May 25, 2013

Roads less travelled in Madras

Would you like to discover a one hundred year old neighbourhood in the heart of our city?

Then you would do well to join a PhotoWalk being organised this Sunday.

Ramaswamy Nallaperumal will play host and he should be a good guide since he has been exploring the nooks and bylanes of our city and posting his pictures on a blog and on FB.

This little colony has been living on the edge for many years now, one might say. Located behind what was once a famed landmark, Bilal Hotel and with the Cooum river running on its border, this little neighbourhood still preserves vestiges of families who migrated here some generations ago.

Ramaswamy's intention is to not only let people who will join him to also appreciate the lesser known facets of our city, more so neighbourhoods in the heart of Madras but to also look at how the work on the Metro rail system is changing the face of Mount Road.

So if you want to jojn this group, head to the start point at Hotel Sennthur which is at the head of Club House Road, Anna Salai. And if you get lost call 9444062684 . The Walk starts at 6.30 a.m.

In some ways, the Sunday tour will be a kind of Road Less Travelled experience. That too in the heart of the city.

For people who like to rediscover cities and its people, Mount Road can still hold a few surprises.

I have a few RLTs on my map.

One will takes us down Ritchie Street and into Narasinghapuram. This was once the hub of a small Goan and Anglo-Indian community. Today, it is the computers and electronics market.

The other RLT is Ellis Road that runs off from the statue of Annadurai, who was once the chief minister of Tamil Nadu. The best lassi was sold in two shops which stood behind the Devi Cinemas complex. You had a great biryani at Coronation Durbar which stood on the Round Tana and then headed for the Brijbasi lassi.

As we plan for Madras Week this August, we are looking for people who know their colourful and historic neighbourhoods pretty well and can take groups on RLT walking tours that last an hour or even less.

People from Kilpauk and Anna Nagar, Perambur and Vepery are invited to lead such Walks. If you need a bit of guidance, people like S. Muthiah and V Sriram and Ramaswamy can do it for you. These are people who have been walking for years now.

Keen? Drop me a line at

You can listen to this post here

May 18, 2013

Musicians need your help!

From the taxi driver to the security personnel I have been asked for “extra” payment because I am carrying my keyboard, standard size. Airlines now charge musicians 1000 rupees for carrying instruments on board. This HAS to stop.

This is a Facebook post by well-known pianist Anil Srinivasan and it tells you of his recent experience. It also reflects similar experiences that our musicians and artistes have been having of late when they travel by air.
Shantala Subrahmanyam said international carriers do not seem to charge or bother. Dancer Anita Ratnam commented that it was time to start an online campaign.
And Sumana Chandrashekar said that Indigo charged her an additional 6000 rupees to carry the ghatam.
Musicians across the country have been unhappy with a new rule which requires them to pay Rs 1,000 for every musical instrument they carry on board a domestic flight.
The rule came into effect recently after Directorate General for Civil Aviation approved it - I hear that some airlines had already enforced it last year. The payment is mandatory, and over and above any extra payment that may have to be made for the weight of the instruments.
Tabla player Anuradha Pal launched an online petition and has collected over 1300 signatures this far.
Here then is an issue for the music community and the rasikas to form part of a bigger campaign and push it forward.
And do so strongly.
Talking of campaigns and ginger groups, I am impressed with the work that the Disability Advocacy Group in our city has undertaken with the company behind the Metro Rail project.
Realising that advocacy and close interaction on large projects at the planning board stage is the best strategy to get simple things done, this Group carries on a sustained dialogue and field work of the Metro projects. It seems to have got some things done and faced frustration elsewhere. But the effort is laudable and must inspire others.
While online petitions are simple and straight, a lot more needs to be done physically if a issue has to get to the top of an agenda.
The managers of the Metro in Bangalore as well as in Chennai seem keen to get the community involved.
But is this city community working alongside CMRL which is behind the Metro? On issues like traffic flow, parking, access and facilities.
Would CMRL host Open Houses for the neighbourhoods of Vadapalani and Ashok Nagar and Saidapet and will local residents share views and contribute ideas and designs that will make life easy for us all when the Metro is in place?

You can also listen to the audio file of this post here

May 11, 2013

Summer Hols in native places are the best!

Group holidaying can be fun. Some of you may have just launched into it this May.

Here is how a bunch of us fell into one.

We have a bunch of cricket-crazy friends. They used to be little heroes at the school level in the 70s. But age hasn't discouraged them from donning the flannels once in a  while.

Having played a few friendlies recently, they decided to build a short holiday around this passion.

They quickly called up friends in Bangalore, fixed up a couple of matches there and a tour fell in place. Friends and families of the players were also invited. Contacts were tapped, guest houses fixed and a two-day holiday trip outside Bangalore fell in place.

The golfing community is pretty regular and smart at. With courses in the hills, this is just the season to get away from the heat in the plains. But then, that is an exclusive community.

Weddings can also be a nice excuse to plan a holiday around them.

If you are lucky, your host will throw in a trip after the wedding. But you must make sure the ends are tied up. Grooms lose track of friends at honeymoon time.

A bunch of us dreamt of great times in Yercaud after a lawyer-friend booked us into a train for his wedding in Salem. Once the meal was over, we climbed into a rugged jeep and soon, saw the misty hills in the horizon.

It was dying dusk when we got to the top. The boys were braving the chill but looking forward to some drinks and dinner. Imagine our horror when we found that the plantation guest house was firmly looked and the security man offered unoccupied staff quarters to spend the night.

It was a weekend, the hotels were booked and it was midnight when we checked into a dinghy place.

Summer does not offer many holiday options really. Even the gentle, closest hill station like Yercaud has been plotted like Oragadam and water has to be bought! So my friends who have their pads there aren't too welcoming!

I still think going to our 'native places' is simply the best holiday. Our memories and the earthiness, if we do value them can make these trips great.

Imagine the pleasure of sitting in your backyard, chomping on jackfruits and sipping tender coconut water and playing cricket in abandoned fields. Make sure cousins from all over also join you.

May 04, 2013

Vote Maadi Bangalore!

Guess this. What do you think is B. PAC?

A upmarket gym or yet another special steering committee of a state government?

B. PAC is Bangalore Political Action Committee and is the new buzzword across the garden city.

The buzz is timed on the eve of elections to the Karnataka state Assembly this weekend.

Having spent two weekends in Bangalore, I got a feel of the election mood in this city.

Perhaps, for the first time many efforts are being made to get Bangaloreans to get involved in the elections and to take a closer look at candidates in the constituencies in the city and its fringes.

B. PAC has some high-profile Bangaloreans heading it including T V Mohandas Pai who chairs the Board of Manipal Global Education Services,, technocrat Kiran Mazumdar Shaw and former IAS officer Jairaj.

The buzz it created got its members on to TV channels and its developments reported in the dailies.

For good measure too.

With a huge population explosion and migrations, high contribution to the state's income and rapid civic development, this group sees the need for greater involvement in the socio-political process in the city.

It says its first focus is to make Bangaloreans get their names on the voter's list, and go out on polling day and vote.

Less than 50% of the city's voters cast their ballot in the last poll.

But the bigger problem is the mess that the voters lists are in. Thousands of names have been added, removed and struck off, so even the enterprising young voter ends up frustrated.

These pose bigger headaches to young people who have thrown their hats in the ring like Ashwin Mahesh, who holds a doctorate in geophysics and who is contesting on a Lok Satta party ticket and is the party's state head.

Ash has been deeply involved in working with the police/transport departments and contributing to major policy and civic projects of the city. And he wants to play a bigger role. This will be his second electoral foray and in the Bommanahalli constituency where is a candidate now, a mix of the rich and the migrant communities he says he has a good chance of getting elected.

The campaign has been local, focussed and enthusiastic but will the educated go out and vote for him and migrant trust his voice?

If there is one issue that can go against Ash it will be the messy voters' list. But I would like to see if his team's focused visits to over 10,000 homes worked.

B. PAC also 'endorsed' what it said were good candidates and offered funding. This drew a strong rip from a Left party. Others see the whole movement as elitist.

More key is this tendency, be it Bangalore or Chennai for small groups to get socially hyperactive only at crisis time or at election time.

Being political means that we be involved all the time.

But 'Vote Maadi' is still a good step forward.