Thursday, January 28, 2010


I was walking along, my brain busy with the day’s to do list, until, I came to a doorway and stopped.Thinking only of the notice I had to serve on a fellow advocate, my foot entered the stairwell, but my eyes called a halt. The stairs, in this old, slightly shabby building, were of teak wood, polished by years of feet drumming up and down, perfectly circular, venerable and awe-inspiring. The lawyer I was going to see was surprised I had even noticed, so commonplace had this piece of history become.

When you live in an old city, familiarity with heritage breeds contempt for it. The façade of the Madras High Court, with its Indo-Saracenic onion domes and steeples, stained glass and stone fretwork can become commonplace to those who go about their daily business within such gob-stopping environs. Down 1st Line Beach, the commonplace and often grim going-ons of the GT criminal magistrates’ court can obscure interest in the beautiful mosaic facings on red brick and stone pillars of the hoary building. When the prisoner in the lock-up gazes impudently at you, you often forget that he is last in point of time of many, going back to colonial times.

A beautiful red brick structure with graceful pointed arches and slim pillars houses the Aavin milk bar among others. Twisted gates open into a courtyard. If one can forget the commercial activity of the 21st century and the traffic just outside on Anna Road, then one can hear a nineteenth century horse’s neigh as it turns into the courtyard.

Grimy, neglected, forgotten, these signposts of memory still stand, mute witness to a new century and new echoes of humanity.