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

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