November 24, 2012

Christmas spirit: Egmore, Pudupet

December Season ( the annual festival of classical music and dance) rolls in November.

Christmas shows premiere in November.

We don’t mind; as long as the spirit is intact.

I guess my first Christmas show to check out this season will be the musical that Mellow Circle is staging this weekend at Museum Theatre, Egmore.

For some years now, the Mellow Circle’s annual show has come to be part of a packed calendar of events for the season, a calendar which leads with the two-evenings of carols at the Madras Christian College school, Chetput, hosted by the Alumni Association and the Madras Musical Association’s ‘Carols by Candlelight’ held at the vintage St. Christopher’s School campus in Vepery.

All these communities put in a lot of hard work, spread across weekends in October and November, with plans that begin much earlier.

The Museum Theatre is by far the best space that lets the musical spirit wrap around you in the freezing air-conditioning and remains with you in the 24 degrees outside.

One wishes we had such shows in many of our neighbourhoods too instead of one in Egmore and another in Chetput. This is the season for young people to sing and act.

Lawrence @ Lorry Murray, a friend who now lives in the UK never tires of rewinding to the times he and his friends in Pudupet used to do the Christmas carol rounds. In the 60s and 70s, the area’s church zone used to be of the Anglo-Indian community.

1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Streets – as the local streets were simply called were their home. And the youths would hire a fish cart ( the gossip was that it was a beef cart) and pedal away to the homes of all their friends, even as far as Vepery, sing carols, tuck in the snacks, pocket the money and blow it on a party.

Pudupet changed after the migration. Many went to UK and Australia and many, to Madhavaram and Kolathur.

Now, the carols you may get to listen to here are sung in St. Anthony’s Church.

Your local church will soon have a Carols Evening. You are invited. And do take the kids along.

November 18, 2012

Recycle the stuff you use

How do we recycle toothbrushes?

The question stumps me.

But someone in Kotturpuram seems to have an answer and claims to have been successful at it.

That local community has invited him to a meeting that will discuss local civic headaches and the recycling idea will be demonstrated to those who care.

This business of recycling seems to be getting on top of the agenda in many cities but does not seem to impact on the 3000 plus tonnes of waste that we generate in this city.

At my offices, I am a bit concerned about the use of newsprint or paper. That is because we consume so much of it week after week, though for a very good reason.

Yet, it seems to me that my teams and I must be obligated to try and recycle paper.

For some time, I have done the simplest act - recycled the dozens of envelopes that come into out offices everyday by reusing them. Now, there are some stiff people who look the other way when they get a 'used' cover in their mail box or in the office tray.

Couriers can be discouraging people - they do not accept covers which have names and notes scored out even if we decide to paste a bright yellow sheet of paper on the used front to jot the address.

Our friends at 'Citizen Matters' in Bangalore, who are focused on civic issues and citizens rights have been driving twin campaigns.

One, to get people to pursue gardening, even kitchen gardening or terrace gardening.

Two, to recycle garbage.

So they play the role of co-hosts at neighbourhood events that are part fun, part knowledge-sharing. And it seems to work well on a weekend in J P Nagar or in Jayanagar.

Similar events have been hosted off and on in the Adyar neighbourhood but we need a focused, cyclic campaign that will yield results.

We at our newspapers will be willing to publish some terrific practices you have been following to lessen that garbage mound and recycle stuff.

Do write in.

November 11, 2012

Is the Deepavali zing missing?

If there is one activity at Deepavali time that calls for people to get together what would it be at your end?
Decorating the home?
Bursting crackers?
Or dining together?
My take is that cooking would be the fun thing for many people if you set it up well and not called it a dreary kitchen activity.
The past fortnight I have been asking my editorial colleagues to locate and talk to families who make it a point to prepare sweets and snacks the traditional way.
We were keen to do a feature on this trend but we could not do much.
Hardly any makes sweets at home. They order from Kakkadas or Grand, Sri Krishna or Sree Mithai.
Families are nuclear. They have hardly any time. And why sweat when foodstuff is delivered when ordered online.
For those who still prefer the best and the traditional, there are specialists who make the stuff for you.
I think festivals in the metro are passé. People celebrate every other fortnight or month and they even create an occasion to do so. And why not? We live life differently.
So Deepavali and Christmas are not a big deal really.
The auto-driver who took me home on Tuesday night was a worried man. "I have been going round in circles this evening and haven't got even festival shoppers," he said, hoping I would pay him an extra ten.
Decorative lights on stores are less seen in the shopping spaces in our neighbourhoods. Festival billboards are shouting out mere discounts. And fire-cracker outlets will open only on festival eve.
Friend V. Rajesh says the dying zing of Indian festivals was a theme he taught at a B-school last summer.
So will kids really believe in Santa Claus this Christmas?
It is a question I ask as we prepare to plan our annual Santa Gifting Tour for December in our neighboruhoods?
I think we need to be just kids if we want to enjoy festivals.
Meanwhile, I leave you with a message in chalk written on the wall of the Chennai Corporation School in my neighbourhood this morning - Happy Diwali. Safe Diwali.

November 03, 2012

Sacred Heart. St. Antony's. CSI School for the Deaf. Stories to Document

Rosella Stephen and her team at Indulge, the weekender of 'The New Indian Express' need a pat on the back.
Their fifth anniversary issue was out today and the 72-pager is certainly a 'must keep' issue for all those who know a tad less about this city.
Nooks for foodies, gracious life spaces for fashionistas, less known destinations for picnickers, joints for the eco-believers and more.
Anniversary issues are a challenge. And the journey they set to describe is even more interesting.
I am re-reading ' The School in the Park: A Hundred Years of Sacred Heart School', a coffee table book published for the centenary of this school in 2009.
The story of how the Presentation Convent nuns from Ireland came to Madras in 1842 is fascinating. Four months on an East Indiaman ship was quite a journey. As Rev. Mother Curran noted. ' Even during less turbulent weather conditions the vessel pitched so much that the passengers amused themselves by holding contests to see who could remain standing the longest . .'
I studied at a Presentation nuns run-school in Egmore's Pudupet area. St. Anthony's celebrated its centenary last year. A group of us have decided to publish a book on the school's history and re-reading Sacred Heart is essential.
Classmate Khaja has begun collecting black and white pictures. He enjoys the job because even as he collects data, he shows the pictures around and teases the alumni he meets - making faces go red, foreheads crease and smiles light up faces.
The stories of the Pudupet convent are fascinating and must be documented.
And I hope similar stories get documented in your lives and in the lives of neighbourhood institutions.
Later this month, St. Raphaels School in San Thome will formally celebrate its centenary. Run by the FMM nuns, the school's stories will also document the life and times of young girls in this area.
Also celebrating its centenary is the CSI-run School for the Deaf, also in San Thome. The old building that fronts the campus treasures lots of stories of pre-War days, of orphans and early school education and of course, education  of the less abled.
Closer, the Mahratta Education Fund is also celebrating its centenary and we hope to see a great souvenir/book from there.
It is time for people who head such institutions or have lived great lives to move away from adverts-packed souvenirs and hagiographic tales and use the occasion to document real stories and pictures.
How Pudupet changed from a Christian-Anglo-Indian neighbourhood to a Muslim one is another story. The record of that change will have its place in a book on the Pudupet school.