Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Free-loaders at talks!

The sarcastic jibe that marked open section of the Madras Day series of events was that a bunch of people headed to the Madras Musings' series of Talks only for the 'tiffin' or snacks that the hosts provided.

This group would clean up the snacks even before most guests arrived and made the best of a spread at the big hotels who were hosts.

This left a bad impression on the hosts as well as some guests.

There were occasions when the 'food raiders' would take two or three pieces of the snacks. Some stayed back for the talks, some slipped away.

The dirty side of the series; and it keeps happening year on year. 

A shame indeed.

Events overlap; spread them out?

Events are aplenty now and they overlap. But little can be done to draw a calendar because the events are  planned by volunteers according to the time and space they can mark/spare for Madras Day.

Some suggest that it is time the event are spread across August.

Perhaps, audio recording all talks and posting them online would help 'broadcast' the talks since many of them are on interesting themes.

Vysarpadi Fest among the few events in north Chennai

There were small efforts that popped up across the city this year. Like the talk on 'Sterling Road Histories' hosted by two women who have lived long years in that area.

They even got a senior Railway family who live in a colonial bungalow on the Railways sprawling property on this road in Nungambakkam.

These bungalows are bound to go some day soon; unless there is a quiet campaign that reaches the union railway minister, to save them and restore them and give them a new life.

The big effort was in the north Madras area of Vysarpadi where a few people joined hands with volunteers and social workers and linked up with other city groups to highlight the good things of life here.

The community had thought of this event to showcase the plus points of Vysarpadi which is often in the news for gore, crime, scandals and gangs.

The events may have been small and simple but they launched what could be an annual Vysarpadi Celebration.

Sadly though, this year too there were very few events in north Chennai.

Docu-film on Anglo-Indians in Chennai Today

Madras Day is triggering the making of song videos and documentary films.
One film which was screened at the fag end of the Madras Week was on the Anglo-Indians in the city today.

Made by Harry Maclure who edits 'Anglos in the Wind' magazine and Customs officer Richard O'Connor, the 55-minutes long film looks at the AIs in different areas of the city - the past and the present.

Though it was a hurried assignment and could do with better filming and audio quality it is still a valuable document of the city's community.

It was screened at the Press Institute, Taramani. And this film will make a good addition to the small collection of films on Chennai/Madras.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Controversies sink into cheap jibes

Controversies have enveloped the Madras Day process from the time the idea was floated.
Are you pro-British?
Are you saying the area we call Madras/Chennai did not exist before 1639?
Are you celebrating white men who took Indian blood and suck us to this day?
Why not Chennai 2000 Plus?

The last mentioned is an idea circulated by a senior journalist who seems to run a Trust - Chennai 2000 Plus.

Debates are always welcome.
As long as they are civil and don't cross unwritten borders.
Sadly, many who blow hot and cold have not even celebrated the city in some way.

Now, there are people who are hitting below the belt. Mails are being sent to newspapers and people casting aspersions on the 'catalysts', calling the name of Jesus and Good Friday in arguments and flooding the  mail boxes.

Artists. Writers. Poets. Artists . . .

Madras Day triggers many processes.
Take the example of Chennai Weekend Artists.

Since many of its members use their Sunday mornings, heading to city spots to sketch and draw and water color, all their best works made for a great collection though some works may be tad amateur.

So when the CWA curated a show of their works at Lalit Kala Akademi and had a good crowd at they launch and the daily events are well crafted, this showed how a concept like Madras Day can throw up very positive developments.

Can we make a collection of city pictures and photos and lead these to books and collections?
Can we have more city writing that can go into a collection that a publisher can put out?
Can we have illustrated books for kids or short stories in Tamil?

We can. We need creative souls who passionately drive such thoughts.

How did Butt Road get the name?

How did Butt Road in St Thomas Mount get that name?

It must have got the name because of the presence of a archery/shooting range in the area in the colonial times when the British had its cantonment in the Mount region after the Fort began to suffocate.

We got to know this small history of Madras/Chennai from a students' team of Army Public School, Nandambakkam.

It was taking part in the annual Power Point Project Presentation Contest that asks schools to study a heritage theme and present it in public.

Army Public School chose Butt Road that is close to its school campus. And for its project, it won the first prize at the 2016 contest. (photo above)

13 schools undertook the study of Streetscapes, for that was the theme.

Some of them had done some great field work.
Now, the hosts plan to build on this research and perhaps launch a project that looks at Chennai's StreetScapes.
Students will be an integral part of it.

Anyone else who may want too share their expertise here? Tech tools we can use, web site plan, video shoots. Mail us at -

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Chennai authors get showcased!

Odyssey store's Ashwin has done a great service for city based writers. Showcased their books that are still in pr9int at his Gandhi Nagar store.
And one can already observe the 'oohs' and aahs that the authors have been uttering at this promotion.

At a prominent space in the store, the tables occupy some 30 odd books. Ashwin also offers a cloth bag that features the covers of these books to shoppers who buy two Chennai authors' books!
And on some evenings, young writers have been chatting about their work.

Meanwhile, at least three local theme books are being released. Writer Meera Raghavendra Rao sends us an invite to her ' Madhawas in Madras' book release.

And at Odyssey, I seemed to have sighted the cover of a book based on a Mylapore life experience!

Photo featured here is of a Madras Day event for kids that Odyssey hosted.

Buharis' mutton samosas and Mount Road stories

A Mount Road 'like'r mentioned about Buharis and its mutton samosas on the sidelines of a recent Madras Day event. That is when I got to know that the famed samosas were being sold at all Buharis outlets ( there are lots of them now and mostly doing well) sold the samosas.

But one had to get there by 4 p.m.

I was driving past one in Adyar and it was 3.45 p.m.. So we stopped by and picked by a pack - costs Rs.65.

I recall the times in the 70s when we gobbled them up at Buharis on Mount Road - they were sold at 10 paise a piece, crunchy ones and filled to the edges with mutton. They are still tasty.

I had thought of hosting a Mount Road Walk this 2016 season. When  I do it I start at The Hindu office gates and end at Buharis or LIC. But the nasty climate ( it is 37degrees now) has discouraged me from announcing this Walk.

I lived close to Mount Road in the 60s and 70s and have collected loads of stories - of people, shops, places, the road itself.

Lots of seniors have their own Mount Road stories. I shared one note on the Madras Day FB page - written by Dr Beatrix D' Souza, former MLA and MP and San Thome resident, and posted on her social media page

Perhaps, there is an illustrated book on this road that must be written. What do you think?

Some warm words for Madras Day

Former chief urban planner A. Doss calls us. To say how happy he is to see Madras Day flower and go places. He says he likes the fact that so many people are involved. 
And hopes it impacts on the city's major issues and projects.

Doss was one of the bosses at CMDA and tried to accomplish  few things.

Now retired and recovering from a painful spinal problem, he keeps a tab on the city from his bed.

It encourages us when senior people appreciate the process called Madras Day.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Postal Cover on 1st Light House; D H Rao's creation

One man who has single-mindedly celebrates the city is civil engineer and philatelist D. Hemchandra Rao. He does all he can to design and produce a Special Postal Cover every Madras Day; keen to mark this day for posterity.

Often, Rao has to debate with the Postal Dept. and raise monies to do this.

This year, his cover is themed on the first light house in Madras - atop a merchant exchange inside the Fort. 220 years old this year.

Rao also released a set of My Stamps on the city's four light houses - great stuff for collectors.

You must get hold of a cover or a stamp. The cover costs Rs.70.
Contact Rao at 98408 70172

Plenty of Walks

This year, there are close to 15/18 Walks in 10 days. Which indicates that many more people are willing to research and curate walks at least at this time of the year.

The city though does not have volunteers who offer Walks through the year, so tourists do not get to see always, the less known or other side of the city.

The city's weather - it has been at 37 degrees this late August - discourages even early morn Walks.

The positive side about the seasonal Walks is that many young people of the city sign up to explore parts of the city.

And educational too - a young bunch of architects have curated their themed walks that explore Mylapore, which predates the city and is struggling to retain its old houses.

What is the basis of celebrating Madras Day?

Is there basis for celebrating Madras Day and that too on August 22?

This is a query that has been asked often.

This year, a onetime senior journalist who now runs the Chennai 2000+ Trust says this celebration is a hoax and that people of this city must celebrate its heritage that runs for over 2000 years and that the date must be different - perhaps the day on which Madras was renamed Chennai.

Rangarajan has also launched a petition on and lcoa media are feeding on it.

Rangarajan makes the point that the city zone's history is far far older. True. The catalysts of Madras Day have not challenged that at all. It is true.

What is being celebrated is Madras that is Chennai as a metro city. Our belief is that the metro formation started soon after the East India Company dug itself in in this area by setting up the fort-factory and sensed the formation of empire later.

Celebrate the city in whatever form, whichever dates; thats what its catalysts say.

Yes, its kicker line when the Day was launched was - Celebrating the Founding of the City. 1639.

The event had to kick off on some date; be it July, August or September.

Instead, many people seem to nitpick here.

People like Rangarajan say - celebrate its 2000 plus heritage. Sure. Many events of Madras Day, now Madras Week/Month host many events that look at local histories, archaeological findings and expeditions, even pre-historic man's life around this area.

Narratives will take their own form in a  purely voluntary process here; but that over 150 events for 2016 Madras Week shows how a city's community is keen to celebrate its places, people, history, life, pockmarks and all.