A collage on the floor

May 30, 2016, Chennai

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At one time there was a plan to improve the facilities at the Perambur railway station to match that of the Central Station. But that is a pipedream now. If only the road over-bridge could be completed there may be some improvement, perhaps. For the present Perambur is neither a village nor a town.

It is just a suburb. An imposing Saibaba temple and an Ayyappan temple are the only new additions to Perambur.

Apart from the workers of Perambur Loco Works and Carriage Works there was another clan of workers residing in Perambur. The Buckingham and Carnatic Mills - most popularly known as the Binny Mills - have its mills within a mile’s distance from Perambur. Cloth from the Binny Mills was the dream of every schoolboy and I was no exception. White and also khaki drill cloth were a speciality of Binny Mills. There was a time when the entire country was using Binny’s material to stitch uniforms. Apart from that their shirting cloth was something like gold for the generation of those days. They had named a particular quality of their material as Gold Standard. The massive mill that clothed the entire nation at one time is inactive and silent now.

The government doles out a few hundreds to the workers of the Mills. The experts feel that the Mill needs to be modernised. There is no meaning in running the mills without modernising it first, as otherwise it would serve no purpose and would profit none. But modernisation would render several hundreds of workers jobless. That led to a strike and then to a lockout. The deadlock remains unlocked.

There is a Don Bosco school in Perambur. Don Bosco School is something like Cambridge or Oxford for the Chennai citizen. My sister’s son was studying in there a couple of years back. And then, with the transfer of his father to another state, he had to be put in a school in that state. We needed his Transfer Certificate for doing so. I went to obtain the certificate from the school but only on reaching the school I came to know that it was a holiday. Then I met the Principal, who was a pastor, in his residence.

It was very large and very old house. I entered the seemingly dreary and dark drawing room of the house. Just one step into the room and I gasped. It was the panoramic and breathtaking flooring of the room that made my jaw drop in amazement. It shone as though it was paved with diamonds. I bent forwards and felt the flooring with my palms. You know there was a person by name Nekchand in Chandigarh who is known to create artefacts out of rubble. Nekchand probably learnt his art from the Principal of Don Bosco. The floor was paved with broken pieces of ceramic, tastefully. I am sad to say that the house is not there any more.

Ashoka Mithran

Retro Chennai from Asoka Mithran looks back at Chennai, in fact the Madras as it was known and existed. The column traces the city's lifescape at various points of time.