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City Tour

Nagar Valam (1976), Sci-Fi of Sujatha was in limelight during the Tsunami attack. Two weeks back an English translation of the story appeared in Sunday issue of The Indian Express.
The same is reproduced in my blog. Ranga Rengarajan(Sujatha’s son) has done the translation.

City Tour

That craft was very big. But we couldn’t call it a ship. A big craft built for the pleasures of its passengers. In the upper deck amongst comfortably standing, sitting, basking in the sun,lazily swimming in a moon-shaped pool people was Aathma waiting for Nithya.

Not really paying any attention to the book in his hand… he kept glancing at pretty Nithya who was visible every now and then. We couldn’t tell that the craft was going very fast.

Powered by a nuclear power plant in its belly it kept floating on an air cushion.

For Aathma this trip was an important event in his life… In eleven minutes the craft will reach



His ancestral place! His great-great-great grandfather’s… family had a house here! And where was it? Triplicane... In Theradi street… Near the temple… the computer told him...

A young man stood in front of him and smiled. He had a small label that said, “guide.”
“Is everything fine?” he enquired.

Aathma shook his head.

“Your wife seems to like this trip a lot!” He said glancing at Nithya dive like an arrow into the pool. “Aathma! Join me” Nithya yelled.

Aathma shook his head.

A gentle breeze ruffled Aathma’s clothes. A sense of joy welled up in him…

“When will we reach Chennai?”

“In thirteen minutes!”

Aathma looked into the distance. The ocean was lazing in an orange hue.
The smell of ozone caught Aathma nose. The loudspeaker sparked to life

“Attention... Dear Passengers! Attention! This is the Captain speaking. A warm welcome to all you passengers who have come to see Chennai on this luxury craft.
This is your craft. There is nothing that is not available on board. This craft is a marvel of modern science. Right now we are cruising at five hundred miles an hour. This craft can go on the ocean, go underwater and even hover on land!

If you need an introduction to Chennai since you are here to visit the many places of Chennai, please use the headphones nearest you. Thank you!”

Aathma had finished reading everything about Chennai. Still he felt pangs of anticipation every time he heard Chennai name mentioned. He put on the headphones. He heard a sweet persuasive voice along with some music playing in the background.

Although Chennai or Madras, which was a very important city in South India, existed much before, its formal history began in the year 1639, on the 23rd of August, when Tharmala Aiyappa Nayagan gave permission to Francis Day to build the St. George Fort…

“Day arrived in 1640 in the month of February with twenty five European sepoys and Nagapattan, a Indian expert on explosives. The outer walls of the St George fort were completed in 1640 on the 23rd of April...”

Nithya toweled herself, sat next to Aathma and pressed her ears on his headphones.

“Madras Pattinam was its old name” We do not know the exact origins of this name.
It could have been derived from Matha Raju, who was a king during that time...
Or from a sea-faring tribe called Marakkal rayars, it could have been called Marakkal Rayar before it finally became Madras Pattinam...

Nithya poked Aathma. He lowered his headphones.

“How many times will you keep listening to the history of Chennai? I am bored”

“This is our town Nithya! “We will be going to our home!”

“What will you see in your ancestral home?” “Will there be something stuck on the wall to say that Aathma will be born 350 years from now?”

“It is going to be difficult to even find the house first” “And who knows in what shape it will be”

Most of the homes seem to be in good shape... Hey the guide was enquiring about you...”

“Yeah. He kept looking at me...”

“How do you know that?”

“Every direction I looked he seemed to be there...”

“Cover your chest. You might catch a cold”

“I am hungry”

Why don’t you go down and eat something. I will come after hearing this out.
Be back in five minutes though... We will be reaching Chennai.”

Aathma put his headphones on again.

“While digging the foundation for Mylapore’s Lazarus Church they came upon Manuel Mathras tombstone. Mathra’s family was quite a wealthy family. So it is possible to think it could have come from Mathra’s name.

Mathraza is a Persian word to mean a school or college. There could been an old

Mohammedan school there. So the name could have come from there too...

Anyway the name Chennai stuck.

One by one the passengers were making their way to the upper deck. We are approaching Chennai! Aathma’s heart was pounding! He felt he was approaching his mother...

How far he has come on this journey... He had a holiday on Astro 7. Nithya had a holiday. They caught a shuttle from there to the space station. They didn’t get a reservation and had to wait on the floating station for two days before they got one,
And caught the planetary ship to earth and another trip on earth... a week of stay in hotels, strange journeys, strange rooms, strange faces…

“Why are you so adamant to make this trip? We are wasting our holidays here! We could

have gone to so many new places! They say Helios, the new colony, is like heaven!
You and your Chennai! Be miserable with your history!

“If you didn’t like it, you could have made a trip on your own Nithya!”

“Yeah. I unknowingly made a mistake. Earth is so boring!”

The moment he had heard the news about the discovery Chennai in Astro 7 he was beside himself. He saved money his holidays… and reached here.

“You have seen Chennai. Haven’t you?”

“Once a day… That’s my job!”

“You know all the places don’t you?”

He laughed. “High court, Santhome, Anna Salai, Valluvar Kottam, Kapalesvarar Temple, Kandaswamy temple, fort… What do you want?”

“Do you know Triplicane?”

“Parthasarathy temple is there” Join the third queue.

There on Therady Street is a house…
House?” he looked surprised.


Before he could answer there heard a siren.

”Pay attention. Pay attention” Please stand clear of the upper portions of the craft. The craft is covering itself.

All the people in the upper deck stood in the center. They heard the hum of the engines and a semi-circular plastic wall started to enclose the craft. Suddenly they were engulfed in silence and anticipation.

“Please pay attention. The craft is going to descend into the ocean. We are going to reach Chennai in three minutes… Towards the end of the twenty first century the sea submerged Chennai. With the help of modern science, all the old buildings have been scrubbed, made clean and restored. They are waiting for you! Your craft will submerge and go on the streets of Chennai. There you will hear descriptions of the streets. We will reach St George in two minutes…”

The craft began to submerge.

The craft started to roll in its silvery wake. It was really quiet.

Dear Desikan Kudos again.Saw Ur blog dated 1-02-05 1 p.m at 10-52 0f 1-02-05 here at maryland.Since my 'Blog Guru' my 2nd son left gor office I had all the time to go thro' ur blog.I have just added a few lines to my 'Srirangam the Beauty'.
Regarding your bibliographical references for Andal and the 4000 gems pl add one more"The Dravidian Saints of South India" by Alkondavilli Govindacharya who was an engineer and later a philosopher and prolific writer of Bombay published by Ananthacharya Indological Publications Bombay.
May Lord Ranganatha be with U
partha krishnaswamy | Email | Homepage | 02.01.05 - 9:11 pm | #


It was nice prediction really good, and well, desi, you are not updating the chat pages from ambalam or what?
srishiv | Email | Homepage | 02.02.05 - 12:07 am | #

By Desikan, at Thu Feb 03, 06:13:16 PM IST  

Desikan, Just the right time to publish the translated version of this excellent futuristic novel of Sujatha.... But nothing to beat the Original.... Tamil le padikara sugame thani ! .. sorry if i am sounding "linguistist".... Ranga Rangarajan should probably have taken more tips on the techniques of translation from his dad... .. still i suppose a good read to ppl who cant read tamil...
Latha | Email | 02.03.05 - 6:54 pm | #


Desi, Star rating is for what? ur blog or the translation?
Latha | Email | 02.03.05 - 7:02 pm | #

By Desikan, at Thu Feb 03, 08:00:38 PM IST  


The translation posted was the 1st draft.
It was refined by his dad(Sujatha) and then got published in Express.
If I get hold of the published copy I will share it.

- desikan

By Desikan, at Thu Feb 03, 08:04:39 PM IST  


Star rating is for the post ;-).
More details at
- desikan