Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Description of Madras city from the 1913 book "In Old Madras" by Bithia Mary Croker:




A drive through Mount Road (Pg 42 & 43):

To tell the truth, although Mallender had spent five happy hours within the Club, these hours had passed so rapidly, that it seemed incredible when his cousin announced that " it was after six o'clock, and time to make a start."
The transformation of the outward scene appeared equally surprising. The wind had died away, the breakers merely sobbed softly on the beach ; a clear Eastern night was full of stars, and the light of electric lamps penetrated into every corner. Numbers of motors were parked in the vast compound ; in some sat various gay and smart ladies, sipping iced drinks, eating devilled biscuits, and holding informal meetings with their men friends. Now and then a car would slip out of the crowd, and take the Mem Sahib and her cavalier for a turn up the Guindy Road, or along the marine front, —whilst the lady's husband was finishing an interminable rubber of auction bridge. It had been one o'clock When Mallender left the Fort—at an hour when all Madras v»'as under the spell of noonday quiet ; servants were " eating rice," animals resting, the very crows and hawks temporarily suppressed—but now the city was awake ; the Gorah bazaar, and Georgetown, were humming like bee-hives, heavily laden trams, crammed with passengers, clanged and rumbled up and down the Mount Road, the old established " Europe " shops, such as Orr's, Spencer's, and Oak's, were brilliantly alight and filled with customers ; motors and bicycles skimmed hither and thither—luxurious carriages drawn by steppers rolled by, whilst picturesque foot-passengers, Jutkas, and leisurely bullock-carts gave a touch of local colour to the scene.
Such was the traffic, that it was a considerable time before Colonel Tallboys' Napier could extricate itself and thread its smooth way by Royapetta towardsEgmore. As the car turned sharply through an entrance gate and up the long drive to Hooper's Gardens, Mallender was both impressed and surprised. Here wasno mere bungalow, but the lofty stately dwelling of a one-time merchant prince—reared in an age when space, and rupees, were amply available.
" Hooper's Gardens " stood surrounded by fifty acres of short, coarse grass, a white, two-storied mansion with pillared verandahs, a flat roof, and imposing portico. Against a dense background of palms and shrubberies were pitched a group of tents.

Polo in Madras (Pg 80 & 81)

After two postponements, the polo tournament at last came off, and provided the community with an exciting entertainment. Colonel and Mrs. Tallboys never missed a single match ; he being umpire, and a much respected authority on the polo ground, here this former brilliant
performer was in his element. The little man knew most of the players well, and was acquainted with the personal character, merits or delinquencies, of every competing pony. The final, between the Chaffinches and the Marauders, brought all Madras to the Island, on a certain Thursday afternoon. Both teams were in magnificent form, and after a severely contested match, the Chaffinches won by six goals to five, amidst shouts and yells of applause.

Subsequently, Captain Byng received the cup at the gracious hands of Her Excellency, and when Mallender joined the party from Hooper's Gardens, he was accorded an ample share of praise ; for his hard straight hitting, and fine driving power, had more than once saved the game. Colonel Tallboys rode about from group to group on his smart pony, a proud and happy man, and Mrs. Villars, looking lovely in a great feathered hat, gazed at the hero with her inspiring eyes, and
whispered " Shabash I "

The syren had undoubtedly caught Geoffrey in her toils ; he was acutely sensible of the glamour of her personality. With Lena Villars, appearances were not altogether deceitful, nor beauty vain. She had a soft low voice, a sympathetic, profoundly interested manner. Lena was not clever—and candidly admitted the fact—but professed that nothing gave her so much pleasure as to be with and listen to clever people —subtly insinuating that such were her companions.

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