Society

Egmore: from paddy fields to shopping malls

Egmore Railway station photographed in August 1947.  

In the 1960s, when Gopi Prasad was growing up in Egmore, children from the neighbourhood would play hide and seek inside the Government Museum.

“Back then, there was no charge to get in,” said the 62-year-old resident of Egmore.

From the village of Ezhumbur, with paddy fields and banana groves alongside a cleaner Cooum, Egmore transformed into a cultural and educational hub and, Mr. Prasad said, had some firsts to its credit.

The first apartment complex in the city came up here, on Casa Major Road, and Chennai’s first karate instructor, Karate Mani, set up a training centre in Egmore.

“Most of the area is government property; Egmore station, the Museum, Connemara Library, Tamil Nadu Archives, the government hospitals and other institutions occupy a large chunk of Egmore,” said Mr. Prasad.

When it came to department stores and food joints, Egmore residents were spoilt for choice. “My aunt lived right opposite Fountain Plaza and when I first came to Chennai, it was such a thrill to be able to cross the road and wander about all the shops,” said Dilnawaz Belgamvala, who has lived in Egmore since 1980.

Alsa Mall, one of the city’s oldest malls, was private property before it was converted, and along with Spencer Plaza, stayed wildly popular until recently.

For daily shopping back then and even now, Five Star and Kurinji’s were the most sought after. For meat, residents went to Suzanne’s on Montieth Road.

Thanks to old favourites such as Cakewalk and Tic Tac, Montieth Road has continued to remain popular for food, along with Mathsya for late-night snacks. And Ashoka Hotel was famous for its dosas.

“Every half hour, there would be a bus to the hotel and there wouldn’t be a single car on the road for hours. A dosa at Ashoka was the ultimate highlight of one’s day,” said Mrs. Belgamvala. 

Her husband Hormaz said Connemara and Ambassador Pallava were the good hotels in those days.

With Don Bosco School, Presidency Higher Secondary School, Ethiraj College, Madras School of Social Work and many others, Egmore is still popular for its educational institutions, its stadiums and playgrounds.


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Printable version | Jan 15, 2022 10:09:55 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/chen-society/egmore-from-paddy-fields-to-shopping-malls/article6250221.ece

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