Sunday, August 26, 2012

Prelims over! Madras Day 2012.

In which year did Madras become Chennai?
One question in the prelims.
Looks easy for  most people.

The quizzing community is here. Among the lot is sneior quizzer V V Ramanan, from The Hindu. The Quiz Master says that it is because of people like Ramanan that quizzing has kept expanding in this city.
Ramanan gets a big round of applause.

Five questions,. from 16 to 20 are visual questions.

It is 2.20pm and the QM is running through all the questions again for a last check.

The prelims is over.

Quiz opens

2 pm. Hotel Ambassador Pallava. Egmore.
The huge banquet hall.
200 people in the hall. Quiz Master - Dr. Sumath Raman.
First question in the prelims rolls - How many wards are in Chennai Corporation?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Adyar of the 60s: in photos.

The banks of the Adyar was like a picture shot in rural Tamil Nadu. 
The bungalows built in Gandhi Nagar copied the art deco style and defined the lifestyle of residents here.

The members of the Gandhi Nagar (Ladies) Womens Club may have had only a thatched roof but they looked a happy community. As did the kids who studied at the founding avatar of Besant Theosophical High School.

And Kalakshetra Colony was just a sandy casuarina thope ( grove).

All this and more of Adyar of the 50s and 60s can be seen at a unique photo exhibition that is up at Spaces, at the far north end of Elliots Beach, Besant Nagar.  Titled 'Adyar Social History Project in Photos' it is part of the annual Madras Week celebrations on now.

All the photos, of which a select few are on display have been contributed by people and institutions.
Brothers Sukumar and Ravikumar of Gandhi Nagar have shared pictures of the area as has Dhanasekaran of the Mudaliar family. Businessman Srivatsan from Bhaktavatsalam Nagar who is also a professional photographer has shared some stunning black and white pictures from his collection while Theosophical Society Publications shared pictures taken on the TS campus.

There are pictures copied from the Natchiappan Collection while Kamakshi Subramaniam's contribution gives us an idea of how Sardar Patel Road-Kasturba Nagar area looked like when the first houses were built here. Sekar Raghavan also made contributions.

There is a rare picture of the public clock tower which stands at the mouth of East Coast Road, near the Valmiki Temple ( it still stands here today) and one picture taken from considerable height from the area opposite what was once Satya Studios shows a wide view of Adyar river, the old bridge and areas off Besant Avenue.

The show has been put together by photographer C. P. Dhanasekar while Sadanand Menon at Spaces provided the venue.
It is open throughout Sunday, August 26.

Adyarites who wish to contribute pictures of life, places, people and sites of the area to the project can call 9444642491.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Highs and lows of Walking inside Fort St George

Heritage Walks receive great attention in this city, more so at Madras Week time when most are specially designed for this occasion.

V Sriram makes it a point not to repeat his Walks and is into his 70-plus Walk this season. The one in Alwarpet will be interesting.

I choose to focus on the Fort. Fort St George.
This place is a delight especially when you walk around it on Sundays. More so if you do this before 9 am.

The security at the main gate can put you off. Till last weekend I had not found out the simplest method to get a formal OK for Walks early in the mornings. The police secure the State Assembly and CM's office and may not be too keen what we do elsewhere. When Dr. Karunanidhi was the CM he used to drop in even on Sundays and so, the police had to be alert always.

They still are and so, last Sunday when 28 people had assembled for the Walk, I was still negotiating with an Inspector beneath the massive flagstaff at the Fort.

Thankfully, all the buzz and media coverage of Madras Week has created a great deal of awareness of this celebration and the Public Dept. of the State Govt. warmly okayed the Walk this Sunday  (Aug.26).

Yet, with over 35 people mailing us to say they will be joining me, I have had to close the sign-ins.
More so when a group of 40 Architecture students mailed us this week, asking to join us.

I hope to run another Fort Walk soon.
This the place that we want to be recognised as a Word Heritage Site.

Old Houses of our city; schools present great projects!

The annual Multimedia Project on Heritage for Schools is here to stay and we want to keep at it.
Because many students seem to take a deep interest in it.

The past years, we have been focussing on less known landmarks of the city as the contest's theme.
This year we chose to focus on Old Houses.

Though less schools registered, all of them - from St Kevins in Royapuram and St. Columbans in George Towne to PSBB in T Nagar and Bala Vidya Mandir in Adyar had very interesting presentations to make at the Srinivasa Sastri Hall, Luz.

We are pleased that SINA ( S India National Assn.) which manages the hall gives it rent-free to host this event ( Aug.21 this year).

This is a cosy hall that needs some maintenance but it is just the setting for such a contest.
Madhana Ratnavel, urban planner who is also Chair at The Environment Group at CII's Young Indians station was one of the judges.

Having just completed a Green Houses project for schools here, she enjoyed sitting through the Madras Week event and we hope to join hands to take this beyond being just an event.

I particularly loved the effort taken by the Jawahar Vidyalaya team from Ashok Nagar which spent time to locate a simple street, tiled house in Ekkaduthangal and found the simple families here welcoming them.

I think the students had a great experience working on this project and there is more to be done.

The PSBB School at T P Road, T Nagar team of Niveditha Bharathy, Anvita Ramachandran and R Ram Mohan won the rolling trophy for standing first. Their project was a row house on an agraharam street in Chintadripet.

The 2nd place was bagged by Chettinad Vidyashram - S Eshwar, S. Vishwesh and Jayanth Deshmukh - who studied a magnificent house on Coral Merchant Street in George Towne, once the hub of millionaries.

Bala Vidya Mandir - K P Tejaswini, B Kavya and Taruna Sudhakar - won the third prize. They studied a palatial bungalow in T. Nagar.

L & T supported the event and the trophies.

Some pictures are now posted on the Madras Day FaceBook page.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Focus on Gandhi Nagar, Adyar

One of the pleasing landscapes you get to enjoy in the Adyar area in south Madras is on Gandhi Nagar's 4th Main Road.

When you walk or drive west from the Fortis Hospitals side, you are greeted by this simple playground on your right, on the banks of the Adyar River. The open space is special.

Once a hub of sports activities, the ground became a ghost space after the men who managed its affairs got into some funny acts.

The ground has come alive again eversince a group of senior Gandhi Nagarians decided to regain control of this play space and develop it.

So, TNCA cricket leagues matches and those for city schools are not hosted here while walkers are encouraged to exercise and walk inside this green ground.

we tapped into the enthusiam of this group to suggest a Madras Week event and so, a Gandhi Nagar Walk is being planned by journalist G C Shekhar and community activist Shekar Raghavan.

Many VIPs of the city lived in this nagar which was perhaps the first planned and developed nagar of the city and where some of the best art deco bungalows came up.

Actors, writers, journalists, sportspeople and businessmen dotted this nagar. Their stories and those of the houses and of local life will be shared.

Gandhi Nagar is a different nagar today - hundreds of apartments raised on grounds where the bungalows once stood. But it has a charm of its own, perhaps because the green cover survives. Or am I wrong here?

The Anna Nagar Archives

Last week, four senior and activist residents of Anna Nagar sat around a table in the busy Shanthi Colony to try and work out an event for Madras Week.

For over a year now, I have been seeding the idea here since this planned neighbourhood which was once the destination for people seeking a hearth of their own in the early 1970s has also retained its core features and seems to have a working group of community activists.

Venkataraman who works for the P & T Dept., is an early settler here and my schoolmate too was quick to bite the idea and bounce it.

While the group draws up its plans, one long term project that may well start rolling this Madras Week will be the Anna Nagar Archives.

A Social History Project which documents this nagar, its people, its landmarks, its places and its life.
So that in ages to come we don't remember as the area where there was an Arch or the Round Tana!

The men around the table at our meeting went into raptures and rewind mode when the idea was mooted. They spoke of the times when people seeking to head to the plots they had bought here would pay a few coins to local boys or mini lorries.

They spoke of the kuttai or pond of water that provided relief to locals and whose banks were good for a fun game of cricket and of a boatman who took you for a little ride.

They spoke of the first set of built-up houses near Shanthi Colony which were allocated to the lucky ones.

This is the time to collect old photos of Anna Nagar, record stories of its senior generation and collate the documents we possess of this area. This can be an ongoing project of the community here.

I hope this will be a worthy fruit of Madras Week 2012.

If you wish to contribute to this project call Venkat at 9444289289.

2012 Edition of Madras Week

It is that time of the year when lots of people in Madras that is Chennai choose to draw plans to celebrate this city.
As one of the catalysts, I have seen a distinct trend - some people are quick to create an event or project, some need a lot of encouragement and prodding too and many prefer to remain on the sidelines.
In some ways, such trends can demoralise what is truly a city's celebration.

Even as my colleague R Revathi packs the details into the 2012 Calendar of Madras Day events, there are lots of ideas that need patrons and wellwishers.

For example, a travelling exhibition that tells people the story of Madras is key. We can tell this story in 20 simple visuals and simple lines. In English and in Thamizh.
All we need is a corporate to pick up the tab, mount the show and let it do the rounds of the city.

Another could be the production of a film on the city. A 20minute docu-film. Again, copies of this film can be circulated to all hosts of Madras Day events and the film can be screened a dozen times.
All we need is a city-based brand to pay for and promote this.

Meanwhile, a string of Walks and Talks will dominate the 2012 events, from August 19 to 26.