February 23, 2007

Dateline Chidambaram; Reporting Natyanjali fest

The past week has been wonderful as it always is when we camp in Chidambaram.
We, meaning my team at KutcheriBuzz, the web site for music and dance.
Every year, at Mahasivaratri time, we camp in Chidambaram and do the rounds of this region, covering the annual Natyanjali dance festivals held at the local temples.
Over the years, the fest fever has spread strongly, and today, dance festivals are held in over a dozen large and famous temples in this region.
I am convinced now that classical and folk dance festivals must be staged in public spaces if we are to get wonderful audiences for talented artistes.
Day 5, February 20, 7 pm. At Chidambaram.
The programmes are warming us all up but well before they do there are at least 3000 people packed into the venue which is the outer yard on the eastern gopuram side of this magnificient but badly maintained temple.
When the much-awaited ‘Ardhanareeswarar Kuravanji’ finally goes on stage, the evening’s schedule is delayed by about 60 minutes.
It is 10.20 pm. And yet, there are close to 2000 people eager to watch the production starring Roja Kannan,
N. Srikanth, Priya Murle, Aswathi Srikanth and four junior dancers. They enthral the rasikas for over an hour and get a double blessing - the grace of the Lord at his sannidhi and rounds of applause from the audience.
I cannot watch the show in peace because my cellphone keeps ringing all the time. Calls from people who are anxious to watch the recital on their computers. Yes, this year’s web cast of prime time dance recitals on KutcheriBuzz.com was a huge hit - some 20,000 visitors over the five days of the festival. (The videos are still on on the web site, in case you are interested to check them out).
In Chennai, I head straight into the ‘Chennai Sangamam’ festival, kicked off for the first time. A fest which promises to present all forms of art, music, dance and performance at all major public spaces in the city.
The Sangamam has been inspired to some extent by the annual ‘Mylapore Festival and that makes us feel good.
And to share that goodness, we re-create some of the ‘Mylapore Festival’ atmosphere at a mela at a college campus off the Marina beach for the ‘Chennai Sangamam’.
Clearly, it is time community groups took charge of open spaces like parks and auditoriums in our city and played host to a variety of performances.

February 17, 2007

Vote for your neighbourhood

Mark the date.
February 18.
The day set aside for polling for the Chennai Corporation elections.
They are being held in many city wards because the councillors who held the posts since their election last year resigned en masse following a severe verdict by one judge on a two-judge Bench of the Madras High Court.
And if you recall well, there was extraordinary violence in that election. Though the chief minister continues to play it down very well.
Here then is yet another opportunity for you as a citizen to express yourself.
For, elections to the local bodies like the city Corporation, are key to democracy.
If you are not impressed with the candidates who are contesting in your area, you can express that sentiment in the ballot paper. But you need to go to the polling booth to do just that.
If you wish to protest against the violence that is unleashed even in local elections, you can express it in the ballot.
But if you stay put at home or drive out for a picnic, then the men and women and their parties who want to drive their dirty campaigns will succeed.
And if you are not aware of some disturbing statistics, here is one - a mere 10% of polled votes gets people elected to the Corporation council. And this is a real shame.
So mark the date.
Elections are being held in almost 100 wards and so your ward must be in the picture too.
If you still have not heard about the election, step out and ask around.
Get updated.
If you want your neighbourhood to be a nice, warm place, you too need to be involved in a process that makes all such things happen.

February 10, 2007

Jamming in Pondy

If you are at a loose end this weekend and enjoy a drive, you may want to head to Puducherry.
162 kilometres covered in about 130 minutes on a highway which runs alongside the scenic east coast. The drive itself is exhilarating, not the speed!
For a year now, a musician friend of mine, Sidhartha Patnaik, who has his two feet in three towns - Bhubaneswar, Bengaluru and Puducherry, has been promoting ‘Sec-Sat’ in the former French colony.
‘Sec-Sat’ provids a platform for musicians to perform, with no strings attached.
All forms of music are encouraged. Carnatic, soft rock, heavy metal, blues, Indipop, pettai rap and gana.
You sign up at pondyjam@gmail.com and wait for Sidhartha to wake up at high noon, feast on fruitcakes sold at a bakery run by the Ashramites and reply to the bands in the queue.
Sidhartha just finished presenting the annual Pondy Freedom Jam, a cousin of the hugely popular Freedom Jam in Bangalore.
This year, concerts and shows were held at six different venues on the weekend, including one on the newly-raised beachfront which is the most popular ‘time pass’ destination for all of Pondy and its neighbouring towns.
Sidhartha searched hard for a ‘gana’ specialist group but could not find one and is hoping a ‘gana’ troupe will mail him for next year’s Jam.
Taking a cue, the Tourism Department of Puducherry invited this veteran guitarist to quickly rustle up a band to play at the opening of yet another popular destination of the town - Bharathi Park.
The park has been ‘revitalised’ by INTACH, a body which works on heritage projects, and has made space for all kinds of activities including a stage for concerts.
In the months to come, the park may well be the venue for musicians not only of Puducherry but also from Chennai, if the latter are adventurous and willing.
Our parks can be wonderful spaces for a range of quiet events.
Concerts, readings, yoga, tai chi and art. Or as poet-lyricist Vairamuthu does, for writing lyrics for film songs.
The Corporation of Chennai has invested a lot of money in our parks.
Now it is for communities of the neighbourhood to re-vitalise them.

February 03, 2007

Maids 'disappear' in Chennai

So you want a nanny to take care of your four-year-old while you are away at work.
Or a maid who will be useful to your aged parents living in the suburbs.
The easier way to source these people is to turn to an agency.
Tarry. For, you could well be courting trouble from day two.
Changing lifestyles produce new words, phrases and concepts.
Manpower is one!
Scan the classifieds of the weekend editions of the newspapers and lo! you have a bounty of them.
But between those smart lines are some stories which should caution you.
Yasmin and her friend Sitha dropped in the other day to share their story with an unhappy ending.
Sitha had been looking for a maid who would stay at home and turned to a 'manpower services agency' in T. Nagar.
The reception was warm, the deal was quick.
Sitha had to just pay Rs 2300, which was one month's salary of the domestic servant that the agency would provide.
And 300 rupees as application fees.
Sitha did not mind the additional fee; manpower is what she wanted desperately.
And she had one the next morning.
But the maid left her house on some excuse and did not turn up at all.
When Sitha rushed to the services agency, it refused to refund the money. They promised a replacement.
The second maid made her appearance.
But she cooked up a story and left three days later.
A request for a third one got an evasive answer.
The agency said it was now facing manpower shortage.
You will have a new maid in 10 days, the agency convinced Sitha.
On the eleventh day when Sitha, seething in anger, drove down to the agency, the shutters of the office were down.
The watchman next door said the business had shifted.
Shopping in Mylapore some weeks later, she noticed a board that looked familiar.
Yes, it was the same agency she had gone to in T. Nagar.
To make a smart move, Sitha got her friend Yasmin to drop into the agency and make small talk.
The staff were the ones who had been at T. Nagar but they claimed to know nothing about the agency in T Nagar. But they promised they could help with maids.
Smart manpower agencies indeed.