A couple of months before Madras Day and Madras Week, a group of catalysts or coordinators get together to plan activities for the week. The past two or three years, Madras Day has grown to Madras Week and more, with events spilling over into a whole fortnight.
This year, we thought of having two press conferences – the first a month ahead to announce the celebrations and to invite people who are interested to participate, and the second announcing the complete list of programmes. The first press conference is over and the response to what appeared in the newspapers the following day and after has been quite encouraging. Many called though to explore the possibility of tie-ups with the commercial aspect in mind and they were all sweetly discouraged.
For all that, most people are still not aware of what Madras Day and Madras Week are all about. Those who have participated earlier tend not to mark the week in their calendar. Very few take the initiative to do things on their own. One such is Suma Padmanabhan, principal, Asan Memorial School. This time, even before the group of catalysts had met, she had called for a meeting with her staff and students to discuss the celebrations. The other thing is that unlike most school principals I know, Suma is available on a direct telephone line. You call the number and she picks up; if she is not in her seat, nobody picks up. And that’s the way it should be.
I have not received the Asan schedule for Madras Week yet, but Suma has said that the focus this year will be on Madras as a pioneer in education in India. Mr Muthiah, city historian, would simply love that. He keeps saying that at every forum – that Madras is the first city of modern India.
I was also able to convince my good friend Meena Dadha of the Mukti Foundation to be a part of the week’s celebrations. She readily agreed, and her Prakrit Arts in Kotturpuram will have eight Chennai-based artists present ‘Besh, Besh, Besh’, a candid view of life in the city, the simplicity of its people and its tree-lined streets. These are not really the well-known artists, but those whose works are waiting to be seen and appreciated - Rama Suresh, Manisha Raju, Raju Durshettiwar, Nelson, Taygrajan, Usha Devi, N. Ramchandran and Vinay. I managed a coup of sorts by getting Mr Muthiah to agree to inaugurate the exhibition on August 15. Meena’s show will be on for a week.