May 28, 2011

Create the OMR community

If you have your home in the OMR neighbourhood or you have friends who live there or you intend to buy an apartment in the area, here is a lead you may want to make a note of. . .
Old Mahabalipuram Road is now Rajiv Gandhi Salai. I certainly do not approve of this name change, for some names carry a heritage that must live with the present.
Once it was a little more than a mud track (I would love to hear from oldtimers of Adyar, from the retired CLRI community on their own memories of this road).  But in recent times when the state decided to promote it as the IT highway and the plans found a level after some bubbles burst, its character changed.
The large expanses were bought by big-timers in the real estate business who promised us of high rises which ran up into the skies over Muttukadu and Padur.
The new residential apartment blocks though have been slow in coming up in keeping with the climate in the realty markets. But in the years to come OMR, as we now call this region will be a sprawling neighbourhood.
Friend G. V. Krishnan moved into an OMR apartment recently. An unexpected turn in his colourful life.
Krish retired from the Times of India after a long, eventful career at India's leading newspaper. He belonged to the old school of journalism and must be glad he moved out before the slap-dash business became part of the new TOI.
Krish retired to the hills of Coonoor and since his fingers were itchy and he wanted to remain connected, launched a simple Web site on the Coonoor community. It became quite popular around the world.
Krish had to move home, this time to Mysore. Once settled, he launched another Web community called the Mysore Blog Park. That too generated interest, attention and debate.
This year, Krish made yet another move and came down to OMR. And last fortnight, he launched a blog called OMR Resident.
Krish makes good use of the skills he employed in his career. In this case, he focuses on posting stories on the OMR. Sunrise over the Muttukadu backwaters, local service providers who shuttle between Siruseri, Padur and Kelambakkam, maddening traffic, useful nooks to source curd, bread and greens and development at the complex where he resides and is the area around it.
Krish hopes people who have come to live on the OMR will post their own bits of info and enrich it. If that happens, it will be one online space which will really benefit this community.
Log on

May 21, 2011

Seniors find ways to relax

There is a small community of radio listeners who love the SLBC. Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation.
These are people whose day cannot be made unless they tune in to the Western Pop Music programme that goes on air every morning on SLBC.
The Top of the Pops of the 50s and 60s is on the airwaves all the time. Engelbert Humperdinck, Jim Reeves, Elton John, Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra, Dolly Parton and of course Elvis Presley.
This is a Listeners' Request show and the presenters have been on the air for decades.
It is that warm, personal communication and the still hugely popular music that makes this community tune into SLBC day in and day out.
Recently, in the course of a meeting with a resident in my neighbourhood I realised how this evergreen programme of the SLBC was the lifeline for senior citizens.
Shirley leads a retired life though she is in her late fifties. She hardly has any relatives and the few friends she has have been cultivated at the church she attends, which is not too often.
Shirley is coming to terms with all the ills and pains that come with ageing.
But she says the isolation that a changing neighbourhood in a place like Adyar forces on seniors like her is something that she is coming to terms with great difficulty.
Few neighbours talk freely. Fewer still are willing to extend a helping hand. Most keep to themselves, she says.
So it is the radio which is her companion. She has her favourites. Old Pop Hits on SLBC and a few Christian worship programmes. And her day is made when a SLBC host calls and chats 'live'!
Recently though Shirley has chosen another option to fight loneliness.
She has bought a cellphone and she encourages the few friends she has to call her. But there is one condition - the cellphone line is kept open only for two hours every morning.
I can't afford the bills and I hate these pesky marketing people, she says.
In our fast-changing neighbourhoods, some senior citizens have found ways to enjoy the sunshine. Many though want some warmth.

May 14, 2011

Interact with your MLA

We now have a new Member of the state Legislative Assembly (MLA) to represent us.
As the results of the 2011 elections sink in and as a new government prepares to take charge, we too have a role to play in the months and years ahead.
For all those who chose to come out of their homes on a hot April day to cast the ballot, the act was just one important step in a democracy.
We cannot stop with just that.
Now is the time to get involved.
At our newspapers, in Adyar, in Mylapore and in Arcot Road we made our own little contribution in this election.
We chose to report on the run-up to the election - on the campaign, the contestants and the issues affecting the constituencies.
To make use of the technology resources, we set up web sites and posted information almost everyday.
This effort did have some positives because there was a steady stream of visitors to the sites and they seem to have used the information made available to voters.
Now that the MLAs have been elected and they begin to execute their responsibilities, there is lots more that we can do together.
On our side, we plan to report on these representatives and on their work in our newspapers. We will also launch fresh web sites which will tap into simple tech tools that allow the MLAs and the people to share ideas, post comments and raise issues.
But this alone will not be enough.
This is the time for civil society groups, residents' associations and civic-minded people in our neighbourhoods to join hands, conducts meetings with the MLAs, interact and work together.
On election eve, in some places people hosted face-to-face meetings with the candidates.
Those were small starting points.
The more important steps must be taken now.
To engage with our reps. And we need to start today.
If you have ideas to share and wish to contribute, e-mail to our newspapers.

May 07, 2011

Chennai's stores could take a afternoon break!

For many, shopping is a huge experience, something to look forward to, to get excited about, to indulge in.
For some, like me watching shoppers makes interesting observation.

Earlier this week, I visited a jewellery store located on a  busy road in the Virugambakkam neighbourhood.
Young Ashish who graduated a couple of years ago was blessed by his Dad to branch off on his own, having learnt the tricks and the ins and outs of the trade for many years.

This is a business that runs in the Rajasthanis and those who have moved away from the basics of lending money, and from pawn broking have gone into businesses. Jewellery is one of them.

Ashish's dad was perhaps the earliest to set up shop in this part of the city. He launched himself over three decades ago when the fields and scrublands on either side of Arcot Road were slowly being measured and marked to be sold as plots to middle-class families dreaming of a house of their own.

Arcot Road was then the pathway to moviedom, a time when people gathered at the railway gates in Kodambakkam to gawk at film stars in their cars, waiting for the trains to pass by and let the gates be opened to vehicular traffic.

Today, the once-suburban colonies are sprawling neighbourhoods and Ashish is banking on this growth to fuel his fortunes.
As I sat at the young man's grandly designed new store I watched men and women immersed in their quest to buy some jewellery. Some made a quick selection, paid in crisp notes and left, a couple took time to select a pair of gold bangles, went out to get cash at a ATM and were happy with their buy and one lady and her daughter spent close to an hour to value bits of used jewellery, choose a new piece and sign up on a chit scheme.

The buzz though was because Akshaya Tritiya was at hand!
When the last shopper of that day had left and Aahish was free to chat with me, it was close to 10 p.m.

On a stuffy, hot day when the temperature was soaring at about 41degrees it was a relief to enjoy the air-conditioning in that new store.
I wonder why shops and retail businesses in our neighbourhoods keep their doors open from 9 am to 10 pm, when in summer, few people will stir out between 1 and 3.

Isn't there a lot to be gained by closing down at that time of the day?  Retailers in parts of Pondicherry and Goa do it to enjoy a leisurely siesta and it pays!

Today, local shopping peaks after 8 p.m. Retailers have realised the needs of changing lifestyles and demands. Perhaps, a long break at lunch time in a tropical zone is a profitable practice.