Fifty years from now...

Here is a topo­graph­i­cal-his­tory project of the IT Cor­ri­dor that will be com­pleted this year and re­vis­ited five decades later


Here is some­thing you can do to­day that guar­an­tees raised eye­brows 50 years from now. With your dig­i­tal cam­era, just shoot a land­scape, and salt the im­age away. On 11 Fe­bru­ary, 2069, re­trieve it. A note: As hu­man ex­is­tence is largely de­void of cast-iron guar­an­tees, be­queath the im­age along with the stor­age de­vice to some­one, and leave be­hind clear in­struc­tions on what to do with it.

Who­ever — let us hope it is you — re­trieves the im­age should com­pare the photo with what has be­come of that land­scape. As part of a topo­graph­i­cal-his­tory project, this year I am cap­tur­ing the mile­stones and what lies around them, on Old Ma­ha­balipu­ram Road (OMR). In 2069, when I may prob­a­bly start feel­ing old and a bit too rusty to range over the out­doorsy spa­ces at will, I would re­trieve each mile­stonephoto, 50 years to the day, and prob­a­bly en­sure I am driven to that mile­stone, and com­pare the im­age with the al­tered re­al­ity. It is an ex­er­cise I am ea­gerly look­ing for­ward to. And this is what is keep­ing me go­ing.

Here, in this col­umn, I am pre­sent­ing im­ages of a mile­stone (and a bit of its precincts on the east­ern side), found in Than­dalam on OMR and marked 45 kilo­me­tres from Chen­nai. There is noth­ing re­ally spec­tac­u­lar about the pic­ture, ex­cept that it presents a re­al­ity that does not quite mesh with widely pre­vail­ing no­tions about the IT Cor­ri­dor. There are paddy fields on both sides, more so on the east­ern sec­tion. There is a hint of “de­vel­op­ment”. A huge con­struc­tion project is un­der way on the west­ern side. While I was shoot­ing the mile­stone, a bit against the light, two mon­keys bounded past me. So, I am putting away for later re­trieval, a less-than-per­fect im­age I clicked of one of the two fast­mov­ing mon­keys.

Even now, if I were to show these pho­tos to my techie friends liv­ing in the bustling parts of the IT Cor­ri­dor lined with im­pos­ing, glass-fa­caded build­ings, I could rea­son­ably ex­pect to see a flicker of sur­prise in their eyes.

And so, imag­ine the sur­prise my pre­sen­ta­tion would be greeted with, 50 years from now

It would be akin to our re­sponse now to in­cred­i­ble im­ages that show­case Madras’ past to­pogra­phies. (For ex­am­ple, the im­age of Mow­bray’s Road from many decades ago, which looks like a glade in lush gren woods.)

So, I can’t wait to see that day in Than­dalam.

Long-term ex­er­cise


(Clock­wise from left) Paddy fields in Than­dalam, a monkey bound­ing off OMR and a mile­stone in the vicin­ity

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