December 30, 2012

Be part of Mylapore Festival 2013

How did the little colony called Thygarajapuram in the heart of Mylapore come about?

The story goes that two dozen and more Carnatic music vidwans decided to purchase a little plot for themselves and do so in one place.

It was also the place where the Sri Thyagaraja Sangeeta Vidwath Samajam had taken root.

One of the vidwans in that group was the late Mannargudi Sambasiva Bhagavatar whose birth centenary was observed recently.

As his son Jayaraman dug into old files, he came across a few old photographs. One, of the ground breaking ritual of the Sri Thyagaraja Sangeeta Vidwath Samajam. The other, of Sambasiva Bhagavatar and his family standing outside their humble abode.

Both pictures were dog-eared, tinted but clear and both are valuable. For, if we get the copies done right they will be part of the Vintage Mylapore Photo Exhibition, one of the 20-plus events that make the 2013 edition of the Mylapore Festival, sponsored by Sundaram Finance. ( Jan.10 - 13, 2013).

The collection is still on - after all this is not an easy task. Some people who possess old pictures do not want to part with them, some let these become garbage and others are a bit sentimental.

The Mylapore Festival is a sum of the little parts that reflect the colour, life and heritage of this place which is at the core of our city.

And getting people and families involved gives it strength.

So when we asked educationist Dr. Vatsala Narayanaswamy if we could host talks on the weekend evenings at her 1950s art deco bungalow, she happily agreed to play host.

In the same vein, the managers of Hotel Karpagam always reserve the extra big rooms for our artistes. This year, the 25 strong artistes of the Bhagavata Mela troupe from Melattur in Thanjavur camp here to present two productions over two nights.

And two of our regular resources, V. Sriram and Dr. Chitra Madhavan will lead two different Walks on the Sunday of the Fest.

This is a Fest that tries to tap into local resources, uses open spaces inside a temple and around it and joins hands with the community to showcase what we can of the city's heritage.

So if you want to lend a hand or be part of the Fest, buzz us. Our web site is at And our email ID is -

December 22, 2012

Christmas stars are few

Will the night temperature hold at 22 degrees or will this stifling heat of the day in December wipe out the chill that we have been enjoying for some weeks now?

My December watch has been on the temperature. And on the night skies.

I can sense that the mild wintery season is slipping even though margazhi is only into its second week.

The skies though are clear and a sight to behold - a better visual treat if you were to look up as you drive from the Royapuram side of our city, keep to the beach road and head south.

One night this past week we slowed down on San Thome High Road, looking for the trademark string of small paper-made stars that are strung right across the campus of St. Bede's School in this area.

Christmas stars are a rarity these days. And many of those that go up, more by force of habit hang in isolation.

As we went down the neighbourhood, we were greeted by another long string of stars, lit up and neatly hung across the open campus of a CSI church.

At the midnight hour, these looked delightful though they competed for attention from a 'running' glow-sign quoting Saint Luke about 'redemption drawing near.'

Days earlier I had walked into the store at a church, a shrine which attracts thousands of people on weekends, Hindus and Christians from all over.

I did not have a shopping list nor did I intend to shop here. Perhaps a single paper star that hung on the doorway had got my attention and curiosity drew me in.

In a corner between shelves of religious magazines, statues and rosaries and medals I chanced on crib sets made from plastic and bamboo, with a Rs.200 price tag on each.

They make things easy for all those who wish to set up a crib at Christmastime. Buy the shell, buy the accessories and buy a box of statues, assemble them and lo, a crib would be ready in ten minutes.

The walkabout took me to the Decembers when we used to germinate mustard seeds in mud packs so that we could set up 'fields' around the crib!

Times have changed. But kids still believe in Santa Claus and Christmas gifts. Keep the innocence.

December 15, 2012

Foodies day out at sabha canteens

The December season means different things to different people.

Artistes, PR companies, tourists, foodies and autorickshaw drivers.

In a way, all of these communities make the 'season' special and an event to look forward too.

The city's foodies always keep an eye on the buzz at the canteens at the sabha halls, the hub for classical music and dance recitals.

This is a season when food fests for the Christmas and New Year season are aplenty. But for diehard foodies every restaurant, every 'mess' and every canteen is a place to explore.

I had my first nibble of the December season food last Sunday at a sabha in Mylapore. A sabha that goes by the name of Mylapore Fine Arts Club - now to explain why a sabha took on the name that has 'club' in it is another story for another day.

The sabha's festival inauguration is an event I have not missed, for no particular reason. It always begins with the chief guest invited to hoist the sabha's flag.

Once, when I realised that this flag was no better than a dirty, large napkin used at the dining table and mentioned it in passing in a daily-sheeter that KutcheriBuzz publishes for the December season, the then secretary went red.

This time though all was well and having sat through what was a rather pedestrian opening ceremony where many speakers made references to dancer Shobana's saree (she was an awardee that evening), I dropped into the canteen.

Vegetable bonda, a plate of mini iddlis and coffee got my nod. But it was opening evening for the caterer. The food had to be good!

A colleague who was at the same canteen a day ago realised that it was serving amavasya food - no garlic, no onion! And I am told the snacks were good.

By Sunday, all the sabha canteens will be open and offering their very best.

Hungry foodies though will besiege these places on Sunday for the meal. I know of Toyota-loads of families from Vepery and Egmore who dine at the sabha canteens and spread the word to all their friends to join them too.

On FaceBook, the city's foodie community has begun to review the food at the sabhas.

Am waiting to see which caterer is the winner this December.

December 08, 2012

Remembering Manna at December season

Sabha hopping is a bit like pub hopping.

You get to soak in the mood. Drink what is on offer. Get elevated. And make your evening an enjoyable one.

This is indeed a heady time for all those who love Carnatic music and classical dance.

For many rasikas, as they are called their December life revolves around this festival which is called the December Season.

I have friends in Bangalore and Coimbatore, Tanjore and New Delhi who start making plans for the 'season' in September - booking their travel tickets, reserving hotel accommodation and making a check list of artistes to listen to.

And once the sabhas put out their festival schedules, these friends tick the concerts they must be at and the lectures they can't afford to miss. And then there is the socializing to do and buddies to meet.

In many ways, the December Season is much more than just concerts, tiffin, concerts, tiffin, concerts.

For us at KutcheriBuzz (, the hopping begins in November and since we recently redesigned the web site ( we hope you take a look at it and offer your feedback!) the running around began weeks ago and now, we will be on our sabha-hop beat.

Mylapore and Mambalam are the two hot zones - so negotiating them is a tad easy but with festivals now happening in the suburbs and other city neighbourhoods, a look in is a must.

To reflect the mood, the buzz and the sights of the season, we chose to launch a Blog that is updated through the day and sometimes, from the sabha itself.

Some rasikas have begun to mail us and we welcome more. Contributions by way of short notes and pictures from your Berrys and iPads are welcome. (The blog is at

One person I will certainly miss this season was an old friend, 'Manna' Srinivasan now no more. Based in Delhi and very knowledgeable in the arts since his bureaucrat workdays, 'Manna' and I shared notes and gossip, had thick discussions and treated ourselves to tiffin.

He is still on my mind. The December season does have its imprint.

December 02, 2012

Be a civic campaigner in Chennai

There is lots more than smileys, wows and Sena-bashing on FaceBook.

For many it is a hub to chatter.

For others, there are ideas to share, points to make.

And for a journalist like me looking for stories on local issues, FB can also give leads.

I got one for this column.

Sundararaman Chintamani is a IT professional. He has varied interests and is a true-blue Mylaporean. And he looks around his neighbourhood and his workplace to talk about issues that affect us all.

Sometime ago, he seems to have blogged local civic issues.

Some days ago, Sundararaman had a long post on his FaceBook page. And it was serious stuff.

His observation was on one issue related to private traffic to IT campuses in Sholinganallur. He notes that there are many major IT companies in a ELCOT campus.

He says, daily over 1000 people come to this campus in cars. During peak hours, these people spend over 10 minutes every day, both in the mornings and evenings at the Sholinganallur traffic signal junction.

Sundararaman notes that if one roughly calculates the fuel spent while idling, it would touch rupees one crore on an annual basis.

Also, the loss on personal time would be more than Rs.5 crore.

So, is there a way to save lots of money?

Sundararaman works in the OMR zone. He says there are two gates to the ELCOT campus.  The rear gate from OMR side is always kept closed. He says the informal reason cited for this closure is the loss of revenue for the toll gate.

He says many people who may like to use this gate would have already paid the toll at the previous toll gate.

Sundararaman argues that ELCOT is keen about security and does not consider alternate ideas like special passes for IT staff.  "If the rear gate is opened permanently many IT company employees can save a lot time in travel. The fuel savings will be huge," he argues.

Finally, by rough calculations, Sundararaman says the total loss on fuel waste, idling time at the signal and going down to a further gate is Rs. 59,900,000 per annum.

There may be holes in this case but such observations/ suggestions help us address key, local issues.

We need observations, notes and audits. We also need campaigns and campaigners.

And we need state and private agencies to respect ideas and suggestions, evaluations and audit of/by the people.