December 27, 2008

Dreaming of a Christmas Zone in Chennai . . .

San Thome did come alive this season. Though in parts.
I took a walk in the Leith Castle area on Christmas evening to share time with a few friends and was greeted by scores of lit stars and twinkling decorative bulbs hung on the branches of trees.
Leith Castle is a quiet area of independent houses, gardens and free streets.
I was tempted to call Francis Lazarus, ask him to collect a bunch of singers and request a concert at the end of Leith Castle Centre Street!
If Mumbai's East Indian community could do it why couldn't we?
On the Saturday before Christmas day, the community in Bandra closes St. Anthony's Lane, puts up a stage, fills the lane with chairs and invites local musicians to perform here.
Professionals, amateurs, kids, bands . . . all of them take turns to turn on the festival spirit.
And this year, they even composed a special carol for Mumbai. And when a well wisher got to hear of the new song which did the rounds on MP3, he volunteered to produce a music video in all of 24 hours.
I am convinced now that San Thome will get a life next Christmas.
Dr. Boaz at the St. Thomas by the Sea Church (yes, the St. Thomas English Church) has promised to link up with the youth groups to plan for December 2009.
And octogenarian Vincent who is always in the thick of events and festivities and will fly out to Australia this weekend would do his best to get us some free tickets to Hong Kong for a lucky draw.
I am most encouraged with what our auto rickshaw drivers of San Thome created - a simple crib at the end of the lane where they have an auto stand.
If we can network the schools and convents, parishes and stores, colonies and auto stands, San Thome will be different.
If you have ideas, drop them off at my blog please.

December 20, 2008

Moore Market and San Thome at Christmastime

Some places live with us. Among my few is Moore Market.
This December I want to go back in time.
For Moore Market got a life of its own at Christmastime.
Had it survived the fire that helped in its destruction it would have easily rivalled CitiCentre and Spencer Plaza and held its own.
There was so much to do at this market.
Pore over secondhand novels, try out smart frocks and Tees, sift through the decorations, marvel at the crib sets, take a look at the noisy parakeets and strike a deal with some antique pieces - Moore Market was a magical world at Christmastime.
Families from Narasinghapuram and Chintadripet, from Vepery and Perambur, from Arakkonam and George Towne had to check out this market at this time of the year.
I can't forget Thomas Rodrigo & Sons store which sold everything that a Christian family required. I particularly remember a smallmade man who had the gentlest of voices and slightest of frames who guided us through our shopping.
Then he was a mere salesman. Today, he appears to me like a gentle poet.
Rodrigo had a range of cribs and we bought one only at this store.
It also had a store in Broadway but I rarely stopped by there.
I think it still exists - perhaps living out the years.
Spencers of old was another hub. A hub to order the goodies - turkey and sauces and cheese and flour and all that which went to make a great Christmas lunch.
Old timers tell me that Spencers would bring in decorators to do up the entire place and in a prominent place, rotate cardboard numbers which set the countdown for Christmas - 8 more days to go! 7 more days to go . .
I wish San Thome got a life of its own.
Well after the rushhour traffic has died down on San Thome High Road, the stars that have been put up at St. Bede's school create a little magic off this road now.
I wish many others would follow St. Bede's and put out the stars all along this road, till the Foreshore Estate point. On rooftops, trees and balconies.
Some others could play carols on their music systems.
And some others decorate their trees with lights and buntings.
Some could keep their gates open and share kulkuls or a piece of cake with strangers who tarry to take in the ambience. . .
And young men with guitars and mouth organs could walk through Custian Beach and Rosary Lane, Dooming Street and Leith Castle, playing the songs of the season. . .
I wish San Thome got a life of its own at this time of the year.

December 13, 2008

Chennai in December. It is the place to be!
I am not promoting the city because of the internationally known music and dance season of 1000 concerts.
This is a city that really buzzes.
Last night, I hopped across to a wedding hall in Mandaveli to catch a special concert - nadaswaram by the husband-wife team of Sheik Mahaboob Subhani and Kalishabi from Srirangam playing alongside a violinist, a mridangist, a morsing and ghatam artiste. A dedication to saint composer Narayana Theertha for a fest that Thirupoonthuruthi Venkatesan has run for 40 years.
I did this between bouts of work at our newspapers.
On Saturday, I will have to drop by to listen in to Anil Srinivasan on the piano and Sikkil Gurucharan on Carnatic vocals. These two have impressed people with their music and have even realised three albums. Now they want to explain their work.
Should I check out the Unplugged concerts at Unwind Center in Adyar or accompany a city band that is performing at the monthly Sec-Sat concert in Pondicherry on Saturday evening ?
My Sunday morn is booked. For an event where well known guitarist and ProMusicals promoter Sudhin Prabhakar wants to demonstrate to Carnatic musicians how they make the best of new technology.
I just cannot miss the Christmas Carols at St. Marys in the Fort on Sunday evening. And should I then hop across for the blues and rock at Alliance?
Chennai in December is wonderful.
I know the stink of the sewage that the recent rains have left behind on our streets and which our City Fathers haven't yet cleared well spoils the air.
But Chennai is still wonderful.
If you haven't yet bought a CD of carols, please do: play them through the evening at home.
If you haven't soaked in a kutcheri, get a rasika to take you along to a sabha.
If your colony hasn't had a get together for sometime now, this is the season to play Santa, buy gifts for all the kids and have a party on a terrace top and become good neighbours.
If you haven't explored the ECR, this is the time to do it. There is a dance fest unfolding at Mahabs very soon.
Chennai in December is wonderful.
If you are having a wonderful time in December share that experience at my blog.