Memories of another day - in the heart of Perambur

When I left Calcutta in the early 1980s and arrived in Madras, then a much gentler city, Perambur and Jawahar Nagar where we lived made up my world. Of course, it was a major change in my life as it normally is when you leave the place where you were born and grew up – leaving also friends you played with as a child, buddies who stood by you through thick and thin in teenage years, and several families with whom you had bonded closely over the years.

In Madras we chose Jawahar Nagar because my uncle, a doctor, and a few other close relatives resided there. My father was a heart patient and we thought residing close to uncle would be useful. As it turned out, father died within seconds of a major hear attack, his third. No proximity to any doctor could have saved him. He was only 64 or so and in earlier years if heart by-pass operations were as common as they are today, he might have had the courage to go for one and perhaps lived longer. The beginnings in Madras were, thus, made even more difficult for me, but how I overcame all that is a story too long to narrate.

Last weekend, I visited my uncle’s as we usually do at least once every quarter. This time, cousin in tow, I walked down some of the streets in Jawahar Nagar that had been home almost 25 years ago. It was of course not the first time I was visiting these places after two decades; but with camera in hand, yes.

Many parts of Perambur still retain their old-world charm. Many roads and streets and lanes still retain English names, such as Stapleton Road, for instance. There is one road from the flyover to Jawahar Nagar that is densely populated by Anglo-Indians. And whenever I see Anglo-Indians in strength I’m reminded of the good old days in Calcutta, where many of our neighbours were Anglo-Indians. Most of them left for Australia and New Zealand in the 1970s. Calcutta, though, still has quite a large Anglo-Indian population and I understand that this year Anglo-Indians from all over the world will converge in the city for an international meet.

Time stands still in many of the streets in Jawahar Nagar. You will find no high-rise building here. No builder has ever come to these parts eying property for a quick demolition job. It’s another matter that owners extend or refurbish buildings, but not more than two storeys. There is a lot of greenery, too. I was pleasantly surprised to still find the huge expanse of vacant poromboke land adjacent to the house we stayed, lying unused, after all these years.

Most of my friends are no longer there – and I’ve lost contact with all, except one. Those days we would sit on the grounds near the Murugan Temple late in the evenings, puff a cigarette and chat endlessly about politics, the more attractive local girls, booze and job opportunities. I was missing Calcutta badly but those evenings with friends made up for something. And soon enough, we were all on the job trail, and then our meetings got fewer and in a few years the ground had disappeared, having made way for independent houses. Yet, even today, Perambur holds lots of memories for me.

Pictures show some of the streets in Jawahar Nagar, quiet and shady, where time almost stands till, with the only give-away being the new cars; the road leading to 5th Main where I stayed; 5th Main Road, and a long shot of the building where we stayed (the promoboke land on the right still lies unused), fringed by palm and other trees.


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