Saturday, September 02, 2006

The finale; in many parts!

This may be a tad late. But a log on the blog is a must.

Murali works for the BSNL and he became a well wisher some weeks ago. We were planning ways in which we could get BSNL to be part of the Madras Day celebrations. Perhaps a special wish or a ringtone on August 22 to excite everybody who picked up the phone in this city.

We ran out of time but Murali soaked in some of the events and his Congrats! SMS rings on my cellphone way past midnight.
Wishes like these indicate one thing - that the people of this city have enjoyed the concept of Madras Day.

The last two days weren't easy as the energy levels slowly began to drop. It isn't easy for two of us to take almost 100 hundred people on a walk inside Fort St. George. This was an event for August 25, 8am.

The fort is often regarded as a high security area that we must all keep off from. Sad. Because this is such an interesting place. While colleague Dr. Suresh, a Adyar-based archaeologist, briefs the walkers (wow! we had about 46 staff members of L&T, one of the key supporters of this celebration, on this walk and all of them bought the 'Namma Chennai' T-shirt and were proud to wear it this morning) I need to sweet talk our police friends at the fort's security gate.

But they surprise me - yes, they have heard of the 'Madras Day' and the exhibition at Clive House, so allowing the group in isn't a problem but can we please keep off the Secretariat because the Chief Minister is due to drive in any moment!

Suresh and I enjoy doing the Fort walk, more so on a Sunday when we have the entire towne to ourselves. And so, the walk that Sunday (Aug.27) is a picnic!
It is a shame that this fort and its heritage buildings are left to decay and go to seed and collapse. The hinter areas of the fort stink and a slum is enlarging here.
This seems to be nobody's land . . . all those who come on the walks now get an idea of the uniqueness of this fort and the state it is in . .

The early morning breakfast at Murugan Idli Shop in Besant Nagar was a good idea - ahead of a long Sunday of events.
The 'Namma Mylapore' group, a NGO, which works on some, issues related to this heritage zone, take 32 children on a walk around the temple zone. This walk does wonders to the volunteers who haven't done this act before and for the children who enjoy pongal and iced rose milk at the end of it.

We are getting calls from people who seem to have enjoyed the Saturday evening talk by writer and historian Randor Guy at the P. S. Hr. Sec. School auditorium. The big hit here were the film clips that Surveswaran of 'Vintage Heritage' (which screens all the old films every month at a theatre of the Nadigar Sangam in T. Nagar) has carefully put together for this show. Imagine a series of clips, which show us many different areas of Madras as they were in the 1950s. Including one of P. S. School in Mylapore!

The Madras Quiz attracts about 200 people - wish we had double that number! Seniors at the prelims say the questions are tough - that's the work of quizzer Avinash Mudaliar who won the quiz last year and now works in Bangalore.
But what moves us is the fact that the participants jump up to volunteer to correct the answer sheets! Honestly!

Nalli Kuppuswamy Chetti donated the rolling trophy for the English Quiz last year. This time, we went back to him and sought more support! He gladly funded another rolling trophy for the Tamil Quiz for school students and individual trophies for the team members.
The schoolboys from Raja Muthiah School in R. A. Puram won. And we realise that the same team won the quiz last year!

Carnatica's special kutcheri at this venue winds up the weeklong celebrations. I will have to skip Kanimozhi's (yes, chief minister M. Karunanidhi's daughter) talk on 'Poetry in Chennai' on Sunday evening at the Taj Coromandel hotel.

Carnatic vocalists Sowmya, Sashikiran and Ganesh are friends and we can't abandon them in Mylapore! With commentary by Dr. V V Srivatsa, the kutcheri of compositions on deities and temples in Madras, isn't exhaustive but is in line with the spirit of the Madras Day events.

I have one more event to wind up - screening the best three short films on city themes. We had invited all amateur filmmakers to work on city-based themes.
We hope we can slowly build a collection of visual content on the city. And making short films is one way of achieving just that.
In the Indo Cine Appreciation Forum (ICAF), an active film society in Chennai, we have a partner. Thangaraj, its Secretary, allows us to screen the films before he runs Russian feature films.
We haven't received the best docus. But the start is key.

As we sit back on Monday, we realise that Madras Day may well have left an imprint on the people of this wonderful city.


Brahmma Raju said...

Dear Vincent,

This is Rajaram, one of the finalists in the Madras Quiz and who had also participated in the walks done by Sriram.
I am an Income Tax Officer based in Chennai. And would very much like to be a volunteer for any of the Madras Day events from next year onwards. I am ready to even do a walk around George Towne too. Honestly, I had a great week and attended almost all Madras Musings Talk series.
Great Show, kudos to Sashi and Revathy too. You do need some break. Bye, Rajaram

Vincent D' Souza said...

Thanks for those warm words Rajaram.

We have a flood of responses from people who say they enjoyed some or part of the Madras Day celebrations.

Which is just the kind of rewards we would enjoy after the hard work.

We have begun preparations for Madras Day 2007 now.
Roping in all those who have nice things to say and asking them to sign up for 2007.

There are three sectors of the city that still need to be roped in and any form of motivation by people like you will help.
1. The young people in businesses and in the IT industry.
2. Young people in our colleges
3. North Madras neighbourhoods.

We hope to have more heritage walks and bus tours.
We hope to have roving exhibitions on the city's history.
And we hope to expand the buzz to other parts of the city.

To do this we look for partners.
Those who can fun Rs.5000 to set up a mobile exhibition of books, vintage pictures and docu films.
Those who volunteer to host these shows - provide a space for the public, water and screening facilities and drive a local publicity campaign.

Start getting people excited. Chennai will soon be the city that really buzzes.

Mail us at