Chennai Port Heritage Walk
Chennai Port Heritage Walk

Chennai Port Heritage Walk

Heritage walks always interest me. So when I saw a post on a Fb page announcing a heritage walk in the Chennai Port, my eyes lit up with excitement. Its not everday that you can gain entry to the port. This was a good chance to do so and I made up my mind not to miss it.

On the appointed day I trudged up the starting point near the Reserve Bank of India Building(Near Fort St George). As always I was very early to the place. Dawn was just beginning to break and the streetlights of the desolate roads glowed yellowish against the blue of the morning sky. I passed the time aimlessly walking around. Slowly people started gathering at the point and I joined them. By the scheduled time of start a sizable group was gathered but our host from the Chennai Sailing club was nowhere to be seen. He arrived a full hour later apologizing profusely as he got stuck in some blockades due to a marathon that was scheduled that day. Later I found out a lot of the people who joined later were stuck in the same jam.

Our star guide for the walk was Mr K R A Narsiah, a historian and a Marine Engineer. The walk started off with a long and detailed summary of the history of the area. Later we moved on the Chennai Port Trust Building.Here there was a small talk about the foundation stones laid out. Next, inside the building was a bust of the famous Mathematician Ramanujan. I was perplexed. What is Ramanujan doing in Chennai port, I thought. Narsiah sir cleared things up. Ramanujan, I was fascinated to find out once worked in Chennai Port Trust as ‘Class III, Grade IV accounting clerk, making 30 rupees per month’. A short talk about Ramanujan later we moved further ahead to finally do the thing I was eagerly waiting all this time. Enter the Port.

But before that, a Fun Fact – What’s the connection between Yale University and Chennai ?
Answer – The first British Fortress in India was founded in Chennai(then Madras) in 1644. Its first president was a person called Elihu Yale. This guy Yale amassed a fortune while here in India and later donated a huge amount for the setting up of a college in Connecticut,US. Initially called The Collegiate School, it later changed its name to Yale.

Outside a bus was waiting for us to take us inside the port. After a short ride of 5 mins and a thorough check by the security at the gate we were dropped off at the Passenger Terminal Area. We got down from the bus and looked around. One one side was the Jawahar Dock and on the other side was the Passenger terminal shed. A ship, MV Akbar was docked. It was the first time I was looking at a passenger vessel from such close range. I could practically touch it. Though it was towering over us it didn’t make for a pretty sight.Because it was rusting everywhere. At first I felt like does this thing even move. Later I found out it does. Its a famous ship actually. Serves the Chennai – Port Blair Route. 

MV Akbar in all its rusty glory

After a short talk here by Narsiah Sir, we left the rusty ship and moved on to our next stop, the Royal Madras Yacht Club,the guys who were hosting this walk for us. On the way we stopped near a submarine. I was surprised to see a submarine just floating there in the water. Again Narsiah Sir came to our rescue. He explained that this particular submarine was bought here for the sole purpose of making it into a Museum along the lines of the Submarine Museum in Vishakapatnam. But due to some space constraints and other reasons the plan was held up and the Submarine called INS Vagli lies there just rotting away. The Hindu dated July 23 2017 states ”INS Vagli was commissioned into the Indian Navy at Riga in Latvia, which was part of the erstwhile Soviet Russia in 1974, and was decommissioned at Visakhapatnam in December 2010”.

INS Vagli

Next and last stop was the club itself. Here again there were some small talks by the club members and a Coastal Security Chief. After breakfast here, we were offered 45 minutes of sailing activity which I enjoyed immensely.

All of this nicely was organised by the Royal Madras Yacht Club. 
Shout out to you guys!!

Bonus- A video

For further reading
About our esteemed guide –
About INS Vagli –



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