#8, COATS ROAD
This home, then called the #8, COATS ROAD, T. NAGAR, used to be the landmark house, with other homes adjacent on the either side of the broad road. The speciality of this exclusive home on that road was, it was huge in an exceptional way and it had a big family exactly opposite to this house, which was called the GEETHA CAFÉ house, after the famous hotel in t. nagar. The other homes on this road were referred as T.R. Ramachandran house to the left, drug inspector house next to the geetha café house, the patel house, the chettiar house, the dhulipala house, which were either named after the main patriarch’s profession or the family name. This house was built on three grounds, exactly 7200 sq. Feet and the rest of the five grounds exactly 12000 sq. (TOTALLING TO 8 GROUNDS) feet vacant cultivable land was surrounded by flower plants, vegetable plants, trees like coconut, hibiscus grew in the front yard where as the back yard had trees right from mango, lemon, raw banana, naarthangai otherwise known as citron, gadaaranga again a citron type, made as pickle were grown in abundance. Apart from that, there were also vegetable plants, like tomato, ladies finger, brinjal, drumsticks etc., This was maintained by a live-in gardener. Apart from sprawling garden, this home had a liquefying ammonia unit, a printing press, a gardener’s room, a car park and a big ground for all the grand children to play with the neighbouring kids too.
This house was built in the year 1931-1932, which was the home to a matriarch and her nine children. After her children were all married, she was staying in this house with one son and his family, because all the other children, the daughters were married and the sons were posted outside Chennai owing to work commitments. This house was called the CENTRAL STATION, because of the influx of people who came and went intermittently. One batch of guests arrived and the matriarch and her daughter in law and at times there were part-time cooks, who cooked and served the guests. The day they leave, extra preparations were done for them to carry for the train journey as those days you never had food items served in trains like these days. Then the next batch comes in.
When marriages got fixed in the family, this house would start celebrating the occasion right from purchase of sarees in those days only at Kumaran and Nalli. Those days you never had the catering services like now, or you cannot outsource all the arrangements like, how it’s done now. Hence vegetables, all the cooking materials are purchased in large scale and stored in this house or sent to the mandapam just before the wedding. All the marriage preparations are done right from 6 to 8 months prior to marriage and the high lighting feature is the URAD (ULUNDHU) APPALAM PROJECT, where all the ladies of the house and helping hands, sit together for kneading the dough, to roll, to take them for drying and another person would pick up the dried appallams and pack it in a big box, so that it stays good till the marriage time and after too.
Normal activity in the house would seem like a function being celebrated, during the Navaratri times the children in the house are sent to call each and everyone in the locality. The idols or the bommais or dolls were kept in minimum 11 steps, with tanks and the rangoli used to be special feature, which used to look like real peacocks, carpets, in accordance with, whatever designs are drawn and coloured every day. Needless to say even sundal and sweet preparations used to be made in large scale. Ladies in the area used to shed their inhibitions and visit each other’s house and that’s the only way they get to meet each other too. As everyone used to be busy with their home chores, taking care of elders and children and those days you never had mixies or grinders for your grinding jobs.
This house never suffered for want of people, as in the normal course it had tenants in the side portion of the house and in the first floor. The second floor was the terrace, which was used seldom excepting for exam preparations when guests had occupied the house. It is needless to say the fun and frolic at the vacation time with all the sons, daughters, grandchildren and the memorable swing in the centre of the hall, which was the highlight of this home.
The tenants also were like family and once it housed a family with nine children seven daughters and 2 sons which was common those days. If no festivity was happening at the owner’s house, then the tenants house would be filled with celebrations. They all mingled as one big family, that if neighbours had sudden visitors for lunch they would ask the landlady of this huge house for plantain leaves, neighbour’s sixtieth function would be celebrated by just erecting a shamiana and the food would be served in the ground area and the function happening in the neighbour’s house. Any engagement functions for a marriage suddenly fixed this house used to be the venue, because smaller functions were always carried on at the individual’s home rather than halls. This home used to always buzz with activities, celebrations and happy moments.
When Diwali came, it was just another occasion to celebrate, sweets and savouries would be done on a large scale and distributed to all the neighbour’s house, just the day before Diwali. The elders used to prepare the goodies and send it through children and ensure that it reached all homes. Either the children were sent back with their home made goodies or later theirs would reach them. Just eating the sweets and savouries used to be so filling and enough to skip the meals.
Any death or unexpected happening too, all the people would pitch in and help each other at the time of need and support. There used to be warmth and elders used to have an eye on the other children when they are seen walking in the dark night or late night, asking where they are going at that hour and what happened. None of the houses had any security as people knew each other very well to manage any situation. Either the elders in the family were friends or the children were. Though most of them lived in their individual houses, but the connection was like a big colony living.
Gone are those days of living, we hardly get to see people living in such big houses with exceptions of few where these houses are guarded. This #8 COATS ROAD house brings, rekindles the old memorable moments and the nostalgia which goes with it. Even if one sees such big houses, I doubt whether such warmth, simplicity, generosity, can be seen now. Most of them won’t even know their neighbours. For a long time, this house remained a land mark for most of them living in this area and for who have lived and shifted to another area, still remember this house as #8, COATS ROAD. It has been an immense pleasure to have known and seen and recorded these facts, the kind of living then, is never comparable to, what is called living now!!
RICHNESS WAS NOT THERE MONEY WISE THEN,
BUT NUMBER OF PEOPLE WISE !!
VIJAYASHREE RAMESH, CHENNAI BASED ADVOCATE