Pratistha Jagannath • March 17, 2021 • 5 min read
Old Madras is a world of its own. From food to architecture, there is an individual uniqueness that is distinctive to Chennai. Although I have been born and brought up in Chennai, Madras has my heart.
Recently, my friends surprised me with a local road trip/ treasure hunt for my birthday. Since partying during a pandemic is unsafe and selfish, we decided to be careful and take necessary precautions, while also not neglecting special occasions.
A map of some of the significant and beautiful places of Madras (which were open and safe to visit) was made with hints, and I had to guess the location. That's how my day of absolute fun and joy began.
1. You might have visited me during field trips, but I'm sure you appreciate me more now, as an adult.
A constant feature in the list of Indo-Saracenic buildings in the city is our very own Egmore museum. It is the second oldest museum in India and the third-largest museum in the world, and dare I say the most underrated physical form of history in Madras. This place is a designer’s and historian’s dream.
From Egmore, we headed east to the next stop.
2. New pieces of literature in an ancient bookstore.
Almost 3 km after, the smell of new books laden with the old familiar smell of a library wafts our nose as we enter Higginbothams. Although we were over a week into the New Year, some of the beautiful decorations from Christmas could still be seen, making the place all the more whimsical. This is India's oldest bookstore that is still in existence.
Northwest from here was our third stop.
3. Out with the old, in with the new. But the love for books is eternal.
9 vast floors of just books, each unique in its purpose is our Anna Centenary Library. Located in Kotturpuram, it is a modern building engulfed in history. Here, one can see centuries-old olai chuvadi enclosed in a glass box. The view from the top floor is breathtaking, opening out to lush never-ending greenery.
Taking a break from the indoors, we headed north.
4. A beach that temples your memory.
This beach is not a popular destination spot because of its distance from the city center, but it ought to be one. It is always pleasant and active with many shops and carnival activities. We were introduced to this beach by a beach clean-up activity and it has been a favourite since.
We headed west to reach the next spot.
5. The bridge to nowhere.
That's the actual tagline for Broken Bridge on Google. After taking a break at Besant Nagar beach, we headed towards the Broken Bridge on foot. I am warning you, it's a long walk unless you prefer taking a vehicle. The path towards the bridge is a bit narrow, so beware. The walk however is perfectly justified considering you get an amazing and serene view of the sea. Coming back is the hard part because the view from the Broken Bridge is hard to let go of.
Heading south, we reached our final destination.
6. I am tall, I am white, I am holy.
This Neo-Gothic cathedral is so strikingly white and looks beyond harmonious with the contrasting blue of the sky. It is like the sky was made to complement Santhome Cathedral. Entering the church, you immediately notice the light coming in through the rose windows in all colours. After basking in the glory, we took a small stroll to the beach right behind the cathedral to reflect on the day.
We started our journey at 11:00 am and got home at 04:00 pm, stopping in-between for lunch. It was a short but very satisfactory road trip. We hardly spent any money but saw a lot. I am so happy and glad to have spent my birthday in places that have a history enlaced with architecture. Feel free to use this as a guide to explore Chennai a little bit more.