December 30, 2006

A festival to soak in

The women are cajoling us.
The children are pestering us.
And we are not surprised as we work backstage to launch the four-day 2007 edition of the Sundaram Finance- MYLAPORE FESTIVAL on January 4.
The phone calls have been coming in strong and thick.
'Uncle, what are all the competitions for children?' asks one.
'Do you have that quiz contest this year too?', asks another.
The women don't give up easily.
"My mother has been taking part in the kolam event every year. Can't you add just one more name please?"
" I saw the advert only now. How did the registration get over so soon?"
People, be they adults, be they children, seem to get very excited about contests.
I wonder if this has something to do with the pulls and pressures that the test, exam and rank culture injects into our bloodstream.
People want to contest. They want to register. They want to know what the prizes are. Whew!
As the people behind the fest, I guess we have some thing extra to do. And that is to encourage people to understand that a festival is quite different from a high-powered contest.
The 'Mylapore Festival' is really a 'vizha' you can soak in. In free abandon.
You will not get assaulted by strobe lights and giant flexi-ad boards. You will not be sold housing loans and pestered with credit card forms.
You are invited to lose yourself in the spirit that is Mylapore.
The fest lives with the life around it - the pujas and the bhajans, the devotees and the shoppers, the noisy hawkers of the Mada Streets and the shy bhel-puri wallah behind the temple 'ther'.
But it brings alive a lot of what should also be part of our lives.
Folk music and dance inside the temple, vintage songs in concert and history lessons, food fest and a mela of art and crafts and more.
The fest seeks to make all these events find some space in what is a unique heritage zone of the city of Chennai.
There are over forty events across four days next week and we would like you and your family to be at the fest. And do tell your aunts and uncles and cousins and friends in Anna Nagar, Chrompet, Kilpauk and Royapuram, to make it to the Fest.
This is a community fest. People make it happen.
If you wish to have more info, do log on to

December 23, 2006

Looking out for Santa!

I truly believe that Santa Clause isn't a single person.
There is a community of them.
A simple event of ours proved it.
You are aware of the Santa Clause tour that our newspapers arranged over the past week.
A tour which helped parents get gifts across to their kiddies via Santa.
At the end of Day One, the Santa who did the rounds of Mylapore fell ill.
He was unable to move out of his home in East Tambaram but we had no reason to despair.
He had arranged for another Santa from the suburbs of Poonamallee.
I am hoping Santa has the gift that I have asked for this Christmas eve.
Lots of energy, drive and doggedness.
Because my team and I need this and more as we give the finishing touches to the most unique fest of its kind in this city - the Mylapore Festival, now wholly supported by Sundaram Finance.
Drawing up a calendar for something like 42 events to take place across four days at about a dozen venues and involving more than 400 people is a daunting task.
From folk and classical dancers, to creative gurus and kolam contest registrants, besides contractors, designers, promoters and student and resident volunteers, there are so many who will be involved and I wonder if I will hit the sack of Christmas eve to give Santa enough time to slip down the water-pipe and leave my gift under my pillow.
But there are the endearing aspects of such a fest which really makes it worth the while.
The support of the community.
Young Prasanna, who studies at Vivekananda College and his team at Codezplus has re-designed the festival web site - you should check it out at and e-mail your feedback. The boys would love to hear from you.
A Mylapore Orkut community group on the Net is volunteering at some of the events. As is the 'Namma Mylapore' group.
Creative friends like Latha Mani, V. V. Ramani, Bhanumathi and Kuberan will work with kids inNageswara Rao Park at workshops.
Mylapore's Deputy Commissioner of Police, Mourya, says he will give his men regulate traffic so that local businesses and temple goers continue to follow their call and then make time to soak in the fest.
Subham Ganesan promises to lay out the best Tanjore meal spread on the festival Sunday and challenge the lunch that is now served at thecanteens at our local sabhas for the music season!
This is the final lap for all of us.
And I am looking forward to Santa on Sunday night.

December 17, 2006

Talks, tours, carpet of kolams and more

We did get a few people to play Santa Claus this weekend.
And we are hoping that they will leave a warm memory in the minds of the many children who shoud be having him at their doorstep this week and the next.
My friend Sanjay Pinto of NDTV thinks I can still play Santa.
He says that we should have opened up a post office account, got a fancy post box number and set up a Santa mail service for all the children of this city.
Perhaps this would encourage a generation that communicates in the SMS and internet language to write a few lines.
The bonus - they would get a surprise little gift in the reply!
I know Sanjay wants me into this new act because he, like any other mediaperson, is hungry for whacky stories.
Christmas carols, Santa rides and crib contests are too passe for the new age television.
But I am sure he will keep his date with a much more wonderful event that we will present in January 2007.
The annual Sundaram Finance-supported Mylapore Festival.
There is hardly a person who has been to our kolam contests held on the Mada Streets of Mylapore and not gone back with nice experiences. Imagine a carpet of kolams designed by over 200 women and children in the space of 45 minutes.
Records of these kolam carpets have travelled to the ends of the earth. And this year, two European researchers will stop by to take in the visual spread.
Most of you will of course know that this festival is not only about kolams.
Yes, it started as a 'kutti kolam kondattam'. But over the decade, it has grown into what is possibly the most unique community festival of its kind.
I am looking forward to a big group of young Yakshagana artistes who will travel all the way from Agumbe in Karnataka, one of the wettest places in India, to perform here on day one (the fest is from January 4 to 7: as always on the eve of the Pongal fest).
In a few days, our web site - - will have all the info. Events, contests, workshops, tours, talks. And more.
The pieces are falling into place.
I know Santa cannot run a festival like this one.
Would you want to suggest who else could do a great job of it?

December 09, 2006

Would you like to play Santa Claus this season?
There is no money in it though.
But we can promise you loads of excited children as friends, doting parents as well wishers and wine and dinner.
Every year, our community newspapers host a special event in December.
This is the 'Santa Meets the Kids' tour.
We invite families to surprise their kiddies with gifts for the Christmas season.
And in line with the spirit of the season, we arrange to bring Santa Claus from the Arctic world.
Nowadays, it isn't easy to get Santa to come to Chennai.
The all-pervasive Net has got the word around in Santa and that our city is simply inhospitable when it comes to the weather.
We tried sending them pictures of dew which had collected on the leaves of the only mango tree left in our campus, but the evidence wasn't convincing enough.
That is why we are desperately looking out for a local Santa who has goodness in his heart, a boom in his voice, a carol on his lips and sparkle in his eyes.
Some people think it is infra dig to play Santa.
We don't mind if a bouncy woman volunteers to play Santa.
Kids in their pre-teens don't discriminate like we do.
But we do need a warm Santa for our jaunts through the neighbourhoods.
We used to have a fun young man who loved the job and the Goan wine ( and some imported vindaloo) that came at the end of it but his BPO job has turned night into day and vice versa, and he is exhausted.
This is indeed the time to play Santa. Be it in your colony, your home or your campus.
It is also the time when you can learn a few nice things about choosing a gift and presenting it in style.
Of course, our Santa will have to roll into lifts, walk down bylanes and wake up families who have to be coaxed to open the door even at Christmas time.
There is a little chill nowadays in our hearts.
We are hoping that Santa will bring in the warmth this December.
P.S.: If you wish to surprise your kid with a gift by taking part in our X'mas event, call our offices now.