The start of the journey to the report on Lawley Road was interesting – details about Arthur Lawley, a Governor of Madras, were easily available but hard to arrive at was the decision on Lawley Road’s location.
First thought that the Gandhi Park – Lawley Junction stretch of Thadagam Road was Lawley Road. After a no, came the Lawley Junction – TNAU stretch of Marudhamalai Road. Seemingly convincing arguments were put forth. Google Maps was also used to underscore the claim.
But the search continued.
A small move to avoid the Lawley Junction provided the clue. Name boards of commercial establishments on the lane that connects Marudhamalai Road with Thadagam Road indicated that it was Lawley Road. The move to confirm that the lane indeed was Lawley Road led to the road the post office in the Tamil Nadu Agriculture University campus.
The 107-year-old post office is called the Lawley Road Post Office. Established on January 1, 1905 it has served localities under the Postal Index Number 641 003. There, D.M. Manicka Vasagam was a god find.
The sexagenarian had just retired from the post office, after putting in more than 22 years. He says that the lane that connects Marudhamalai Road with Thadagam Road, the bylanes in its vicinity and the neighbourhood, including the stretch of Marudhamalai Road till the TNAU, together represent Lawley Road. The TNAU and also the post office therein borrowed the name of the Baron of Wenlock for convenience.
Mr. Vasagam says that Lawley Road has door numbers 1 – 817, which includes a few commercial establishments like two-wheeler workshops, grocery stores, apartments and houses. At the time of retirement, it took him around five hours to distribute all the letters in his beat.
This was not the same at the time of his joining duty at the post office.
“I used to be back at the office after a couple of hours as the number of letters and addresses to be delivered were far less.”
True, there were more vacant plots and agriculture fields than houses, says A. Subramaniam, who lives at No. 1, Lawley Road. He has been a resident of Lawley Road for at least 40 years.
Most of the residents of the area were into dairy business; the cows used to graze on the nearby fields and there was not much activity around. There were not as many shops as there are today. There was a bakery and petty shop, ‘Chettiar Kadai’ at the junction.
Buses plying on route ‘1-C’ used to stop at the then agriculture college (now, TNAU) as the settlements thereafter were few and far between. Then the Marudhamalai Road did not have bitumen topping and the common mode of transport was bullock carts.
His brother A. Ramasamy says that the ‘sandhai’ was in Thudiyalur and market at Sukrawarpet. The bigger market for monthly purchase was on Oppanakara Veethi and Periyakadai Veethi.
After the bus service was extended, he remembers travelling on a 40 paise ticket till Marudhamalai, says K. Arunachalam, 77. He is one of the few senior residents of the area.
The residents of Lawley Road then were mostly construction workers or daily wagers who lived in ‘line houses’ or ‘row houses’. “Then life was relaxed, without much expectation and simple.”
The two senior residents say that that now the pollution has increased as has noise.
“There are too many commercial establishments in the vicinity,” complains Mr. Subramaniam.
The only heavy vehicles the resident saw then were lorries that would transport people to Attapady.
“Those travelling to Attapady and beyond arrive the previous night, sleep on platform and get up to board the lorries that arrive the next day,” he recalls.
Today, though, Lawley Junction is a busy area that sees thousands of automobiles but a few bullock carts.