January 31, 2009

Take the lead young friends . . .

For the first time in two decades, I had to skip Saarang.
Not because I dislike Opeth or Sonu Niigaam.
Because I had to run the Mylapore Festival and our dates clashed.
In our time, it was MardiGras and it had a different colour to it.
It is still exciting.
I should have been at the IIT cul-fest some how for a special reason.
To look at what two young IITians had put together under the 'Madras-Chennai Express' theme.
IIT is celebrating its golden jubilee and the Saarang team had felt that this year the fest should pay a tribute to the city that cradles it.
And so, Neeraj and Aashish doubled up soon after their semester exams in December and had long sessions, in person and online with me since we have been deeply involved in the annual Madras Day celebrations (Aug.22: www.themadrasday.in).
They didn't have much time on their hands, but by Pongals festival time they had done enough to host a decent show - exhibition, films and talks by prominent people of our city. They even got nice media coverage for this effort.
Good job, Neeraj and Aashish
It is good to see young people dirtying their hands.
Such projects and events are not those which promise glam and camera lights. They call for an understanding, a passion and a certain attitude.
D. Hemachandra Rao, the city's elder collector of postage, currency and photos said at the IIT show that he would now like a group of young people to take over.
Be it the 'Madras Day' event or campaigns on civic issues that affect the city and its neighbourhoods, we want to see lots more young people get deeply involved.
They are roped in for nominal shows - beach cleaning, no smoking, anti-terrorism and the like.
This is not real.
If you want to get your hands in, you may want to start by networking with Rao PH: 2377 0172. He lost a great young friend last year. He hopes a few passionate young souls will respond.

January 24, 2009

Welcome again to the second half of the Sundaram Finance Mylapore Fest.
There isn't any jazz, pizzas and glitter.
There aren't any Page 3 celebrities on stage.
This is a Fest of the people.
And this year, children and young people dominate the Fest.
Which lends it a vibrance and that makes it unique.
Karnik and friends landed up for our 'Discover Mylapore' contest held last Sunday at the Park with nothing else but lots of enthusiasm.
The contest encourages people to know more about their neighbourhood. Many did, but they did so using Google Search, cars, bikes and autos.
These three students walked it all the way and when there were 5 minutes to deadline time, they hailed an auto and zipped back to the Park.
We love you friends for that spirit.
This is truly the spirit of this fest.
The past two days have seen children and teenagers dominate the lead events - dance, music, arts, crafts, volunteering. . .
The Mylapore Sound and Light show has been the work of about 60 young people. When we enhance it for a year ahead we would welcome musicians and studio engineers to help make this sound track a great one.
We hope to see more young people at the two Kolam Contests when east end of the North Mada Street becomes a carpet of the best kolams.
This is indeed a visual spectacle and as Director of the Fest, I would love to see the North, East and South Mada veedhis packed with 400 kolams.
If police officer Sunil Kumar and men can make it possible, that is!
This is a Fest that has been made possible.
When you take part in it, that effort is truly rewarded.
See you at the Fest.
More is on at www.mylaporefestival.com

January 17, 2009

Festival time in Mylapore

I would love to see you at the 2009 edition of Sundaram Finance Mylapore Festival 2009, January 22 to 25.
If you and your family, your relatives and your friends are there, then this will truly be a community-driven fest.
There are over 40 events.
But the events, their colour or their scope do not really make this kind of a Fest.
The visitors, the people do.
They are the ones who give life to a Fest of this sort.
And when a Fest embraces all those who run their lives in the neighbourhood which is our venue, then life gets better.
The panju-mithai wallah, the man who whips out that gooey pink sweet off a rattling oven may well be there.
The bioscope wallah used to keep his date after he got to know that this Fest was as colourful as the arubathumoovar vizha. But I didn't spot him last year.
The narikuravas will be there with their beads and chains and all - their strength is going big, big, big.
They lead the hawker business in Besant Nagar!
And the bajji makers, be they across a janal, on the street or in dingy rooms will be happy to entertain the stream of Fest visitors.
I wonder if I can ask police officer Sunil Kumar who heads the City Traffic Police to manage the Mada Street traffic and encourage a test model during this Fest.
Perhaps make the Mada Streets 'one way' only?
Not because this regulation is what we as organisers of the Fest want, but because we and many others feel that a better regulated traffic zone in this area will hugely benefit many people - hawkers, big stores, residents and visitors.
Can the people of the Mada Streets take the lead and show to this city that a heritage-stopping zone can be developed only if we put our minds to it?
What do you think of the idea? It is not a new one. But it needs to be on the agenda.
See you at the Sundaram Finance Mylapore Festival 2009.

January 09, 2009

Kutti plantains and Kitchen Gardens!

My New Year evening was spent with friends.
There was music but no dancing.
I don't dance much nowadays. I should, to burn the kilos that the doc has suggested I get rid of.
We had a few drinks, pork curry and chappatis. Dessert was simple - finger-sized ripe yellow plantains. My host kept tearing them off the bunch which was hung from a clothesline in the balcony.
I laughed and laughed before I told my amused host that the nook with the bananas looked like Nair's tea shop in Irinjalakuda.
The plantains were delicious.
They had to be. They had grown on the trees that Manoj has in his kitchen garden.
Yesterday, my watchman handed over five raw plantains from a bucket that had two dozen in them.
I closed the door and laughed to myself. The opening week seemed to drive me bananas.
When my maid reported for work today, I asked her to cook them rightaway. They were delicious.
They too had grown on the plantain tree in our backyard.
The veggies and fruits and leaves that grow in our backyards always have a special taste to them.
Perhaps it has to do with the special attention we give them.
Or is there a psychological twist to the way we experience this food?
As a child I could not comprehend why my grandma or my aunt or my mom used to slip out of their village house kitchen, rip the leaves off the branch of a sunny tree and toss them into the kadai.
Today, I make sure the local store provides me a sheaf of curry leaves when the billing is done.
Nobody at my apartment block has made the effort to grow a tree whose leaves grow as fast as we rip them for our cooking.
Kitchen gardens can be developed on terraces, balconies and window sills. Watching chillies and tomatoes grow there can be fascinating.
Talking to plants is therapeutic, we are told.
If you have lovely kitchen garden stories to share, do so on my blog - vincentsjottings.blogspot.com

January 02, 2009

Resolution for 2009: Be the Change in your Community

'Make use of us! We are ready to contribute!'
This is the audio-visual that keeps coming back to mind as 2009 dawns.
It is a visual of 2008. An event that followed the Mumbai terror attack.
At least a thousand people had gathered on the sands of the Marina that Sunday morning.
Men, women and children. Under different umbrellas. I guess the big banner that brought them together was Citizens for Change.
They sympathised with the victims in Bombay. And they pledged to be more active in the public.
'Make use of us! We are ready to contribute!'
That voice, that of a young woman rings in my mind though it bounced off my TV set that Sunday morning.
And I thought to myself - what is she trying to tell us? What is she sharing with us?
If there is one New Year resolution that you and I need to make it is to play a more active and legitimate role as a community - in our campus, in our neighbourhood and in our city.
Lighting candles, joining a walk on the beach and making colourful banners is simple and easy. But it seems to be a fun thing to do.
More so when the TV crews are hounding you.
But active public participation is not a fun outing.
It is a serious engagement.
When Metrowater fills up a large 'kuttai' in K. K. Nagar to expand its business and a few active citizens want to run a campaign against it, they do not find the community behind them. That 'kuttai' is the water harvesting and reservoir centre which can receive floodwater. Closing it will only contribute to flooding and disaster.
When Chennai Corporation burns crores of rupees to relay pavements alongside the beach for no reason and refuses to talk about maintenance of the beach and the sands and a few activists run a  campaign in Besant Nagar, they do not receive support from the community which is content to wear out its Nikes, burn fat and make small talk.
Where there are active community leaders, the community chooses to keep away.
Where there are a group of concerned citizens, leadership is absent.
Where there is a statue of Gandhiji, there is space to light candles.
Be the Change.