January 26, 2008

Let us support sports, locally

Friday mornings are extremely busy times.
Our newspapers try to catch up with deadlines.
But this Friday, the phone kept ringing too often.
A headline in the sports page of The Hindu triggered the calls. A 'Mylapore Times' team had won a few rounds in a table tennis league it was participating in.
My friends wondered - so when did the newspaper have a team of its own?
A colleague thought it was a cricket team. I had to pardon her because there is lots of cricket in the newspapers too.
With Shah Rukh Khan and Priety Zinta and Mukesh Ambani paying millions to pick up the franchisee for different cricket teams in the Indian League that is to follow, a friend wondered if we did own a team and played in the local league.
Ours is a different story to share.
A. V. Vidyasagar guides the VVV Table Tennis Academy based in Besant Nagar. The VVV School, whose hall has been converted into a coaching centre, has been a great benefactor.
A talented cricketer in his sunshine days, Sagar, as friends call him, is passionate about table tennis and indulges in long rallies to promote the game.
The idea of running a league for TT on the lines of cricket league (in which he still takes part) became a reality a couple of years ago.
'Adyar Times' and 'Mylapore Times' chose to be among the supporters/sponsors.
Sagar has managed to attract a number of corporates to sponsor their players and take part in the lower division of the league or to sponsor professional state players who play in the top division.
The league, which runs from end December to late February not only promotes TT but also provides people from the IT, banking and manufacturing sectors weekends to unwind, indulge in a game they pursued in school or college and make new friends.
It takes about seven thousand rupees to sponsor a team. And the young lads who have been playing for us seem to have had a good run at the green tables.
As I write this, I look back at a copy I edited. Of a story of an autorickshaw man who has been backing a hockey team of lads from the 'kuppams' of Besant Nagar.
They practise at the uneven Corporation ground. They took part in the local league and were beaten. Because they can only afford canvas shoes and they are not used to playing on turf.
All they need is a pair of sports shoes.
Perhaps actor Vikram, who is also a Besant Nagar resident, will do a Shah Rukh Khan and sponsor this hockey team.

January 19, 2008

Kilpauk's Pongal festivities

Pongal is a festival that can bring a community together.
And do it very creatively.
Here is how a vibrant colony in Kilpauk did it this past week.
Over the recent years, Kilpauk's proactive residents have made some efforts to get the residents together.

One such effort has been the 'Kilpauk Utsav'.
This annual get together is like a local jamboree of games, events, food and sales.
As it grew bigger and the demands stronger, the sales have tended to dominate the utsav, robbing it of the warmth and informality that it began with.
At least that is the feeling of some of Kilpauk's residents.

The Pongal show was very down to earth. And it was created by a Kilpauk colony.
Damodaramurthy Road was the venue, a street just off the Aspiran Gardens area, another of the relics of the gracious neighbourhoods of Madras of the 1950s and 60s which are disappearing. . .
The elders on this street and the adjoining ones put their heads together to present the celebrations and make it memorable for their children.

A lot of planning, toil and creative work went into the event.
I particularly liked their idea of getting the children to create imaginative street d├ęcor to go with the Pongal festival.
Images of rural men and women cut out from paper and board, stuffed with straw and hung from casuarina poles dug into street corners.

Late at night, the volunteers went out to get cow dung, made a gooey mix of it and sprinkled it on the street so that they had a great surface on which to draw stark kolams!
Thanks to the co-operation of the seniors who had thoughtfully pulled out their cars from the parking lots and lined them up elsewhere, the lots were converted into spaces to hold indoor contests and the entire street was free for all the events.

One creative event required a team of kids to do up a mock cow and then race it to the winning post. An experience that gave the children a touch of Mattu Pongal!

The Kilpauk celebration was truly wonderful and warm.
As must have been another in Tambaram. I got a glimpse of a street packed with women, busy designing kolams for what must have been a fun community event for Pongal.

Truly, a festival like Pongal is a perfect setting for a community celebration.
If you had a unique celebration in your colony or you happened to be at one, feel free to share your experience at my blog.

January 12, 2008

A Fest needs its Community

Vallabhi had her fingers crossed. Would she get her papers through on time and fly back from Muscat to volunteer at the Mylapore Festival 2008?
She got them and made it on time to be with us at the Fest.
It is the community spirit that we, the brains behind this annual Fest, wish to strengthen, year after year.
There were two dozen people who came forward to volunteer.
And there were two dozen others who gladly accepted the invitation to be facilitators, creative leaders and organisers of the 40-plus events.
A young woman reporter of 'The New Indian Express' pressed the question - 'Why is it called the Mylapore Festival?'
The simple answer - Because it is in Mylapore!
But the Fest is much more than just this.
Using open spaces is one objective and we have had to toil hard to achieve it.
Perhaps I would like to have the CMDA, the Chennai Corporation and the City Police look closely at our Festival and think about devising newer 'space use' regulations in and around the Sri Kapali Temple area.
Could we make the Mada Streets 'one-way' at specified times?
Could we ban traffic on the 'mada veedhis' for a few hours on Sunday?
Why haven't we engaged the Southern Railway about the space at its MRTS station campus which can be the transport exchange node as well as a parking lot?
Can we not do away with the bus stations on R. K. Math Road alongside the tank?
As for us, we would like to make good use of the inner lanes of the temple zone. And often run a 'sound and light' show on Mylapore in a quadrangle here.
The idea is not to displace people, shops, everyday life.
Rather enrich it.
Employ ways in which prayer, shopping, walking, the arts and snacking co-exist better.
If people like young Vallabhi kept her date with the Fest, how much more can the community achieve if it joins hands to 'transform' a zone and take pride in it.

January 05, 2008

Treasures of our Neighbourhood

They called him Ramu. They still do. But who was this Ramu?
His admirers even had a statue erected in his honour.
And for a signal contribution he made to the community in Mylapore and around.
I won't go further on Ramu.
The previous generation should have known him well. This one should also know of him. That is why we chose to include his name in what should be a fun, challenging and engrossing event as part of the Sundaram Finance MYLAPORE FESTIVAL 2008.
As I file this column, my eyes are glancing at the skies outside my window. They seem to tease me. It rained after Day One at the Fest. It rained after the morning kutcheri in the Park. And now, as we prepare for Day Two's evening events and artist Rahnu looks forward to children for his workshops in the Park this Friday evening, standing on the chess square with pools of water around it, friends in the Met office tell me there will be more rains and the skies will clear up only on Sunday.
More things are wrought by prayer, they say.
Better things are accomplished if we get on with what we must do.
So despite the rain, friend Suri and I do our final recce of the Treasure Hunt. Both of us enjoyed this exercise. And we learnt a lot about our men and women and about our neighbourhood.
Of bungalows whose history can be traced from their name stones. Of men who lie in peace six feet below. Of the local ration shop which is a hole in the wall and reflects the times that our grandfathers lived in.
We scraped sticky posters off tablet stones, vaulted over walls to double check name plates and took in the scenes at a bazaar.
We are sure those who take part in this Treasure Hunt (info at www.mylaporefestival.com) will enjoy this experience if they dip into the spirit of it all.
For, they will get to know their neighbourhood well.
These are the treasures that make us.
The event is on Sunday morning.
I will be at the first Mass at the church at Luz. And I will not ask God to stop the rains. Rather, I will thank him for igniting this idea in us.