It is a dull and gloomy day as I and my friends walk towards MGR Memorial, an edifice that commemorates the life of former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, M. G. Ramachandran. Built over 8.25 acres campus at Marina beach in Chennai, India, the memorial is located contiguous with the Anna Memorial and has the highest footfall on the seafront. The prime reason for this being that this memorial is considered a temple of a leader and hero, in the hearts of the thousands of people, or shall I call them fans, for whom he served and in whose memories M. G. Ramachandran is enshrined forever.
I have been there many times- Every evening at the beach as a kid, I would often go up the steps to pause and gaze – visiting is always a wonderful and moving experience. I sit on a bench in the garden beside the memorial. Inspiring my words are the tranquil melodies of an old man’s flute. His music attracts chirping birds to the water pond below, from their hiding spaces in the surrounding trees. I feel a sense of déjà vu, maybe the silent mountains beside a flowing river, in a story I once read. I come here on some evenings to watch the fading light of dusk. And he to play his flute. We haven’t felt the need to interact yet. This is Chennai; feels like like entering a dream, as well as waking up from one. We dabble our feet in a little bit of everything happening around us yet we are unconcerned by them.
I enjoy the ambiance here, with the beach on one side and traffic laden road on the opposite side. Truth is, being here inspires me to contemplate life, realize the importance of the little things, and pen down my thoughts. Like every other person coming here, I too rest my ears on the tombstone to listen to the Rado watch that ticks within. On sunny days, this is literally crowded with MGR fans and political party men who come to pay their homage.
The memorial itself is grand and majestic, an apt way to remember Tamilnadu’s greatest leader. In this temple, as in the hearts of the people, the memory of their leader is enshrined forever. And then there is the bust of M.G. Ramachandran himself – glimmering in the sun, with an august expression, but also radiating the peace that he always wanted to achieve in his short life. That others, most famously the Chief minister of Tamilnadu, J. Jayalalithaa, have stood on the steps of the memorial and called on the people to redeem the legacy of MGR, adds an ever greater sense of history to the place.
Still the memorial itself is crowded too. It’s filled with students and people of all ages and barrier free in its design. Most tend to linger, sitting in the gardens. You can at once chat with your family and friends about the rest of the day as you look across the sea and consider the grand sweep of Tamil history.
I would recommend to anybody who is visiting Chennai. Although the MGR Memorial is just one of the District’s many monuments, the exceedingly imposing Anna memorial is also among travelers’ favorites. History cognoscenti might enjoy the man of few words’ (albeit powerful words) famous movies and dialogues, the songs filled with wisdom, which are all etched into the memories of people even after nearly 2 generations. Meanwhile, art history and architecture enthusiasts will enjoy admiring the building’s striking design and the University of Madras building across the road.
Though most agree the MGR Memorial can be visited at day or night, many recent travelers say the most captivating time to visit is during the sunset.
Walking back as day light fades out, I see the kids playing excitedly gather around their father asking him to pick them up, and he is dragged to the ice cream shop nearby. That moment reminded me of my childhood. Time flies. With time, people may come and go but a very few mark their presence in the pages of history and stand the test of time. I walk back inspired, with a newly lit fire inside while being peaceful and relaxed on the outside, chasing my dreams. Au revoir!
As the sun sets, the night slowly engulfs the shimmering memorial.