Beginning this month, I will be writing a column on some Fridays for the Times of India, Chennai Edition. This will be connected with market places of Chennai, their history and their surroundings.
The first is below. They have supplemented it with some lovely pics in the main edition to which I do not find any internet link.
Chances are most people do not have an opportunity to see what lies behind Central Station, for everyone is in a hurry to either get on a train or get off it and go home. But if you come out of the Central Station exit for cars and turn right instead of left, you will reach Chennai’s flea market. In any North Indian city it would be called Chor Bazaar, but here it has a strange name – Guzili Bazaar.
The word Guzili probably comes from the Persian “Guzl” which means secret. And sure enough in its heyday this was a place were every stolen good would be brought to be sold. It once stretched all the way to Evening Bazaar Street near Wall Tax Road, but now it is a small informal market that springs up everyday in a sort of shanty town. Today the variety of goods being sold here is not much and certainly they are no longer stolen items, but if you have a liking for the offbeat this is the place to go to. There are stalls that sell old coins ranging from the ¼ anna with a hole in its middle to those minted in former princely states such as Travancore and Hyderabad. Lampshades and ornamental bulbs are available in plenty as is a variety of hardware items including cutting pliers, garden shears and spades. If you are lucky you may even lay your hands on a Ravi Varma print made in the 1920s. A variety of telephone instruments, mostly imitations of old antiques are available. Occasionally an exquisite set of walking sticks or a camera of the 1950s will make their appearance. Haggling is an accepted method of transaction and you are expected to strike a hard bargain.
If you can tear yourself away from this market and if you have escaped with the contents of your pockets intact, then continue walking down the long carriageway. This ends in a sylvan park, so quiet and so green that you cannot imagine that you are near the station. This is My Ladye’s Garden, the sole survivor of 116 acres of parkland in this area that boasted of many ponds, a swimming pool and even a zoo. All that has gone, but My Ladye’s Garden is maintained beautifully by the Corporation. It was once the venue for Mayoral tea parties, annual flower shows and December Music Conference and Concerts of the Music Academy. These are no longer held, but the park is a walker’s paradise. It also has on display a number of statues made by art students of Madras city in the 1930s. The park is a complete contrast to Guzili Bazaar, but that is Chennai- a surprise at every turn.