August 29, 2008

Positives of Madras Day 2008

We have known him as BSNL Murali. Your cellphone dictates such usage.
Murali works for the telecommunications department.
Had he been with the Anti-Vice Squad of the state police, he would have been Vice Murali.
Murali must be in the Andamans now. He was transferred recently from his base in Chennai and I am sure he is going to miss this city.
For, Murali was the sort of person who just could not miss an interesting city event.
You would see him at a docu-film screening, a book reading session, a talk or a heritage walk or at an art gallery. And he would cover as many as three events through one evening.
If he didn't carry books he had just bought he would have the camera slung across his chest.
So when he walked in midway through the Madras Quiz 2008 event last Sunday, I invited him to give the prizes to the winners. I think his eyes went moist. The gathering gave him a big hand when they heard how passionate he was about city events. And I shook his hand a tad longer to tell him that it was great to have him here on the eve of his relocation.
That morning, Murali's wife and child were with us on the Mount Road Walking Tour. The young girl kept taking notes furiously and walked the two-hour length without complaining. Murali of course was with V. Sriram doing the tour of Chinna-tari-pettai ( Chintadripet), on the other side of Mount Road.
It is people like the Muralis who provide strength to community-driven initiatives. We need enthusiastic people to support the ideas of energetic individuals and groups.
So when Adyarite Shanthi Krishnan SMS-ed me on Sunday that the Adyar Walking Tour she put together had about 50-plus people we knew Shanthi would feel good for taking the effort to put that Walk together.
Shanthi and I were on Google Talk to discuss this idea since she was holidaying in the USA. We announced it 24 hours after she landed in the city.
The enthusiasm and generosity of a few resource people who were invited to share stories on histories and heritage of the local places of Adyar enriched this Walk.
Some positives from Madras Day 2008.

August 23, 2008

Celebrating Madras Week

There are many nice little things that have happened because of 'Madras Day'. And as we launch into the last leg of the events, this has been a worthy effort.
No, the city has not changed overnight.
But small changes should take place.
I am just back from a warm function held at Rajaji Hall inside the Government Estates.
In a different time, the Estates were our backyard. All the boys who lived on its fringe played here.
And then, somebody said ghosts haunted some parts of it.
They said that when I got fever every other summer weekend after cricket games in the open here.
Ghosts and fevers did create colourful stories to add to freewheeling legends on the Estates but much later I knew our exhausting hours in the sun must have been the cause of those fevers.
A nice exhibition is on at Rajaji Hall - of coins, postal covers, pictures, rare books . . on Madras.
For the first time the Tamil Nadu Tourism Department has got involved in a 'Madras Day' event. Now, its officers say they would like to work closely. Perhaps start with collaborations on walking tours.
On one side you support city-centric efforts and on the other you get to showcase your city to others.
The events seem to act as a trigger.
A Tawker who now lives in the USA calls me up.
He wants to detail the history of his family, Gujarati businesspeople who once were prominent names in our city. The Tawkers of Mount Road.
Little on this family seems to be available and this young man seems keen to research.
Beatrix D' Souza, a prominent leader of the Anglo-Indian community here is encouraged to present a talk next year.
So when she shows me her childhood haunts ( again, Government Estate because her dad was a musician in the Governor's band and their winter quarters were on the Chepauk fringe of the Estates) I suggested a talk on the contribution of the Anglo-Indians and Goans to the Film Music world of Madras.
Ours is a fascinating city.
Just be proud of it. Madras. Chennai.

August 15, 2008

Madras Day 2008 rolls

Is there someone who can help reach a Madras T-shirt to this diehard Chennaite in the USA by August 22?
He mailed us this week and he wants to tell his world that Chennai is celebrating.
Now this man is indeed a true Chennaite. And lots more will be happy to join the Madras Week celebrations that have just rolled out.

We are thrilled. For the manner in which the spirit is infectious.

Young fashion designer Vivek Karunakaran keeps a busy schedule at his design studio off the East Coast Road. But he is sparing some time to go through the submission for the Tee design contest and choose the best idea so that we can invite the person to design the Chennai tee for 2009 (by the way, the popular 'Kapi' and 'Kolam' Tees are up for sale now.)

Shanthi Krishnan flew in from the USA, overcame jetlag and is putting together the Adyar Walking Tour even as I write this. A tour that will take people from Theosophical Society, through Besant Avenue and end in Kalakshetra Colony where KK, the theatreperson and his actors, plan to present readings of essays and stories on Chennai that is Madras.
Our e-mail box is filling up.

An enthusiast worked on Google Maps and linked it to the Events Calendar at so it would be easy for people to locate the venues of over 50 events.
Vani from NY writes in to say she is going to miss the events this year and this could be the time when she does not want to be out of Chennai.

The effervescent Chandroo (Chandrachoodan) is overworking himself with an idea we shared.
Madras by Night!

If all goes well, that is if he gets a sponsor for a bus, he should be leading a tour of the hotspots of the city that come alive after 8 p.m. Pondy Bazaar to Mint is the tentative schedule.
The tempting tour though is the Madras Street Food tour. In the heart of Sowcarpet and around and ending on Marina for molaga bajjis.

Chandroo says most foodies are giving the thumbs down for the kaiyendhi stall in Pondy Bazaar, off the flower stalls, so they may strike it off their tour. What do you think?
This tour is planned along with the Chennai Foodies online group.

The Frisbee players on Elliots Beach mailed in - they will be dedicating their boot camp that ends on August 17 to the city. Catch them after 6 am on the beach.
The MadBulls - yes, the Bullet riders who believe all other bikes are just scrap metal -want help from old time citizens on places they can visit in north Madras after checking out the Rail Museum.

And if you like quiet evenings, check out the talks hosted by Chennai Heritage-Madras Musings.
For all the info, photos, blogs and leads on Madras Day 2008, log on to

August 08, 2008

Curtain Raiser: Madras Day 2008

In the north is Srinivasapuram. In the south is the beach beyond the Theosophical Society. The two were once linked by a bridge.
Today, people who know call it the 'broken bridge'.
Because it collapsed many years ago.
Nature lovers head here to chance on seasonal birds.
Photographers to shoot the setting sun.
Couples to snatch quiet moments.
Poets to walk on the clean, white sands.
Desperadoes to stalk at night.
Years ago, a MGR film was picturised on this bridge.
Name that film!
This is a sample of the kind of questions you will be challenged with at the annual Madras Quiz on August 24 afternoon.
This past fortnight, compiling the questions for just one of the many Madras Day events, has challenged me.
But we have to make this good. Can you imagine a diehard quizzer who is flying in all the way from the Gulf to be here for the annual Landmark Quiz (due Aug.15) and for the Madras Quiz!
He was in the winning team in 2007 and the duo sure want to extend their reign!
We won't make it tough. But it should cover the city at large.
As I write this, we have over 55 events lines up for 'Madras Day 2008'.
And still counting.
Will the Mad Bulls be able to pull off an engaging circuit that covers the fringe of North Madras? If they do, that's one more event. (Mad Bulls? Madras Bullet Riders Club!).
(One more teaser - MadBulls - you know who they are. Chennai Kings - you know who they are. Mambalam Mosquitoes - who are they?)
There are at least 18 talks scheduled for Madras Week (Aug.17 to 24).
At least 10 walking tours ( V. Sriram is marketing one called 'Ladies of the Marina')
A string of poetry readings and a documentary film fest.
But we'd like more. Very community based, community driven.
Shanthi is flying back from the USA on 12th and hopes she can put together the Adyar Walking Tour.
Swahilya just told us she will take people to some cool landmarks in north Madras one Saturday morning.
And don't miss out on D. H. Rao's labour of love - a photo documentation of the Buckingham Canal - to be displayed at the exhibition at Rajaji Hall (no, they haven't demolished the hall in Govt. Estates; maybe they will after the Madras Week)
For all the info, log on to -

August 02, 2008

Citizen Journalism

When college student A. Maithily queried us if she could report the annual 'aadi perukku' fest her college hosts at this time of the year, we had a quick answer.
Sure, go ahead.
Facts are sacred and keep it simple.
And, keep to a deadline.
Maithily kept to the three guidelines. She even guided our photographer. And this weekend, her report with her byline appears on page one in the Mylapore Times.
This isn't the first time that we are using reports filed by readers, wellwishers and freelancers.
But from now on, we will keenly encourage citizen journalism.
Our mailboxes and trays are always full - invites, pictures, reports, attachments, promos, jpeg files . . .
That is a given for a newspaper or a publication.
We actively encourage people to report their events. And give them a few tips, if they have the time to listen. In some cases, people are only keen to get their 5 cms of space on the pages.
We would encourage reportage on events and serious issues, local as they are.
B. R. Kumar is an old friend. A man who has left his mark in the world of radio. Kumar makes time to write on local issues for 'Adyar Times'. (You will come across his letter in the Letters section of the weekly this Sunday). And he is so persistent and focused that there seems to be some reaction from the men who manage our lives.
When you write on local issues you provide on-the-spot and first hand coverage for a community newspaper. You have the facts, the details and the men and women who are part of the event. All you need to do is to take pen and pad and go to work.
Keep out the biases, avoid the frills, get to the facts and let the information be complete. And don't try to impress the newspaper or pull a fast one!
We would like to have more Maithilys and Kumars enriching our newspapers.