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MADRAS MISCELLANY

From Abbotsbury to Hyatt?

S.MUTHIAH

It was recently reported that that ghost of a tinted glass tower in Teynampet, overlooking Anna Arivalayam, had at last found a new owner _ Hyatt International, the worldwide hotel chain. The sepulchral building had in recent years become better known as the `Oberoi', the Oberoi Group having been scheduled to manage the property that Magunta Subbarama Reddy was building before he suddenly died under tragic circumstances. With the funds no longer forthcoming, the Oberois pulled out and the completed shell _ only the interiors need to be completed, I'm told _ was allowed to languish for nearly a decade.While all this was going on, the original name of the property, not so long ago a landmark name, was forgotten. These days, when I say `Abbotsbury' to a young auto or car driver, I'm often met with a blank stare.

But from when was the name `Abbotsbury' used for what undoubtedly was at one time a garden house? A 1942 map shows it as Teynampet Villa - and that could well have been the name when P.S. Viswanatha Iyer, I.C.S., lived there, the property being the Government quarters he was allotted in the late 1940s. During World War II, it was, I'm told, requisitioned by the Government for the Services _ but to what use was it put? By the time I first heard of it in the early 1950s, it was Abbotsbury _ and Madras's most prestigious kalyana mandapam. Owned by whom, I don't know, but somewhere along the way it became Tarapore property. They gifted it to Sai Baba of Puttaparthi _ who sold it to the Magunta Reddys in, if memory serves me right, the 1990s.

As a marriage hall luxurious for the times, it hosted many a VIP wedding. I'm told two of the three Travancore Sisters _ Lalitha, Padmini, and Ragini _ got married here. A wag has it that an Abbot was buried here _ and not only is that why it was called Abbotsbury, but it also accounted for it being star-crossed, with several high profile weddings ending not exactly happy ever after.

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