February 23, 2008

Creating Heritage Walks

A group of people who are passionate about this city are firming up what we do off and on. And that is take people on walks/short tours.
This Sunday, one group will explore three old railway stations - Egmore, Central and Royapuram.
And to put together a worthy tour there is home work to be done and recees to be undertaken.
'Poochi' Venkat is a passionate railways fan. He is just back from Kanpur (Cawnpore) after attending the annual conference of the Indian Railway Fan Club Association started by a few IITians many years ago ( web site - www.irfca.org).
I had seen Venkat and his associates going nuts when the trains on the suburban metre gauge were making their last trips before broad gauge took over (if those trains made your life, share your experiences at my blog).
There were many emotional farewells that night as the 12.01 rolled out of Egmore and headed towards Tambaram.
I managed to get Venkat to help me explore Egmore this week.
There weren't astonishing treasures and at the end of the wooden stairs that lead to the dorms, we were in for an unpleasant sight.
If ever you have some time to kill at vintage railway stations, you should do so in their waiting rooms. You will feel like a maharaja!
But here in Egmore, men were layering granite and closing up the roof to enable air conditioning.
If walks are meant to take people closer to what has been and is ours, they also bring us closer to harsh realities. There is little respect for heritage.
Though I am aware that our Anglo-Indian friends of Vepery and Pursawalkam are few in number (and they are the ones who have a fund of railway stories), we are now trying to put together an Anglo-Indian walk in that part of our city.
'But what is there to show you?' my friend asks, wondering if I live in a suspended world.
But we must carry forward with what is left so that it will be respected.
And so we are looking for senior people who would consider a particular area or a few roads in this city worth a nice heritage walk.
We want people who can share with us the histories, bring them alive and tell stories to our guests who want to get closer.
Vepery, Triplicane, Mount Road, Royapuram. . . .stories of these places and others are welcome. Write to - madraswalks@gmail.com.
Did you know that there is a tour through Asia's biggest slum, Dharavi, which gets you close to some of the hundreds of smart entrepreneurs who live there?

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