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Postcards featuring iconic Madras buildings set to be launched on Madras Day

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Postcardsville is set to launch a collection of postcards featuring sketches of then and now depictions of Madras’ iconic buildings

Postcardsville is set to launch a collection of postcards featuring sketches of then and now depictions of Madras’ iconic buildings

Something old, something new, and a whole lot of love for the city of Madras: this is what these postcards are made of. There are 15 of them, done mostly in black and white, bearing sketches of iconic buildings from the city with then-and-now renditions. Photographer and creative entrepreneur P Venkatesan, who has printed them through his venture Postcardsville.com, calls the collection Reflections: Madras/Chennai, and plans to release it on Madras Day.

The postcards will be on display alongside an exhibition of vintage images and postcards titled Serving the Raj – Hired Help in Colonial Madras, curated by Venkatesh Ramakrishnan of Madras Local History Group. They are Venkatesan’s tribute to ‘Lighthouse man’ D Hemachandra Rao, who passed away recently. Hemachandra, also a philatelist, had turned his house into the Maritime Heritage Museum. “He was a good friend and an inspiration and I hoped to get him to launch these postcards,“ says Venkatesh. “Last year on Madras Day, he visited four post offices in the city to create cancellation covers bearing the stamp with the date,” he remembers. “He did so despite his age; he was over 80 years old then.“

One of the postcards in the series depicts a bullock cart rolling by the clocktower at Mint Street. Others feature the towers of Madras High Court towers rising from thick tree cover; the Ice House standing on a near-empty road in which a horse-drawn cart trundles by…city artist Meganath Venkatesan has sketched a city of quiet roads as well as one that has been quick to adapt. Other buildings featured include Egmore and Central Railway Stations, Chepauk Palace, Egmore Museum, Anna University, and Spencer Plaza. “We picked places that had reliable old photos for reference,” says Venkatesan, who is currently based in Kanchipuram. Venkatesan and his six-member team form the core of Postcardsville, that the former started in 2020.

A rendition of Ice House
| Photo Credit: Special arrangement

“I have been writing postcards through the Postcrossing platform since 2012,” says Venkatesan, who then lived in Bengaluru. For the 43-year-old, a postcard need not necessarily be just a pretty picture of a place. It can also tell a story, a beautiful one at that. Which is why he decided to make his own postcards, and sell them too. “We have made 40 different sets over the past couple of years, and have collaborated with India Post nine times,” he explains.

Madras High court, then and now

Madras High court, then and now
| Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Themes include traditional toys of India featuring crafts from 12 States, women in Nature, dog breeds in India, our country’s lighthouses, and more. “We thought that the receiver should get something more, rather than just the idea that India is beautiful,” says Venkatesan, whose nine-year-old daughter is also into writing postcards through Postcrossing.

Postcardsville has sold two lakh postcards so far. “We have collaborated with over a hundred artists and photographers from across India, apart from NGOs,” he adds. Over several years of writing postcards, Venkatesh has accumulated quite a collection: 800 of the 4000 he owns comprise of just lighthouses from across the world.

 P Venkatesan who started Postcardsville.com

 P Venkatesan who started Postcardsville.com
| Photo Credit: Special arrangement

“Sending a postcard is an art of giving as well as receiving; I sometimes receive postcards from places I cannot even dream of,” he says. He regularly writes to 50 to 60 of his pen pals and has made friends from the unlikeliest of places, such as a 68-year-old retired school teacher from Denmark, who once sent him a package with postcards as well as newspaper cuttings on the conservation efforts of the 120-year-old Rubjerg Knude lighthouse in Northern Denmark.

Reflections – Madras / Chennai is being launched at 11.30am on August 22 at Madras Literary Society, DPI Campus, Thousand Lights.



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