Mylapore, succumbing to real estate pressure
Mylapore, the name kindles a flash of vivid images — of quaint streets, old houses, and an old world charm, that cannot be found in many areas in the city. But, what if we told you that it’s all ‘imagined’? In a tete-a-tete with Vincent D’Souza, editor, Mylapore Times and promoter of the famous Mylapore Festival, we find out about his take on the area, touted as the cultural hub of the city. Vincent does not get nostalgic and talks reality — of how the area is rapidly changing and it’s not the place it once was. “The core/heart of Mylapore is the heritage precinct that needs to be treated well. When I say precinct, it’s the heritage zone around the temple including streets, and lanes, probably for at least about a kilometre or so,” he says and opines that the State needs to be a trigger for that.
“It cannot be a private initiative. This issue has been raised several times by various groups and people with similar interests but, it has never been given attention. It needs policy, regulations and a holistic look,” he shares. Mylapore is one of the many areas that characterises the city but we have lost most of it and reached a stage where it has begun to look like any other neighbourhood. “Highrise buildings and shopping arcades are cropping up because of real estate pressure. There are demolition of houses every now and then. So, the facade of Mada street isn’t the same anymore. It’s growing to be more of a bazaar,” he shares pointing to the flux of jewellery shops, restaurants and banks in the area. Mylapore is now more an imagined kind of place or a place someone dreams of, though it evokes a certain sentiment in people who live there. “You would still want the charm of Mylapore and you imagine it, although it’s not that,” he says. For instance, if there are four to five old houses in Mylapore, the mind tends to paint an image of an entire area full of old houses and quaint lanes.
“The little things like temple festivals, shopping kadais, the temple street vendors, the sabhas and the music floating around — such bits and pieces of atmosphere around the area make you lend yourself to the idea of what Mylapore was,” he explains. But, if you quietly observe, it’s a shopping plaza place, waiting to devour whatever little is left is the area. “Maybe it’ll become another Pondy Bazaar. But, these heritage places have their own uniqueness and can be sustained with hardcore policies,” he shares. While it’s not just about retaining the charm, Vincent opines that circumstances have helped in retaining the essence of Mylapore. “The temples have generated little shops, and the nature of the area being a temple hub has lent itself to food, religious and craft items,” he says.