September 17, 2013

Town Hall - like spaces for Chennai

Three weeks ago, we had a call at our Arcot Road Times newspaper office. A lady wanted to come over and meet me.
She was keen to ensure that she could meet me personally for, she wanted to hand over a small packet of vegetables.
She had packed a small quantity of beans and Lady’s Fingers for me.
This little pack was Uma Devi Jayaraman’s way of saying thank you for a feature we had published on her wonderful garden in Virugambakkam.

Uma Devi and her husband Jayaraman live in what is a green, leafy colony called Lambert Nagar, off the busy Arcot Road. Well laid out and sporting lots of trees and a kuttai at its far end, this Nagar is certainly a prized residential locality in this part of Chennai.

Each plot is large and there are green spaces all around the independent houses that still survive the growing onslaught of real estate developers keen to build apartments.
The Jayaramans.though seem to have made good use of their open space at home. Uma Devi has, over the years put her green thumb to good use. With the children settled in life she has paid lots of attention to her garden. She attends workshops on urban gardening and spends time at the Agri-Horticultural Society’s campus on Cathedral Road to shop for seeds and look at the saplings in the nursery here.

Today, the Jayaramans’ garden is a treat for the eyes. And it sports a variety of vegetable-bearing plants.
So when we got to hear of this green effort we decided to run a story on the lady and her passion.
That week, when the feature appeared in the local newspaper we got another call. This was from a couple who not only had a nice garden but also followed simple and varied methods at recycling garden and kitchen waste.
These are some of the stories we like to report in our newspapers all the time. They are a way of recognising the positive efforts that ordinary people make in our backyard. And they also trigger positive reactions among some readers.

When we come across such stories, I wonder if our neighbourhoods could have a Town Hall-type of spaces which can be used for a variety of events. Spaces at parks or community halls or nooks in our schools.
One meeting can be on kitchen gardening; green thumbs can share their experiences, conduct demos and make new contacts.
Another month’s event could be on recycling and reuse methods that families may be adopting for good measure.

A third could be on traditional snacks. And another meet can even be readings of extracts from just-released books that 5 people have read recently and wish to talk about so that others may also want to lay their hands on them. And another for a garage sale-like event to dispose books,
white goods and stuff. Create one space for a variety of acts that interests a particular neighbourhood. For simple, informal events that thread the community.

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