Features Monday, April 27, 2015 - 05:30
Written by  Aishwarya Ramesh

The air was crisp and cool on Sunday morning as a crowd gathered in front of the secretariat building. There was a buzz of restless energy that betrayed the early hour of the morning. Many shutterbugs and culture enthusiasts had most willingly forsaken a peaceful Sunday morning’s sleep to show up at a photo walk to commemorate 375 years since the construction of Fort St. George in Madras.     Photograph by Rakesh Reddy   As we stepped over the trenches, we could almost smell history in the air. Many of them had their cameras whipped out as the Heritage walk officially began with Mr. Vincent D’Souza, the tour guide. Each building had a story to tell as we herded from one site to other.      Photograph by Rakesh Reddy   At the CSI St. Mary’s church, the oldest Diocese Church in India, we learnt it was built in 1678. It also happens to be the oldest British building in India. Due to its peculiarly designed roof, it was the only bomb proof building at the time. “If any of you are carrying any firearms on you, feel free to test them now,” Vincent joked, his voice tinged with dry wit. He also spoke of how Robert Clive got married ‘a few times’ at this very church.      Photograph by Rakesh Reddy   Vincent did not limit himself to talking about the monuments before us. He drew comparisons to San Thom Basilica and forts in Sentosa and Rajasthan. He told us of how Fort St. George was controlled by the Portugese, the Dutch, the Danes, the French before the English took over.      Where a basketball court stands today was where the East India Company first began its operations centuries ago. It started as a simple four walled structure that was strangely Mughal-like. The structure eventually became more and more complex until it became a magnificent office out of which the British operated.      Photograph by Rakesh Reddy   Stepping inside the Clive Building, we noticed a remarkable dip in the temperature as we learnt that hand-made tiles were used to ensure that the rooms were cool enough to suit British preferences. The dust had settled over the bannister, but we could hear footfalls faintly echoing through the ballroom. We held our breath in wonderment as we looked through the glass windows, showing us a completely different world.     Photograph by Rakesh Reddy   When asked what inspired him to start this idea, Vincent says, “I came up with this concept 13 years ago. The main idea was to help people gain access to these monuments and places where they don’t normally gain access to.”     Photograph by Rakesh Reddy   Who are welcome to join the heritage walks that are regularly held throughout Chennai city?   “It’s for those of us who are interested in the city and its history and culture. There are so many different people with different interests who participate in these walks” he explains.     Photograph by Rakesh Reddy     The walk also attracted many artists, who set up shop wherever they found it convenient, and went about the business of creating the most beautiful art from the astounding wonders we were seeing before us in real life.