Visitors to the Citi Centre mall this week are in for a unique treat — a trip down memory lane for some and a celebration of visual history for others, which promises to transport them to the place once called the Madras Presidency.

As many as 95 photographs are part of ‘Madraspatinam' –a photo collection from The Hindu Archives that narrates tales of life in Madras then, besides showcasing some defining moments involving people and places that contributed to building our past.

More than the beaches and the bridges, it is the charm of the people captured in the photographs that attracts. Be it the swarm of Congress workers welcoming Jawaharlal Nehru at the Central Station in 1936, or the massive crowds during the funerals of K. Kamaraj and C. N. Annadurai. There is also a photograph of Annadurai with ministers after the swearing in ceremony in 1967. “He was quite anxious then, no false promises. It was so easy to trust such leaders," said N.C.Gnanaprakasan, a former employee of All India Radio, who visited the exhibition on Monday.

Among the highlights are photographs of Mahatma Gandhi. Also exhibited are images of E.V. Ramasamy Naicker, C. Rajagopalachari, Indira Gandhi, Sarojini Naidu among others. The last public appearance of Rukmini Devi Arundale during the golden jubilee of celebration of Kalakshetra, trams, upright fans at the Senate House of the University of Madras in 1937, which served as the Legislative Assembly then, policemen dressed in baggy, skirt-like trousers in the 1950s, aerial views of Park Town and an image of J.R.D. Tata after the Karachi-Madras flight are other attractions.

The busy mass of hand cart pullers, head-load carriers and lorry drivers at the congested wholesale vegetable market in Kothwal Chavadi in contrast to the few buses and Morris Manors amid black Fiats provide insights into a lifestyle almost impossible to imagine now. “The notion of traffic was very different then. Even on holidays, there would be only some 100 persons along the Marina,” said Rajan Manoharan (75), a visitor. Former premier of Madras O.P. Ramaswamy Reddiar offering a cup of milk to a toddy drinker, even as he calls for prohibition, photographs of Queen Elizabeth II from her 1961 visit and an image of Subramanya Bharathi's house in Triplicane in 1962 form part of the display.

These photographs make perfect sense for every viewer, especially if he has roots in the city. For others, it calls for all the more admiration. “I knew Chennai has a traditional flavour to it, but did not expect historical insights in a mall,” said A. Santosh of Bangalore.

The photographs will be displayed till Sunday.