Saturday, July 30, 2011

Campaign for Heritage Act

Asking the state to enact a Heritage Act is probably the key campaign that will go on during the Madras Day celebrations this year.
The idea came up at the first meeting of the catalysts.
And we are working out ways in which we can use this opportunity to sensitise people to the issue.
Perhaps you can offer suggestions too.

An Act, a law in place will help encourage preservation / conservation of heritage and bok the people who destroy it. It has been over a decade since the issue was raised. It now needs to be a campaign of the citizens.

This is where you and I can chip in.

To start with, we hope to carry out a signature campaign. People will be given a little note on what the issue is all about and then invited to sign.

We wondered if we could come up with a small but striking stall / counter / desk which will attract people to the campaign in public spaces.

Your suggestions are welcome.

Somebody suggested that the desks should be outside heritage spaces or inside them. Central Station. Bharat Insurance. Govt. Arts College for Women . . .

Friday, July 22, 2011

Well, there is a buzz of expectation...

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.

Monday, July 18, 2011

One more supporter; Arkay

Ramakrishnan promotes the Arkay Centre in Luz. It is the building where Shah's opened recently - opposite the road that runs to Vidya Mandir.

Arkay is well-fitted and swanky - best for small meetings, business shows, seminars and such events.
Ramakrishnan also hosts music festivals. After all, every hall has to host a kutcheri!

Ram has come forward to support Madras Day events and will spare his space for some events.
Thanks Ram, this is indeed a nice gesture.

'Vintage Heritage' is planning to screen clips of films shot in the city in the old days and have 2 old-time film directors to talk on this occasion on the theme.
Look out for all the events here.

Travails of Walking Tour Guides

I have just told myself that I should write to the police officer in charge of security at Fort St George. Write now.
For Madras Day, every year I make it a point to host a Walk inside the Fort. And these have been well attended - partly because people think we get easy access past the security here at this time of the year!

When Dr Suresh of INTACH is around ( am told he is currently on a study in the USA) I ask him to lead the group - Suresh would like to dress like a East India Company man if you invited him to do so.

It is never easy to convince the police to let us in on a holiday morning, as early as 7.30 am more so when the group is 50 strong - once the Inspector sent a policewoman to accompany us to make sure we did not stray from our professed plan.

They are happy if we keep off the CM's zone. We do.

But now that Jayalalithaa is back as CM and chosen to sit inside the Fort it will not be easy for us.
Jayalalithaa has been cool - time and again she has asked the police not to trouble people with overkill as far as security goes . . .

I hope to host this Walk on August 21, Sunday. So be in the loop to know more. I think we will have a Walk every day in some part of the city till Aug 28.
If you have a Walk idea put it through; host one!

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Two Supporters!

Two great institutions of this city have come forward to support the Madras Week.

South Indian National Assn (SINA) which manages the Srinivasa Sastri Hall and Ranade Library in Luz and the P S Education Society which manages the group of P. S. schools and projects in Mylapore are early supporters.

Both have promised to provide their facilities/space freely for events.

We need more such support.