Fifty years from now…

Here is a topographical-history project of the IT Corridor that will be completed this year and revisited five decades later

Here is something you can do today that guarantees raised eyebrows 50 years from now. With your digital camera, just shoot a landscape, and salt the image away. On 11 February, 2069, retrieve it. A note: As human existence is largely devoid of cast-iron guarantees, bequeath the image along with the storage device to someone, and leave behind clear instructions on what to do with it.

Whoever — let us hope it is you — retrieves the image should compare the photo with what has become of that landscape. As part of a topographical-history project, this year I am capturing the milestones and what lies around them, on Old Mahabalipuram Road (OMR). In 2069, when I may probably start feeling old and a bit too rusty to range over the outdoorsy spaces at will, I would retrieve each milestone-photo, 50 years to the day, and probably ensure I am driven to that milestone, and compare the image with the altered reality. It is an exercise I am eagerly looking forward to. And this is what is keeping me going.

Here, in this column, I am presenting images of a milestone (and a bit of its precincts on the eastern side), found in Thandalam on OMR and marked 45 kilometres from Chennai. There is nothing really spectacular about the picture, except that it presents a reality that does not quite mesh with widely prevailing notions about the IT Corridor. There are paddy fields on both sides, more so on the eastern section. There is a hint of “development”. A huge construction project is under way on the western side. While I was shooting the milestone, a bit against the light, two monkeys bounded past me. So, I am putting away for later retrieval, a less-than-perfect image I clicked of one of the two fast-moving monkeys.

Even now, if I were to show these photos to my techie friends living in the bustling parts of the IT Corridor lined with imposing, glass-facaded buildings, I could reasonably expect to see a flicker of surprise in their eyes.

And so, imagine the surprise my presentation would be greeted with, 50 years from now

It would be akin to our response now to incredible images that showcase Madras’ past topographies. (For example, the image of Mowbray’s Road from many decades ago, which looks like a glade in lush gren woods.)

So, I can’t wait to see that day in Thandalam.

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