I was first informed about the existence of such a structure sometime in 2008 or so. It was Bose of Avvai Kalai Kazhagam, a champion of heritage in the Royapuram area who first told me about it. I have since then visited it several times, always saddened by the filthy condition in which it was kept.
I wrote about it for The Hindu in 2016 and you can read that article here
It was however in November 2017 that the bunker faced a real crisis, perhaps the only one in its long career, for it saw now action during the wars. More details on that are over here
The structure being plumb in the middle of the route for a pipeline for Chennai Petrochemical Corporation Limited, its fate was more or less sealed. In fact demolition work had begun and would have proceeded apace had not The Hindu intervened. Thanks to Ramya Kannan, City Editor and Deepa Ramakrishnan, the matter was reported and received wide publicity. The Indian Oil Corporation handsomely came forward to not only raise the siege and repair the damage done (to quote from Julius Caesar in Asterix and Cleopatra) but also reroute the pipeline so that the bunker is no longer threatened. And the engineers were as good as their word. The bunker was brought back to shape, it was given a new coat of paint and it has been cordoned off. Read all about it here
Thanks IOCL – now can you get LIC to do the same with Bharath Insurance Building? Just thought I should ask. I must also mention here that the Corporation of Chennai was equally forthcoming with assistance, willing to shift the structure to a place such as the museum, if only its ownership could be proved. And there we have an issue. When built, nobody thought of such things and today, the shelter is really poromboke (which word incidentally has nothing to do with Lord Pembroke).
Having brooded over the air raid shelter for almost a year, Deepa Ramakrishnan has a new concern – what if a tsunami were to swallow it? To that I said we cannot worry about acts of God.
In retrospect,it is an irony that the old pillbox, which is no beauty, is restored and gleaming while so many buildings of beauty are crumbling all over Chennai.