including V.V. Kumar travelled in a Buick 8 driven by the captain.

At a cost of eight annas bus no: 19 transported me from Mount Road to College of Engineering, Guindy in just over 30 minutes. Two days in a week I left home at 5.20 a.m. to reach Egmore and take the electric train to Saidapet. I walked again via Little Mount to reach College at 6.20 a.m. for Survey practicals and NCC parades.

Until I passed out in 1957 our house didn’t have electricity and it was ironical that I was studying Electrical Engineering. My days at Chintadripet are unforgettable when Madras was ‘nalla Madras’.

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