There are actually two Washermanpets – one new and the other old, and this postal code largely deals with the former. In terms of area, this is bound by George Town to the south, Royapuram to the east, Old Washermanpet/Tondiarpet to the north and Korukkupet to the west. I am not clear as to when the new, or for that matter the old, were defined but HD Love states that this was a village where cloth for the EIC was bleached. There was a waterbody that flowed to the west, which according to Love was not the Elambore River but merely a drainage channel. This must have later merged with the Buckingham Canal, which flows to the west of Washermanpet. Of that there is no sign now. There are two POs here – Washermanpet and Washermanpet East. 

I cannot say I am familiar with this neighbourhood. My impressions are based on one visit, which I undertook with Karthik Bhatt when I was summoned excitedly by D Madhavan, a Hindu correspondent. A boundary pillar of Madras was discovered at the Washermanpet Police Station and could I come over? The station, which was under a flyover, was due to be demolished. What I saw stunned me – there was clearly a boundary pillar No 2, and the plaque from it had become part of the police station when the latter was constructed in the 1890s. The ASI had listed it as a protected structure in 1912 but had not bothered with it after that. I don’t know what happened after my visit. Later, Mr Muthiah and I found out that there had been a northern esplanade to Madras, at Washermanpet and this was one of the boundary pillars marking that. 

Having gone that far, Karthik and I went to the Dakshinamurthy temple worshipped by the P Venkatachellum (of condiments fame) family. We also went to Balu Mudali Street. This was where the residence of Sir Pitty Theyagaroya Chetty (he of T Nagar fame and also the first Indian to be President of the Madras Corporation) stood. He was of wealthy Telugu speaking weaver stock and rather uniquely, the family home had two wings, on opposite sides of Balu Mudali Street. An overhead bridge connected the two and this ran across the street. By the time we visited, one wing had been demolished but the other survived. I wonder what the fate of that unique residence was later. The Theyagaroya College in Washermanpet is a very popular arts institution. There were incidentally two Pitty Theyagaroya Chetties – father and son. The latter was the knight. The college commemorates both.

The street names here are a walk down history. Monegar Choultry Road I have already dealt with in my piece of Chennai 600001. Kappal Polu Street is in reality Kappal Balu Mudali Street and as the name suggests he was ship Dubash. Kalingaraya Mudali Street commemorates a powerful Dubash and I am sure Pondicherry Murugesa Mudali is yet another. What EMI Street stands for I would like to know. Cochrane’s Basin Road commemorates Cochrane’s Canal of 1802, which, also known as Clive’s Canal, would be the genesis of Buckingham Canal when it was dug in 1875. And I am curious about Company Choultry Road as well. For all that we know of Kathipara in Guindy, it is surprising to see a Kathbada in Washermanpet. Telugu Street was Telugu Chettiyar Street until we rose above caste. The community, of which old Theyagaroya was the leading light, has its Sangam here. Washer Varadappan Lane must be commemorating an important washerman. 

The area clearly has many secrets that need some bringing to light. Washermanpet, here I come!

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