Well, the Madras Week celebrations are coming up soon, and the coordinators are at work, all voluntary work, that is. The coordinators are basically more like catalysts who try and motivate people in the city, in different areas, to put up something related to the city’s heritage on Madras Day or during Madras Week, which this year is between August 21 and 28. Of course, you can always organise a programme before and after these dates; after all, the dates are more indicative than anything else.
Starting off the blocks before the others, like it has been doing almost every year since the celebrations started in 2004, was Asan Memorial School. When I called Suma Padmanabhan, the principal, for the first hello of the year (it usually happens after we coordinators have had our first meeting, which is some time in June), she began listing out the theme and the people they had planned to call. The fact is Asan Memorial has Madras Week listed in the school calendar – I wonder how many other schools have it. I don’t think the Padma Seshadri group of schools has it either, although they belong to the same cluster as Asan (we have what are called CBSE cluster schools now). Keep it going, Suma.
This year, Asan Memorial School has chosen the theme, ‘Our heritage in brick and mortar’ and Madras Week celebrations there will begin early – August 17 – and go on for three days. There will be an exhibition with models and charts conducted by the Social Science Department and the heritage club. Likely speakers at the inaugural and valedictory include the Nawab of Arcot, Kumararani Meena Muthiah, Gopika Varma and Shreekumar Varma. There will be an inter-school heritage quiz, ‘Heritage buildings of Madras’; preliminary rounds start at 9.30am on August 18, with the finals at 11am.
Another person who is off the blocks early always is Gita, the programme officer at DakshinaChitra now. I’ve known her a long time, from the time she ran the Adyar Arts Club close to her home in Besant Nagar. Gita is fast on the uptake and you just have to say something and she ensures things happen. So, this time, she has arranged a weeklong programme (August 21-28) at DakshinaChitra, with Abhishek Dadheech showcasing ‘Photographs of Chennai City’ at the seminar hall, a drawing competition for children in the 7-13-year age group with the theme, ‘Monuments of Chennai’, and a photography competition for children in the 11-15-year age group with the theme, ‘Bazaars of Chennai’. Well done, Gita.
Last year, Lakshmi Venkataraman was not very keen on being part of Madras Week, but this year it was different. She will provide space for two evenings - on August 22, when Chandrachoodan Gopalakrishnan will present ‘Ancient Light: Madras through the eyes of a photowalker’, and on the following day, when Chitra Madhavan will talk on ‘Lesser known temples of Chennai – some more’. However, celebrations will begin early at the gallery – on August 18 – with Maniam Selven (MaSe) exhibiting his paintings, the theme being ‘Madras: My Impressions’.
As always, Ashok Kedia (Garodia’s trusted man who is in charge of the trust activity after the philanthropist’s death) and the principal at Jaigopal Garodia Scjool, Anna Nagar, were only too pleased to host an afternoon of Madras Week celebrations. It’s on August 23, when Chandrachoodan Gopalakrishnan will suitably vary his presentation ‘Ancient Light: Madras through the eyes of a photowalker’ for a different audience comprising mainly students and teachers.
One of the heavyweight programmes this year (like in most years) is likely to be at Hotel Green Park, Vadapalani, where Spring and Zoom, KK Nagar, an activity centre for children, will welcome children to experiment and create exquisite products using the potter’s wheel and palm leaves, in what will be called ‘Madras – experience your cultural heritage’. Supported by resource persons from DakshinaChitra, it will be open to children five years and above. There will also be ‘Madras: Then and now’, a poster presentation by students.
Namma Arcot Road has lined up a pretty impressive run of speakers: Shreekumar Varma, Chandrachoodan Gopalakrishnan and Pradip Chakravarthy. Pradeep, as enthusiastic as always, will talk about how Kodambakkam is really the centre of Madras; he says he will look at how Madras was organised geographically in the 9th-12th centuries, what were some troublesome local governance issues and how they were resolved.
And for those who choose to stay back till the end of the show, there could be a special buffet dinner waiting at Hotel Green Park.