“Modernity and change are inevitable. There has to be some kind of compromise, yet some aspects of heritage must be preserved for the sake of future generations. Otherwise they will never be able to find their true roots and identity,” said S.Suresh, convenor of the Tamil Nadu chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH).

He was speaking on the sidelines of a symposium ‘Growth and development of Chennai city’, organised as part of the ‘Madras Week’ celebrations at the Stella Maris College on Monday.

The evolution of the city over the centuries, after Francis Day stepped ashore one fine morning in 1639, was discussed at the event.

According to Mr.Suresh, Chennai still retains its old world charm — unlike Mumbai or Delhi — because the city was built by bringing together a group of villages. “Some parts of Chennai are older than old Delhi. Trade was happening between the Arabs and Mylapore as far back as the 11th century. Each of these villages had distinct cultural facets and some of them have lived on,” he said.

While welcoming the changes the city has gone through, he however said there should be a constant dialogue between modernity and preservation. “Tondiarpet, Ennore and Georgetown were once the centres of the city. Now they are forgotten corners. There also needs to be more concern about the disappearing ‘village spaces’ and green spaces,” said Mr.Suresh.

Presentations about various aspects of Chennai’s history were made by students from different colleges. They ranged from the history of Chennai Corporation to the history of Tamil cinema and a common strand in all the presentations was the need to reconcile the present with the past.

As one student, Ahona of Stella Maris put it, “The city is home to ancient temple architecture and modern high rises; a rich cultural tradition and a growing night life. Only by bringing together the old and the new can the city move forward.”

The History Department of the college also organised an exhibition on the history of Chennai city as part of the event.