375 years and going strong

Chennai city is turning 375 this week
Chennai: In the age of runaway electronics, the smartphone is just 20 years old. Compare that to a city that is turning 375 this week and you have some idea of the enormity of the differences we are talking about. And yet, much like the world of gizmos, the city has grown phenomenally in those 20 years, making a great deal of progress in a short span when compared to the eon that went before it.
The tale of two cities, Madras and Chennai could not have been more disparate than it is now with the modern city an amorphous mass of buildings, people and incessant traffic highlighted by the unique Indian habit of vehicles honking their way throughout their journey. While old timers would yearn with nostalgia for old Madras with its leafy avenues and distinct lack of traffic lights, the modern Chennaiiite knows he is on to a good thing in an expanding city.
At no time could the city have boasted of such a wide spread of leisure activities as now. Adventure sport not as much on the water as it should be in a harbour city has opened up avenues that never existed in times when the good old transistor radio was the sole link to the world even as youngsters sat on the Marina ground’s sea side wall to look on at the cricket, without quite knowing who was actually playing.
The fabulous spread of eating joints – from the most economical at the old messes of some of the city’s most ancient localities like Mylapore and Triplicane to the most expensive at the luxury caravanserais as the city hosts more and more hotels with multiple stars claimed by some grand but opaque system is a veritable gourmet’s haven as well as a gourmand’s delight. Of course, the tippler also has a wider choice now thanks to an incipient liberal policy.
In a city that toyed with Prohibition for a long time in the name of great socialistic values that were always well beaten by bootleggers and illicit liquor brewers, the scene has transformed beyond belief with a snooty new pub on Chamiers Road even declining to let in customers just for one drink on a Saturday evening unless they had a booking. In the old days, the speakeasys had a welcoming policy that did the customer and the seller proud.
It is a fervent hope that in the next 25 years to the city’s 400th anniversary Chennai would do two things that would make it more liveable clean up the stinking waterways along the lines of the Singapore model and plant millions of trees to give shade as well as invite more rain and absorb the carbon footprint. As the saying goes, change is the only constant and Madras-Chennai has been a living emobodiment of that principle; only it needs to be even more so as one the more sensible metros of India that has always melded the best of old values with the comforts of modernity.
( Source : dc )
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