April 26, 2008

Reporting the Neighbourhood

Why do families have the 'ear-piercing' ceremony of their child at a church?
On Wednesday last, we were at the Annai Vailankanni Church in Besant Nagar.
The girls who are attending our annual Journalism Camp for senior school students opted for a field assignment and since a majority of them are from the Adyar region, we opted to start from the church and end in the kuppam area further north.
The intention of this field assignment was not to study a church. Rather, we went there to see how we could go about getting story ideas and leads, learn something new and examine the experience.
While we were at the church campus, trying to take in the myriad things that went on around us, Mayuri got curious about a gathering at the far end and walked across to observe the social event. The 'ear-piercing' was being celebrated!
When we regrouped, we realised that there were many Indian rituals and practices that were being followed on this campus.
Saris were being offered at the shrine of the Vailankanni madha, agarbathis were being lit beside the candles and coloured threads with petitions and vows were wound round the flag mast,
For everyone in the group, this was a new experience. So we spoke a bit about the Indianisation of the church.
Further down, we stopped to look at the Odaima-kuppam. Once an exclusive fishing village, its fringe facing the main road was now lined with eateries of all kinds, catering to the pilgrims who came to the Aarupadai Temple and to the madha church. The kuppam was changing.
On the other side, we took in the façade of the buildings. At the 'T' and the 'M' type houses, the first to be promoted by the Housing Board. We stood in the shade of a tree and I shared with the group my observations of the changing face of Besant Nagar.
Of times when there were no takers for these HB houses and when this 'nagar' was a sandy expanse.
As we walked further, we realised how the façade had changed.
Shops, eateries and more shops.
Bessy Beach is now a hot spot now for young people and the "M' types have made way for eat-outs, coffee shops and boutiques.
Hopefully, the two hours on the road was an educational experience for the group.
As they work on their assignments for this course, the students are getting to know their neighbourhoods better.
If you have the time, you can go through the stories and pictures they have posted on a blog - at www.mtjclass.blogspot.com

April 19, 2008

Woodlands Drive-In & Coffee?

Should we mourn the demise of Woodlands Drive-In restaurant or should we make an effort to ensure it continues to function?
Many people may wonder why we should get worked up about the closure of a restaurant.
After all, businesses open and close every day in a city like ours.
So why get worked up at all?
And why should we talk for Woodies?
Woodlands Drive-in, located in the wooded, 320 grounds on Cathedral Road off Gemini Circle had to close down last week after the state won a legal case and can now take charge of this prime land worth Rs.1000 crores.
The state plans to create a Lalbagh of Bangalore in this area and this is indeed a positive step.
The state also asked the restaurant to close shop. The management of Woodlands has taken its case to court.
Setting all this aside, why then would some of us still want the Drive-in to be given a new lease of life?
Because it has been such an integral part of the lives of thousands of people.
Since the 1960s, people have come here for its 'Udupi' food. Some adored the channa batura, some craved for the crispy, hot bondas and some had to have its masala dosas.
It wasn't just the food that endeared people. It was the atmosphere. The sprawling woods, the facility to just drive in and be served while you were still lolling in your car, the 'self service' hall where salesmen, club members, creative heads, lovers, students and activists had a meeting place they could call their own.
That is why Woodlands Drive-in was special. And that is why places like these are a part of social heritage.
Times change. Priorities change. And it may not even be practical to conserve such places that make our lives, our histories.
But we should spare a thought for them.
On the other side of town, 'Coffee?' became a part of the lives of hundreds of young people. It was a nook in the wall but it was so warm that many people stopped by to unwind here with a cuppa and sandwiches.
When this coffee place in Raja Annamalaipuram shut shop this week to make way for real estate development, there were many people who felt they were losing something that was a part of their lives.

April 12, 2008


Some people are aware of it. Some people still have not heard of it.
And some people have become victims of it.
This is a story you must have read most recently in the newspapers.

Of a man who innocently responded to an e-mail from a private Indian bank of which he was a customer, shared confidential information assuming the e-mail was genuine and found that a fraud had been committed on him.
The city police to whom he complained is now investigating this case. Fraudsters and con men have been with us always.

They adopt the tricks that go well with modern living.
And in this technology-driven age, they phish.
There were times when con men used to present themselves as telephone inspectors, domestic gas suppliers, electricity foremen and income-tax officials.

Today, the easy way to cheating and quick money is via the internet. However, lots of people are in the dark about the tricks, frauds and con jobs of our times.
Some become victims. Often these people are senior citizens.

While banks, companies, state agencies and NGOs put out warnings, tips and briefings to empower people/customers, perhaps experience sharing may also help?

Would it help if the media published stories of the ‘distressing’ experiences of people? Not to show them up as victims but to focus more on the modus operandi of con people and the dangers around us.

I recall times when our newspapers used to receive letters from readers who wrote about attempts to cheat/dupe made by men disguised as telephone department staff to dupe neighbours.
Or of youths who acted like Indane gas suppliers and made off with valuables after they had gained entry into a house or an apartment.

Every now and then, there would be letters on this subject talking about attempted con jobs or of some new tricks that had been played on a resident of the colony.
In some ways, the publication of such experiences educates the neighbourhood; alerts them perhaps. What do you think?

The rash of crimes related to land grabbing in the suburbs and peri-urban areas of our city continue. Are we aware of how people who own land outside the city are victims of fraud?

Meanwhile, a charming lady who has just lost her rich father in Sierra Leone has e-mailed us. She wonders if we can come to her rescue and if all goes well, be the recipients of a goodly sum of American dollars.

Am sure this charming lady has e-mailed you too!
Phishing at work.

April 05, 2008

What after Christian Studies?

What kind of jobs can we get if we attend a course in Christian Studies?
This is a question Fr. Patrick has to respond to when young people pose it when he talks to them about his department.
This priest is one of the lecturers at the Department for Christian Studies at the University of Madras. The Head is an internationally known theologian, Dr. Felix Wilfred.
This week, the faculty and some students here set up a meeting with a cross section of the community - pastors and nuns, researchers and social workers and media professionals - to brain storm.
How does one make the department known better to the world at large? And how can its education be relevant to the times?
To cater to more pressing ambitions, the department offers two PG diploma courses. One in Human Resource Management and ethics and another in Ethics and Bio-Technology.
Both courses are relevant to present-day businesses and young people who have attended them seem to have found placement.
I suppose if campuses and industry have pow-wow sessions often, the student community can be offered lots of interesting options.
Which is what another group of us have offered students who attended a diploma course in tourism conducted by the same University.
Marketing and conducting heritage walks in Thamizh.
Whenever we arrange such walks in our city - in Fort St. George, Mylapore, San Thome or at railway stations - we feel bad that we seem to have created such options only for the English-knowing community.
So we are now making an attempt to have heritage walks conducted in Thamizh and hope to motivate a group of young people to take the lead.
Which brings me to a 'summer holidays' theme I often broach.
Summer Jobs!
Now hols should be just that - great hols. Trekking in the Nilgiris; driving down the Konkan, hibernating in the plantation bungalow of your friend's cousin's friend in Coorg.
And then there are Summer Camps!
And there are Summer Jobs. You not only earn money but you also gain valuable experience.
I would urge tech-savvy young people to launch a web site exclusively for Summer Jobs in this city, push businesses to make commitments and drive school and college students to the web site.
If such options already exist, do let me know - at adyartimes@gmail.com.
I don't need a job; I need a break!