May 30, 2009

Motta maadis. . .

The Kannadiga community in South Chennai used to have an interesting event on their calendar.
Potluck dinner on the beach.
I am not sure if they continue with this wonderful idea.
Their destination was Elliots Beach in Besant Nagar.
It had to be a family affair. I knew friends who would tear themselves away from other preoccupations and dash down to the beach for dinner.
Heading to the beach or the riverside on a full moon evening and having a meal is an old tradition.
In the cities though, with the growth of highrise buildings, there are communities who seem to make the best of their terraces.
In many instances, terraces are junkyards of sorts. A place where all sorts of antennae and aerials rise into the skies. A place where soiled pillows, mangled kitchen stands, empty cartons and broken furniture are dumped.
In recent times though I have got to learn about more interesting things that are happening on our terraces.
Last month, as the moon got the better of the summer dusk, teenage musicians launched a Carnatic music kutcheri on a terrace at a building in Luz, Mylapore.
Out in Ashok Nagar, Dr. Ramanathan, who runs a cancer care centre, has his 'Remembering MS' series of concerts on the terrace of his hospital.
Yesterday, publisher Badri Seshadri mailed me an invite to a talk on swine flu that was to be held in a shed on the terrace of his central office in Alwarpet.
And elsewhere, there is a group that hosts the 'motta maadi' music listening series where rasikas sit around and listen to vintage Carnatic music recordings of the maestros.
As I write this I learn that a group in my colony is planning to visit a building in Kottivakkam on the ECR where a group has raised a kitchen garden and grows medicinal plants.
So much is happening on our 'motta maadis'!
If you know of more, share the details at my blog.

May 25, 2009

Three Tours You May Want to Take in Chennai

I had a few surprise calls this past month, the hottest.

People wanted to know if we could organise a few heritage walks.

I thought families headed to the hills in summer. The fact is that there are people who take weekend breaks and some do not mind exploring our city.

Walking around is the last thing you'd want to do in the searing Madras heat. It is 30degrees plus by 8 a.m.

But I couldn't dampen the spirits of visitors who did not mind the heat.

So I did the next best thing instead of stepping out.

I was their guide employing the Short Messaging Service. And it seemed to work.

Imagine sitting at home in Adyar and guiding groups.

Taking a bus to Fort St. George, how to negotiate the police security at the IN gate, why the State Assembly complex must be skipped, what not to miss at St. Mary's, how to gain entry to the fantastic Clive House, how to get on the great ramparts of the Fort and where to get a good brunch.

Summer Sundays are still the best time to explore different parts of a city.

Numismatist D. Hemachandra Rao has been looking under all the old bridges in the city. And taking pictures of them.

Being a civil engineer, Rao loves good architecture and he wants to document the old bridges in Vyasarpadi and Chintadripet, in Egmore and Saidapet.

Now if you and your family and friends have not made the best of a summer Sunday, here are a few short tours you could plan.

Explore the 'Adyar Poonga' at the far end of Raja Annamalaipuram, off San Thome High Road. If the sea breeze sets in after 2 p. m. this is an interesting natural reserve to check out. You have birds for company in the marshy spots.

Check out all the heritage complexes opposite the Marina Beach - Presidency College, PWD Headquarters, Carnatic Palace and Senate House at the University and wind up with a look at the old 'locks' on the Canal behind the varsity campus.

On another Sunday, leave your car behind. Hop into a train on the MRTS system and take in the city from the skies. Start from Thiruvanmiyur and end at Madras Beach. Take the train back but make sure you sit on the 'other' side.

Best stretch - Mylapore to Park, eastern view!

May 15, 2009

Chennai South MP - Community Linkages

Chennai South should have a new Member of Parliament on Saturday, May 16.
And if one goes by the exit polls, there could be a little surprise.
What did surprise me was the large turnout on polling day, May 13.
Even the blistering heat of May did not dampen the spirits of voters.
A polling average of 60 percent is indeed a good sign though 75% would have made South Chennaiites proud.
Yes, there were many hiccups - EVMs malfunctioning, names not found on the voters' list, officials refusing to let people subscribe to Rule 49 (0).
And yet, it was peaceful in the neighbourhoods.
So is our job over?
Not really. Voting is only a part of a process. It is not a picnic on a weekend.
And perhaps here is yet another opportunity for all of us to see how we can have a man who is a real representative.
A Member of Parliament has to debate national issues and oversee large projects. He is not responsible for the dead streetlamp in your colony or mine. But there is a lot that he or she can do if the community he/she represents is a bit proactive.
He has a huge amount of funds to allot to local projects. Who decides what he should spend it on and how?
He has the power to liaise with departments on projects and issues that concern his constituency. Who puts these issues on top of the agenda?
We the people.
Here then is yet another opportunity.
As a step forward, we hope to use the Net initiative at to get into this process.
We are not stopping at covering the elections and posting the name of the winner on May 16.
In a way, this initiative could well record our new MP.
His vision and goals, his acts and promises, his role in Parliament and outside.
To do this we need a few bright, selfless and motivated volunteers.
Last week, publisher K. Satyanarayan from Mylapore raised his hand and said he would be in. We need at least five more to make this little initiative blossom.
If we can move it forward, it could well work for the community and for the MP.
So if you wish to volunteer, mail me at -

May 09, 2009

Web site for Chennai South

Two weeks ago, a group of us launched a Web initiative.
A project linked to the General Elections this year.
Employing free-to-use Web tools and services, we created a web site whose address is -
The focus was Chennai South parliamentary constituency.
It features the bio-pics of the leading candidates in the fray in this region, the core of the promises they are making this season, reportage of all the developments in the constituency and photos of the events related to the election in Chennai South.
Since the initiative is supported voluntarily we have not been able to do much more but we are moving ahead.
Yesterday, we added a Wish List section to encourage people in this region to mention issues and projects that the new MP should address after he is elected.
We launched this initiative with the hope that it will contribute in some way to the sharing of information and a means of communication in the public space.
People have begun to query us and seek details this past week after visiting and exploring the web site.
And there is more to do in the future.
The web site does not get frozen in the Web word once a candidate is elected. The responsibility increases thereafter.

We hope to keep a tab on the new MP - post the details of the work he undertakes here, track his interaction in the constituency, report his work in Parliament and provide space for interaction with the people.
We also hope that the maintenance of an electronic record of our man in Parliament will contribute to the democratic process.
This though, is not an easy task and we need dedicated volunteers.
Perhaps three or four people who can devote time and skills to carry out this endeavour.
If you are willing, email us via the web site.
More importantly, keep your date at the polling booth on May 13.

And if you want to send us a few lines of the event and add a picture too, feel free to do so. We can post them on

Are we also running a contest on 'Who will be the MP of Chennai South?
No we aren't. We wouldn't do it even if someone offered to gift a Skoda as the prize!

May 02, 2009

Elections in Chennai

Mumbai mourns for the victims of 26/11. It starts talking against terrorism. Its people come together for candlelight processions. They begin to call for change.
Its celebrities lend time and talent for the campaigns for General Elections 2009. TV channels devote hours of airtime on what Mumbai is thinking on election eve.
Loads of programmes to discuss if 26/11 will impact on the elections.
Heated debates on the role of the middle class and the youth in the polls.
Finally, on April 30, the day Mumbai went to the polls, just over 40% cast their ballot.
So what do we make of all this? Think it over. . .
I am interested in Chennai. It goes to the polls on May 13.
And there are three metro-based constituencies - Chennai North, Chennai Central and Chennai South. All three are sprawling constituencies, with anywhere between nine to ten lakh voters in each.
Each has its own set of issues, demands, expectations and disappointments.
Each constituency has its own character, colour and composition. Though all three make Chennai what it is.
So are there Chennai-driven issues that are dominating the elections this time around?
And is it important to put these issues on top of the agenda of the candidates who have thrown their hat in the ring last fortnight?
The campaign so far has been low-profile, dull and drab. But you cannot blame the sun for this.
From the little that I have gleaned from the campaigns, the men and women in the fray are saying the same things we have heard at election time. Very little is arresting and imaginative.
Do parliamentarians also represent a city? If they do, why aren't we witnessing debates at public forums on issues that affect Chennai?
Promising drinking waterlines to a slum or nodding for another flyover to tackle the growing traffic is welcome but are there 'Chennai' issues which are topping the agenda?
Perhaps this has not happened because Chennai's community prefers to complain and endure or because it knows not what its role should be in the public sphere?
So what will be the voting percentage in Chennai? Better than Mumbai?
There is a lot behind that figure which will be known after dusk on May 13.