They closed down Woodlands Drive in yesterday.
Cathedral Road, Chennai, will never be the same again.
Todays Hindu reports that by an order of the High Court, the drive in restaurant stands closed from Friday 11, Feb, 2008. Feels as if one more nail has been driven into the coffin of ‘old and gentle’ Madras. Woodlands Drive in : Rest in Peace.
The saving grace is that it seems that the Government wants to convert that campus into a botanical / horticulture garden. Thats what they say. Time will tell.
Woodlands belongs to the collective memory of most who have been in Chennai (e.k.a Madras city). A sort of Mysore touch in the middle of Madras – A Malgudi hotel on the road that connected Marina to Gemini Studio. One still remembers the arch of Gemini Studio at that end of Cathedral Road. All that has gone. The friendly environment of USIS Library (United States Information Service, that was in the US Consulate there), has been trasformed into an Alcatraz sort of barbwired fortress. And the last of the bastions, the friendly Woodlands Drive In restaurant, has now downed its shutters.
What a watering hole it was. People from all walks of life converged there. There were the legends like the famous playback singer PB Srinivasan, with his characteristic cap, a dozen pens sticking out of his shirt pocket, sitting in the Self-service side of that restaurant, composing and writing lyrics for new songs. Industrialists like Arjun Raja, who would come directly from Board Meetings, to enjoy the open-air-ambiance, delicious tiffin and coffee. Or the youngsters from colleges nearby. Families…And the germinators of Software Industry – the young colts from TCS offices in Lloyds Road, Cathedral Road and Bishop Wallers Avenue….
Tin-steel-topped tables. Old fashioned wooden chairs. A choice of dishes. A just-right dish of Pongal Avial, a cool-cool dish of Bagaala Bath, a greasy spread of Chana-Batura, a nice large plate of Masala Dosa, or simple dishes of bisi-bele-bath, or tomato rice with pachdi…Coffee in Tumbler-Davara, sugar seperate.
And after that, to relax on the circular platform in the shade of the spreading Peepal tree, chewing pieces of poisonous paakku (supaari).
After a lapse of many years, by some stroke of providence, I visited “Woodlands Drive In” just a week ago. On a hot afternoon, I walked across to the restaurant, and had a plate of Chana-Batura. I had no idea that it was going to be closed down soon, but did get a sepulchral sort of feeling as I looked around. But the old tastes still lingered. The old waiters were still there. It was like seeing an old, classic, black and white movie, once more. It felt like home.
That home now is no more.
Goodbye Woodlands Drive in. Goodbye you ‘old reliable’, and God Bless.
Folks! The Memorial Register is open. Type in your tributes.