Downtown

A classic snapshot of Nanganallur

Varasiddhi Vinayagar Temple at Hindu Colony in Nanganallur.

Varasiddhi Vinayagar Temple at Hindu Colony in Nanganallur.   | Photo Credit: S_KOTHANDARAMAN

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Doctors used to visit patients’ homes travelling on bicycles to diagnose and give treatment. They would charge only Rs. 2 on their first visit

Five decades ago, I visited Nanganallur for the first time. In those days, to reach Nanganallur, one had to alight at St. Thomas Mount railway station or Meenambakkam railway station. If I remember right, the only bus service being operated to Nanganallur was route no.70.

An ever-smiling Keralite was the conductor on this bus. He endeared himself to the passengers by his gentle, courteous and friendly behaviour. I bought a piece of land in Kannika Colony which had agricultural fields, especially paddy fields. The fields attracted more birds. There were no roads and we would have to walk across many fields to reach our plot.

Only a kachcha road, which came about because residents used the stretch, linked us to the main road. There was no taxi or auto service in those days. To get the black and yellow ambassador taxi, one had to go to the Meenambakkam airport, four km away. The Tirusulam station came much later.

The only way to reach Nanganallur from GST Road was blocked by a railway gate, where people would have to wait for at least one hour.

Two other gates existed, one at Meenambakkam, near Binny Mills (now defunct), and the other at St. Thomas Mount.

At that time, there were horse carriages, hand-pulled rickshaws and cycle rickshaws, all of which have gone with the wind now.

Children could be seen having a bath under the pumpsets that were meant for watering the fields. Women could be seen bargaining with the owners of the fields for fresh brinjals, ladies fingers, green peas and a few other vegetables. At that time, we would fetch potable sweet water from our wells.

I bought my plot for Rs. 2,000. Now plots are being sold at more than 1.5 crore in the area. There were only a few government high schools and elementary schools. When the midday meals scheme was introduced, the elementary schools saw an increase in strength, especially in the morning. Children would disappear after lunch.

People started migrating to Nanganallur once the Nanganallur Cooperative Building Society started selling plots. The lone hospital in the area was Sydney Margaret Hospital. Doctors T.S. Seetharaman and Subadhra Seetharaman, his wife, used to visit patients’ homes by bicycles to diagnose and give treatment for just Rs. 2 on their first visit.

The residents of the area formed Residents Welfare Association named South Nanganallur Welfare Association. Most of the residents were either Central/State government employees.

As the area was predominantly paddy fields, there were more reptiles and even light showers worsened the condition of our kachcha roads. We used to carry dresses for changing at our work place, as we had to peddle through knee-deep waters. We used to buy oil in our own container from the ‘Oil Mill’ on the main road leading to Tambaram.

We carried all groceries in cloth bags, collected milk from the milk vendor in our vessel, and carried the grinded rice, dry chillies, turmeric and snaan powder in separate bags or containers.

In short, we never heard of plastic bags. We used to carry water bottles to quench our thirst on the way. If we ran out of water, we would ask for water at any of the houses on the way. We never thought of paying for water sachets.

During weekends, the residents used to level the roads and close the pits in order to make the roads fit for cycling or walking. No bicycle left the colony without offering a lift to people walking on the road. A few cars plying on the road used to offer lift to people going to other places.

Krishnan, a barber from Pallavaram, used to walk from Meenambakkam station on weekends making visits to customers in Nanganallur. Every man in the family waited for him to have his haircut/shave. He used to bring small packets of medicines for stomachache, headache, toothache and indigestion.

(J.K. Sivan, Founder joint-secretary, Sree Krishnarpanam Seva Society, Nanganallur)

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Printable version | Oct 18, 2019 12:25:24 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/downtown/a-classic-snapshot-of-nanganallur/article6710960.ece

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