October 25, 2008

Anglos in The Wind

'Anglos in The Wind'.
It did not occur to me to ask Harry MacLure why he chose this name for his magazine.
Yet, there is a ring to this name. Perhaps a zing that makes it click.
And click ii has.
Recently, Harry's quarterly on the Anglo Indian community celebrated its tenth anniversary with a fantastic blast at a hall in this city.
Vintage music, colourful dances and a fun play Harry scripted and put together.
He should have also had a dance party like the ones that Shiraz in Egmore and the Railway Institute in Perambur hosted in the gold old days.
For, Harry and his team deserve our congratulations for this publication.
Simply because bringing out a magazine for a small community, excelling in its quality and sustaining it for a decade is very, very difficult.
When the first issue rolled out in August 1998, "Anglos in the Wind" looked more like an in-house magazine of a corporate.
Founder Les D' Souza put his money and enthusiasm in it and stood by it.
In course of time, "Anglos . . . ." came to be a first class production.
The profiles of the community's grand people and star youths, the stories on the heritage that this community has created in India, the focus on issues that affect Anglo Indians, the collage of events that the community held in the pockets where the diaspora has settled down - United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, the Gulf - and the tidbits on weddings, obituaries, get togethers . . .
The magazine packs a lot between its creative covers.
From his nook in Anna Nagar, Harry, a professional artist and designer, has made every issue unique.
I particularly loved one issue which had on its cover an illustration of a Mail train gently rolling across a little town, its Anglo Indian driver waving out to a little boy staring at it from the yard of the Railway Colony. A magical illustration it was.
The anniversary issue is a collector's special. It has features by some well known writers like Ruskin Bond, Allan Sealy and the Gantzers.
Try and get a copy. Better still, become a subscriber.
"Anglos in the Wind" is not a 'limiting, exclusive' magazine.
4208 0058. That is Harry's number.
And the email ID - aitw@hotmail.com

October 18, 2008

Local civic campaigns . . .

Navaratri took me to North Madras. To Royapuram.
To take part in the celebrations and enjoy the kolu that the Avvai Kalai Kazhagam had hosted.
As we negotiated the streets and lanes we discovered a new zone - streets where tailors, cutters and masters produce hundreds and hundreds of affordable, simple informal wear for men, youth and children.
At first, I assumed these one room places were recycling leftover cloth and making utility products out of them.
But when I zeroed in on piles of what looked like sports suits and struck a conversation with the workman here I got to know that this zone in Royapuram was a hub for simple, informal wear and that these clothes are sent to all corners of the country.
North Madras is still a fascinating place.
Yet it remains neglected.
Its residents though are waking up and saying - we won't take things lying down. We are going to fight.
But this isn't a street fight.
There are strong campaigns that are taking shape.
In a corner of the building where the Avvai Kalai Kazhgam women members meet I met people who were putting together the nuts and bolts of a campaign that will dominate the city.
The campaign to get the proposed Metro Rail project extended from Washermanpet to Royapuram and Tiruvottriyur.
In that nook of Royapuram, activists had been planning every step of this campaign. They had chatted with people.
Then they designed and produced booklets which enlightened residents on the importance and need of the Metro Rail - with imaginative illustrations and captions. And later, on a wet working day, held a rally in the neighbourhood.
More is to follow. This is a serious campaign. By a determined community.
Civic campaigns have to be planned and organised if they are to bear fruit.
Phone calls to complaint cells and pithy letters to newspapers alone will not work in this day and age.
A sharp, willing and determined group in Besant Nagar has been able to check the extravagant 'beach beautification' plans of the city's civic body. Challenged it when workers flouted the regulations.
Filed a Right to Information petition to ferret information and used that to pursue their case.
Much more can be done if citizens devote some time to public issues and lend a hand to local campaigns.

October 11, 2008

The Best Navaratri Kolus

I started arranging a kolu in a small way in my puja room.
But after extension of our apartment I have started keeping it in the extended area. Since I am working I am not able to invite lots of people and limit my invitation to close relatives and friends and a few of my neighbours.
Our colony has a group of women who participate in the chanting of 'Lalitha Sahasranamam' during Navaratri in many houses.
But I am unable to partake in such events due to my work schedule.
Yet my interest in decorating the kolu and inviting a few people home keeps me happy . .

This is an extract from an e-mail Jayshree Ganapati sent to www.arcotroadtimes.com.
I did not ask her permission to reproduce it.
But I chose to post it in my column because, in simple words, it illustrates best the spirit that Navaratri generates in many of us.
And in times when traditions make way for glitz such simple efforts need appreciation.

Reason why we have done our bit to highlight the efforts of so many families.
'Adyar Times' received close to 100 calls a week after the newspaper announced the annual Kolu Contest. The avalanche was not because we were offering gold coins or silver bracelets to the winners.
Families like to invite others over - to host them and show them their work.
Yes, the traditional kolu needs all the attention and reverence that it must be given.
It also lets people tap their creativity.

'Mylapore Times' offered to post photos of kolus on the Net so that the world could enjoy them. Our photographer, Saravanan ended up with the toughest assignment! Imagine crisscrossing the neighbourhood to shoot pictures at 75 different homes. . .
Take a look at the Kolu Gallery we have designed at www.kutcheribuzz.com/navarathri2008.
This is perhaps the best showcase of Navarathri Kolus.

At www.arcotroadtimes.com we were busy through the week. We asked families to take pictures of their kolus and mail them to us. We were surprised. 20 families responded. As did Jayshree Ganapati.
Some others chose to report on the festivities.
The warmest notes came from two huge residential apartment complexes where families put their hands together to host community kolus. . .

My memorable Navaratri experience this year was at the kolu that the Avvai Kalai Kazhagam, a womens group hosted in Royapuram. In 15 panels, they highlighted the stories associated with Thirugnanasambandar. All the minute 'model' work was executed by these women and the kolu was open to the community of this area.

If you visit the online kolu pictures gallery, please post your comments. They are valuable.

October 05, 2008

Community Journalism online - Arcot Road Times

In the summer of May 2008, we took another step in community journalism.
We launched www.arcotroadtimes.com, a web site focused on the neighbourhoods across K. K. Nagar, Vadapalani, Virugambakkam and Valasarawakkam.

It was a scratchy start - all our projects have debuted in this manner. We chose to build on a WordPress template and started gingerly. Since then, the web site has demanded a lot from us.
And the climbing graph of our visitors is pushing us.

Community news and info web sites call for a unique approach. Get the community involved.
And it isn't easy.
This Navaratri season we are trying to coax people to mail us pictures of their kolus and community celebrations.
Since most people own a digi-camera, shooting pictures is easy. But e-mailing them calls for some effort.
Most of us to assume that people in the metros are Net-savvy. Not correct.
So we have to hold a hand and SMS tips to help seniors connect.
But it is worth the effort.
For, the gallery of pictures generates immense interest and triggers interaction, e-mails and more inputs.

Which is how a web site like www.arcotroadtimes.com will grow.
We have a small band of senior students who send us campus reports. Yes, half of them are dictated by their teachers or their file lists all the winners of certificates and medals the school team won at the essay contest on 'The dangers of smoking'.
But with encouragement and cajoling, the reports get better.

We do have the intrepid colony reporters too.
One man has to e-mail us every week on anything that happens in his sector - broken manhole cover, overflowing sewage, dropping tree trunk, blaring taxis.
He doesn't expect us to post the litany.
I am hoping his keen eye will one night catch the shadow of a fleeing thief and that he will go after the shadowy rogue and the chase will have an exciting denouement. And that he will report it, firsthand.

Well, we at Arcot Road Times aren't waiting for wild stories. We don't encourage them.
But the web site is growing with the community's contributions. Slowly, local businesses have begun to show interest. A local home-based caterer is excited - he wants to e-mail his weekend offers and is willing to watch the response.
A pharmacy, open 24 hours, is talking too. So is a local builder of apartments.
The process is exciting.

Do take a look at this web site. Your ideas, suggestions and comments are welcome.(E-mail - arcotroadtimes@gmail.com)