No time for clock towers

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Two years back, the city corporation announced in its budget that it would establish new clock towers in Chennai, but nothing has materialised.

At the same time, the civic body continues to remain indifferent to the few clock towers in Chennai.

A visit by this correspondent around the city revealed that only a few clock towers mounted on historical buildings like Red Building, housing Chennai Central railway station, and the ones at Madras University and College of Engineering-Guindy are well-maintained.

But the smaller ones that are equally popular among the locals are now crying for attention.

There are at least three clock towers: the one at Doveton junction, another at Pattalam Strahans road and yet another at Royapettah junction - that are poorly maintained. The one at Madras University not only strikes the hour perfectly, but also recites a Tirukkural.

These clock towers, called manikoondu in local parlance, also serve as an identity for arterial junctions and buildings. “Most of us working in the railways depend on clock towers at Central and Ripon Buildings.

The Central station clock tower carries the colonial legacy and is a masterpiece of Indo-Saracenic architecture in Chennai,” says Mr Gopalakrishan, loco pilot, Southern Railway – Madras division.

“Considering the heritage value, the clock tower in Ripon Buildings was given a facelift and restored to its original glory,” says former Chennai mayor M. Subramanian.

The DMK council in the corporation announced installation of clock towers and even identified spots across the city. North Chennai was to have 10 such new clock towers, but the elections, regime change and bureaucracy marred the proposal, he adds.

“The chime that each clock tower in the city made still remains fresh in my mind,” recalls 80-year-old M. Ranganathan. “Each time I pass Ripon Buildings, I gaze at the clock and nostalgic memories of my office days would come to mind,” said the former state government employee.

Those were the days when watches were very rare, or rather expensive, but now almost all youngsters wear watch or can check the mobile for time, he adds.

“Mayor Saidai Duraisamy’s budget speech has mentioned new clock towers in Chennai and works in this regard would commence soon. Restoration of old clock towers would be taken up,” informed a corporation official.

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