Colonial Cousins: The Fort, the Church and the Garden

The post-quiz syndrome is a difficult phase in our lives.

There is so much of enthusiasm, planning and excitement which usually reduces to a cup of filter coffee at midnight from Ramu. In an effort to negate this statement, one fine February morning Samuel, Varsha and I decided to walk around Chennai. The finance minister was AWOL; Karthika refused to come, she choose sleep over sleeplessness.

One place that you can never miss if you happen to be in this huge city is the British military fort, Fort St George. Here comes an important distinction between expectation and reality. If what you expect is an old stone fortification with dilapidated buildings and ancient artifacts, what waits for you is a well maintained Tamil Nadu legislative assembly building complex guarded by an army of staff and policemen. As centuries passed the fort, built in 1644 was transformed into a hub of government offices.

I was denied entry for having being armed with a fake Swiss knife with which even harming a mosquito seemed to be a remote possibility. Employing the power of persuasion, I convinced my clean record and was let in. The fort is a busy place. There are a lot of people in white shirts and mundu, policemen, cleaning workers and more. The Fort Museum was a former army canteen. Today it houses EIC guns, huge oil paintings, ceramic ware, ancient Bibles and marble statues of British officers. There weren’t any Indian tourists in the museum, apart from three jobless IITians. Indians refuse to rejoice at their own history.DSC_0534


The next destination was the Armenian Church. One of the oldest churches in the subcontinent. It is a tiny place. Quite calm. We lighted candles and sat there under the divine. In a few seconds there comes a divine intervention. Amma calls. Not willing to lie in front of a place where people pray, I said ‘I am in a church’. What happened next is obvious. She shouted. She even hinted the possibility of putting me in a college in Trivandrum. It was that day I had another life lesson: Not all people appreciate honesty.

Later we immersed in street food: passion fruits, water melon and some rice. Wallets were already running dry. Last on the list was a garden, Senmozhi Poonga. A wrong bus and a right auto took us there.

At a botanical garden, one expects to see trees, exotic plants, flowers and lawns. Unfortunately it was the Garden of Eden that we walked into. Hundreds of Adams and Eves. Fair warning, if you have issues seeing a horde of couples sitting and making out in public, Senmozhi Poonga isn’t your spot. At one corner of the garden there was a cacti bush. All names listed in the National Population Register could be deciphered there, paired with another in those leaves. I found my name too. Of course spelt wrong. DSC_0548

Pretending to be a Roman in Rome, we tried not to care about the surroundings. First, Varsha craved for ice creams, quickly followed by Samuel and then I. Butter scotch, they be the best. This reminded us of this not-so-popular quote; The only man I’ll chase in my life is the ice-cream man, the rest of you can **** off.  No offense intended. Pliss. We sat with the ice cream cones in the amphitheater there and played dumb charades. I suspect if there were some drugs melted into the ice cream: we laughed at everything.

Sun disappeared into west and it was time for us to head north. Like always, that Saturday too was simply amazing. Petrified Darcys, candles, ice creams, passion fruits and cactus.

And we crawled back to Tunga.




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