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A sentinel to the transformation of a village of potteries, refractories, and fireplaces

Updated on April 20, 2016
Venkatachari M profile image

Venkat loves arts and literature and keeps reading books of all genre and developed an interest in writing literary and fictional articles.

Significance and relevancy of this article - writing prompts

This attempt of my article is intended to be in reply to the Hubpages challenge "The Lone Sentinel" given by our best friend Bill Holland. He always inspires and encourages writers by giving great writing tips and ideas. His writing challenges are good prompts stimulating instincts in writers to express themselves openly. So, after trespassing and overcoming some fears and doubts, I thought on giving a try to this challenge in my own way.

The prompt for this challenge is a picture provided by Bill Holland which is to be used by those meeting the challenge. I can write anything that I may like using that picture in my own way as per his hints. So, I want to recollect some of my childhood memories about a village where I lived during my college studies and my later findings of the recent developments that took place at that place.

The Lone Sentinel

The Lone Sentinel welcoming you into the village and bidding Goodbye whenever you leave
The Lone Sentinel welcoming you into the village and bidding Goodbye whenever you leave | Source

A sentinel at the entrance of the village

Venkat arrives at Kattankulathur, a suburb (tiny village at that time) on the outskirts of Chennai city of Southern India after his father's death. He was still in the first year of his college studies when his father passed away due to some unknown cause. Mother was already lost when he was in his 7th Class. His parents were living in Chennai city till then in a busy area. Venkat's elder brother was settled in a job and was living at some far off place in Northern India. He arrived (on reaching the death news) along with his family and performed the last rites. Venkat's younger sister was taken by them leaving the other three siblings with their uncle. His uncle was staying in a thatched house in that village named Kattankulathur and so takes these three brothers to his house in a local train. So, Venkat arrived at Kattankulathur village. He descends the suburban train after a long journey of more than 25 km from his old residence and follows his uncle on the way to their new house which is located 2 km interior from the railway station. The path is very rough with narrow paths through rocks and deserted and barren woody and hilly places. A tall deserted fireplace, almost ruined and standing like a sentinel at the entrance of a muddy road that leads to the village greeted him. Venkat and his siblings wondered what it is and why it is standing there like that since there is no trace of any buildings or colony within the one-kilometer radius of that ruined remaining of that construction except long trees resembling a wood.

Glimpses of village life and old fireplaces

The old gentle man telling the story of that village and fate of the fireplace while doing his work of weaving a mat with leaves.
The old gentle man telling the story of that village and fate of the fireplace while doing his work of weaving a mat with leaves. | Source
People making potteries in that village
People making potteries in that village | Source
Bricks making furnaces and chimneys
Bricks making furnaces and chimneys | Source

Story of The Lone Sentinel, pottery and brick industry

So, Venkat enquiries his uncle about the story of that deserted fireplace standing out there at the entrance of their village. But his uncle also does not know about it as they had settled there only recently on purchasing a plot very cheaply (being unable to bear the heavy costs of the city life). After a couple of days, Venkat thinks of clearing the mystery of that tall ruined fireplace. So, he approaches some nearby old-aged neighbours and requests them to tell him something about the history of their village and that deserted fireplace. One old gentleman narrated the story of it as follows.

Their village was a part of a big business hub producing bricks and pottery on large scales and supplying the same all over the regions of Southern India. At that time, Chengalpattu district (as it was known during those days- later it became part of Madras Presidency and then Chennai) was the most important camp for British East India Company in the 18th century and 19th century. But the original rulers there were Vijayanagara emperors and then Deccan Sultanates and their hierarchy. So, there were always wars between the kings and sultanates and everything was terror filled. The East India Company used to overpower these local rulers using all possible means of power and business tactics. Because of terror and insecurity, people used to flee from these villages to some safer places deserting everything. And wars destroyed much of the properties and killed many people and left most of them homeless. This fireplace was one of such victims of wars in the early nineteenth century. The owner of it had a large business of refractory bricks which have all been destroyed and lost during those wars and destructions. So, the owner left that place with his remaining family and belongings during the year 1920 or so and settled in a far away safer place.

The gentleman further told that the village is only recently recovering from all those horrors and painful memories after India attained independence. It gradually started becoming a habitable place with new hopes.The plots are very cheap there and those who are unable to bear the costs of city life are slowly moving to these outskirts of the city. So, when Venkat arrived there with his younger brothers in the year 1970, that village was a very peaceful place even though most of it contained rocky and deserted places and very few houses are there with most of the fields surrounded by tall trees as their fences all around.


Places Venkat lived till getting Degree

show route and directions
A markerKattankolathur -
Kattankolatur R.F., Tamil Nadu, India
get directions

B markerChengalpattu -
Chengalpattu, Tamil Nadu, India
get directions

C markerChennai -
Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
get directions

What do you think?

Is everything in this story a fiction?

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Life changed within 40 years in that village

Venkat left that village along with his siblings on completion of his college education to join his elder brother in Uttar Pradesh. He found a job as an accountant in a cement factory there and got married and settled there. They had children and enjoyed life but contacts with his uncle and their family were broken totally after the marriage. So he had no news of any further developments about his uncle's village where that lonely sentinel used to welcome the people.

After a long span of more than 30 years, Venkat resigned the job at U.P. and planned to return to Hyderabad city on his son getting a job in Hyderabad. So, they reached Hyderabad with bag and baggage and settled there. Venkat then worked in a private TV serial making Company as an Accountant for 4, 5 years. During that period, he gets a chance to visit Chennai on some office work and plans to revisit all those childhood places to refresh his memories of childhood. He thinks of going to that uncle's village also even though he knew that his uncle is no more and his children have already left that place decades back. Venkat simply wanted to have a look at the present living conditions of those villagers and also see that sentinel and confirm whether it is still there and get some knowledge about further progress of that village.

A world class University in place of an old deserted village

But, when Venkat reached Kattankolathur and descended the train, he was stunned to find tall beautiful buildings with concrete roads greeting him. The entire atmosphere there has changed with beautiful paths, gardens and hi-fi buildings and a large university campus greeting him as he proceeded further. The entire place has become a hub for a world class university. And what was more amazing was that the place where "The Lone Sentinel" was standing has become the main entrance gate for the SRM University auditorium. Life has entirely changed there. People were more civilised and literate and no traces of those old hardships were found in their lives.

Venkat was very pleased to see all these developments, even though, in a corner of his memories the lone sentinel is still there standing, greeting him.

SRM University buildings

View from railway station of the changed village of Kattankolathur which has become the hub of world class SRM University
View from railway station of the changed village of Kattankolathur which has become the hub of world class SRM University | Source
The main entrance of the university auditorium is erected exactly at the same place where once the ruined lone sentinel stood.
The main entrance of the university auditorium is erected exactly at the same place where once the ruined lone sentinel stood. | Source
Tech Park of SRM University, Kattankolathur
Tech Park of SRM University, Kattankolathur | Source

How they used to burn bricks in man made kilns-The brick industry

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    • Venkatachari M profile image
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      Venkatachari M 2 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      Thanks, sriv, for visiting and leaving a nice comment.

    • sriv profile image

      Parul Srivastava 2 years ago from Lucknow,India

      Such a well written story merging fiction and facts.Thanks for sharing.

    • Venkatachari M profile image
      Author

      Venkatachari M 2 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      Yes, there can be many such incidents, Tamara. I think that fire places and chimneys don't get burnt and destroyed completely. They always remain as reminiscent of history. That is why we find them at deserted places and even in middle areas.

      Thanks for your visit and nice feedback.

    • tamarawilhite profile image

      Tamara Wilhite 2 years ago from Fort Worth, Texas

      One can sometimes find fireplaces in the middle of areas that have returned to forest, in marginal areas people farmed and then abandoned. There was one fireplace in the woods near my elementary school, a source of curiosity for kids - until we found out if was all that was left after the wood cabin burned down.

    • Venkatachari M profile image
      Author

      Venkatachari M 2 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      Thank you, Jodah. I am glad to see your nice comment. Thank you for your visit and voting up also.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      This was a very interesting response to Bill's challenge Venkat. I enjoyed the way you merged historical fact in with some fiction and also personal experience. It was an enjoyable read. Voted up.

    • Venkatachari M profile image
      Author

      Venkatachari M 2 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      Thank you, Sarah, for visiting my hub and leaving a nice comment.

    • Sara Sarwar Riaz profile image

      Sara Sarwar Riaz 2 years ago from Michigan, USA

      A very inspiring compilation of historical facts interspersed with fiction, thoroughly enjoyed reading your story.

    • Venkatachari M profile image
      Author

      Venkatachari M 2 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      Thank you, Jackie. I am humbled at your nice comment. Thanks for the voting and sharing.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

      What a great storyteller you are! Wow. Voting up and sharing; as you well deserve.

    • Venkatachari M profile image
      Author

      Venkatachari M 2 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      Thank you Chris, for your visit and so nice a comment. I am glad it appealed to you.

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 2 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Venkatachari M, you have given us here such a wonderful story, rich in Indian culture, which is a rare treat for anyone unfamiliar with life in the Indian sub continent. I felt a bit of sadness when the sentinel was gone at the end. But it did remain in his memories. Thank you for taking such care to share your story, a fine response to this challenge.

    • Venkatachari M profile image
      Author

      Venkatachari M 2 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      Thank you, homeplace series, for your visit and a nice comment.

    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 2 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Thank you for sharing your very distinctive Lone Sentinel story. Special, indeed! ;-)

    • Venkatachari M profile image
      Author

      Venkatachari M 2 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      Thank you, Eric Dierker. Glad to see it appealed to you in remembering your childhood. Thanks for your visit and a nice comment.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      What an interesting response to this challenge. It took me back to visiting my own childhood places and the feelings that brings with it. So you did a great job with this piece.

    • Venkatachari M profile image
      Author

      Venkatachari M 2 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      Thank you Dora, for your visit and such a nice comment.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      I can see that the challenge satisfied you on many levels; in turn you satisfy the reader with a good story! You're a good story teller.

    • Venkatachari M profile image
      Author

      Venkatachari M 2 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      Thanks Bill, for your immediate visit and a nice encouraging comment.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Weaving truth with fiction is what we writers do, and you did it so well in this fine story. Very well done, my friend. Thank you for the kind words and for taking part in this challenge.

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