Once not a sought-after locality, today D.B. Road is the first choice for commercial firms
The way Diwan Bahadur Road (D.B. Road, in short) has metamorphosed from a street housing residences of some of the bigwigs of the city to commercial street presents a snapshot of the way the city has grown over the past two decades.
It also shows the way how ambassadors of old and new economy stand side-by-side to present a beautiful shopping experience to the city’s residents: you have the international men’s and women’s apparel brands, denim majors, well-known footwear stores and also the city-grown bakery, grocery store and cloth store.
According to old timers, people of Coimbatore started trickling to D.B. Road, which was then the Rathina Sabapathy Puram Street during 1930-40. The road abutted a burial ground, parts of which are today’s Shastri Maidan. The presence of a burial ground weighed in the minds of people who wanted to move there, says V. Venkatesan of Ayyar and Company. His father C.R.V. Dass constructed a house on D.B. Road in 1942. He then had his bakery on Raja Street.
The street was lined with trees on both sides with street lights planted firmly on the middle of the road, in the median.
“There used to so much trees that it was near impossible for the sunrays to penetrate the foliage to hit the streets.”
A few years later – when the powers to grant approval for shops was available with the Coimbatore Municipality – the Ayyar and Co. founder managed to shift the shop to D.B. Road. Then there were very few shops – among those were Ramoo and Company, which rationed mill cloth, and A. Rangaswamy Chettiar Sons and Company.
Very few buses passed through D.B. Road. Two of those were No.6 and 7, which run from Gandhipark to Gandhipark, with a stop at Ramoo and Co. The shop lent its name to a bus stop because people who wanted uniforms and mill cloth thronged the shop, says N.P. Kumar, the shop owner. His father N.A. Parasuraman established the shop before Independence.
“Yet another reason for the shop gaining popularity was that, as per the Colonial Government order, it had to ration cloth distribution.”
In his assessment, the growth of D.B. Road is intrinsically linked to the growth of residential localities west of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University. As the number of houses grew, the first stop for the people of those areas was D.B. Road.
The other reason was the width of D.B. Road. And also that of T.V. Samy Road. The two broad roads presented ideal destinations for shopping as there was ample spacing for parking and walking, says Jegan S. Damodarasamy, Exeuctive Director, Sree Annapoorna Sree Gowrishankar Group of Hotels.His family first started the Annapoorna hotels as a standalone unit on D.B. Road in 1968.
Light House Theatre
Aside from a few shops, the D.B. Road first housed a theatre when Samikannu Vincent established the Light House Theatre. Though the cinema lent its name to a lane that branches off D.B. Road, it had changed hands and also its name. It was later named Asoka Theatre and then Kennedy Theatre after well-known actor P.S. Veerappa bought it.
The theatre no longer decorates D.B. Road but the place where it stood is still referred to as Kennedy Theatre.
R.S. Puram also housed some of the city’s best schools and many old timers recall going to schools there. Today most of these schools are with the Coimbatore Corporation.
The southern side of the D.B. Road then housed shops that sold charcoal. Today, untouched by the presence of international brands, that portion of the Road continues to have shops that sell earthenware – perhaps, presenting a balance between local and international economy.
One another important landmark on the road is the Rathina Vinayakar Temple, started by Rathina Sabapathy Mudaliar, his family and many important persons of R.S. Puram. The temple continues to serve as a hub for R.S. Puram residents.
The D.B. Road also saw several city institutions take their toddler steps from here. One such is Nirmala College. The college functioned here for a while before moving to its present location. The Road is also home to a few cultural institutions like Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and Purandaradasar Hall, which satiate the cultural and artistic needs of the city’s residents.
Today, it is a happening place in Coimbatore as every commercial establishments wants a foothold there, be it local or international. For such is the Road’s reputation.
The road today is synonymous with brand-conscious shopping and has become a commercial hub, just as Nanjappa Road is for engineering goods, Mettupalayam Road for hardware and T.V. Samy Road for kitchen accessories, says Sreesh Adka, Managing Partner, Ideal Stores. His is one of the oldest inhabitants of R.S Puram and D.B. Road. And it will continue to grow that way because it is not yet congested as Oppanakara Street is.
In talking about the growth of R.S. Puram and D.B. Road in particular the bomb blast of 1998 cannot be overlooked. Economic activity came to a standstill but only for a brief while.
The people ensured that life was back to normal at the earliest. And now it is a faint memory as people want to forget it, says Mr. Adka.
T.V. Samy Road will also grow but not at the pace at which D.B. Road grows. This is because the commercial activity one the road is more of a spill over effect, says N. Shankar, a long timer of the Road.