A Sentinel to the Transformation of a Village of Potteries, Refractories into An Educational Hub
Significance and Purpose of This Article
Through this article, I wanted to highlight some unexpected and unique transformation of a village of my childhood into a great educational center for one of the country's famous Universities with Advanced Studies.
Though this attempt was intended to be in reply to the HubPages challenge "The Lone Sentinel" given by one great writer Bill Holland, I thought on giving a try to this challenge in my own way by telling a story of the real feelings and experiences of my own life regarding my childhood village.
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 inserted that same image as my first photo and then went on narrating the happenings in that village by recollecting some of my childhood memories about that village where I lived during my high school and college studies and then, incorporating my later findings of the recent developments that took place in that village during my latest visit to it.
The Lone Sentinel
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 uncle was staying in a thatched house in that village. 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
Story of The Lone Sentinel, Pottery and Brick Industry
So, Venkat inquiries 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 some years back by 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 neighbors doing carpentry 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 the terror and insecurity, people used to flee from these villages to some safer havens deserting everything behind. 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, manufacturing bricks, with many units at many places around. But those refractories have all been destroyed during those wars and destructions. The owner left that place with his remaining family and belongings during the 1930s or so and settled in a far-off safer place.
The gentleman further told that the village is only recently recovering from all those horrors and painful memories after India attained independence and most older people have demised or left the place. Only recently it 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 standing as their fences all around.
So, that was the story of the sentinel standing there greeting people in its deserted form.
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What do you think?
Is everything in this story a fiction?
Planning a Re-Visit to 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 have a glimpse of that Sentinel. He wanted to confirm whether it is still there and to get some knowledge about further progress of that village.
A World-Class University in Place of Old Deserted Village
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 civilized and literate and no traces of those old hardships were found in their lives.
Venkat gets very pleased to see all these developments, even though, in a corner of his memories the lone sentinel is still there standing, greeting him.