Thursday, August 28, 2008

Final Jottings

I got marooned in the final events of Madras Day and so, couldn't keep the blog going!
But now that 2008 is over, I would like to post a few jottings.

Madras Live, the new FM radio station called me over for a chat on Aug.22 morning and the 90 min programme was fun. It gave me an opportunity to tell the city what the Day was all about.
It would be nice to have all our stations focussed on this theme in the years ahead.

The exhibition at Rajaji Hall, the work of D. H. Rao and Raja Seetharaman, got the support of Nalli and TN Tourism. The weekend brought huge crowds, Rao said.

Quizzers may not recognise this event but the Tamil Quiz on Madras that Revathi R. ran for our schools was a warm affair. The best thing about it was the fact that it wasn't a cold contest. The kids enjoyed the session and we kept the questions simple and current. Finally, at the wire, the girls from Rani Meyyammai school pipped the boys from Raja Muthiah.

We had very thin crowds for the docu films screenings on Sat and Sunday. Thanks to Mohan Das Vadakara who spun the DVDs, the screenings were smooth. 
A lot more work needs to be done in producing new docus on the city and that starts now!

Sunday morn was abuzzzzz  - there were give walks in different parts of the city.
I launched the Mount Road walk with 15 people alongside and it took us a little over 2 hours to do the run from The Hindu to Agurchand Mansions.
Sundays have their bonuses - you can storm buildings whose gates are half closed! So we ran up to the 2nd floor of Agurchand and got a grand view of Mount Road!
I hope to have many more Mount Road walks in the months ahead! (Sign up at

And finally, we ran the Madras Quiz at a new venue off Luz. There must have been about 200 people. But it remained warm and easy - the way it has always been. (My colleague Revathi hopes to post the prelim and final set of questions on this blog so if you weren't there you can take them in slowly.)
I think many people didn't like that question on Chinnamalai Pork Curry! Not apt? Not in good taste? Not Madras-like?

I caught up with Mohan at his docu film show at Sastri Hall, Luz. R V Ramani's  ' If I Die' was the last to roll. It is an old docu on Shihan Hussaini. 
At dinner Mohan and I decided we should promote more fresh docus on Madras. So we have work on our hands now for 2009!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

NDTV's Chennai Special

Finally, NDTV decides to devote its Southern Special, telecast daily at 7 p.m. to Chennai.
For Madras Day.
This morning, I catch the Good Morning Mumbai section on NDTV and have to endure a story on a MLA who is on the run. . . can't we begin our mornings with Mumbai's brighter side?
And hey! is Chennai off your radar Pranoy?
Guess Sanjay Pinto, its bureau head argued a lot to get the Chennai special going.
There should be a few snappy features, Sanjay says.
And if all goes well, we should be chatting up on the lawns of Ripon Buildings . . .live.
Yes, we'd like the world to know that Chennai is proud of itself.

Close to midnight and philatelist and collector of all things odd, Raja Seetharaman is going through the last of the exhibits that go on show at Rajaji Hall ( Aug 22 to 25).
Don't miss this grand show. It is free. And children will love it.
D H Rao's epic effort on shooting the Buckingham Canal and telling its story in pictures needs commendation.
Tell us what you though of this show. Post here!

Radio Chennai!

Day 4 was for some homework!
To give the final touches to the Madras Quiz due on Sunday.
I was tempted to be be at Anil Srinivasan's talk. Rather listen to him play.
But sacrificed it.
How I wished for a pirate radio station - which would relay, or at least, play the talks and report the city events.
And then I get an invitation from Chennai Live FM to be on their August 22 morning show.
I promise to.
AIR's FM Rainbow channel will also pepper all its programmes on Aug.22 with tidbits, bytes and chats on the city. 
But we still need a pirate Radio Chennai station

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Madras Day 2008; Day Three

This is a tradition I guess.
The Tuesday of Madras Week is devoted to City Schools!
There's a double bill on today.
Over 70 students from 20 schools file into Srinivasa Sastri Hall in Luz for the Chennai Heritage Project Contest. Students are asked to choose a less known heritage site, visit and study it and work on a PP presentation. And the teams present their projects today.
So we get to listen to topics on St. Patrick's School in Adyar set up by Irish priests who once owned the area now called Gandhi Nagar, the Pattinathar Temple in Thiruvottriyur, Royapuram Railway Station . . .

Dr. Prema Kasturi and Indira Narayanan are the judges. And the winners - Sri Sankara Vidyashramam, Thiruvanmiyur, Sishya, Adyar and Lady Andal Venkata Subba Rao School, Chetput.

Earlier, Swahilya has good news for us. She is the guide of a tour which took a group of P. S. Senior School students to landmarks in north Madras. Swahilya says she enjoyed doing the tour as much as the kids did. A second such tour takes place later this week.

Swahilya volunteered to guide this tour. And we need more people who can lead events for Madras Day. Ideas, people, spaces. If you have some thing abuzz for 2009, do let us know.

Madras Day 2008: Day 2

The first of a few North Madras events is held this afternoon. Writer K R Narasiah, a marine engineer with a passion for heritage and writing, is the speaker at the Avvai Kalai Kazhagam. His audience - high school students.
Narasiah does a good job in 30 mins. However I feel we need to do more about encouraging organisations in this area to think of, plan and host local events. Perhaps, locate good speakers and enthusiastic fora. So if you do know of people we should network with, inform us.

The evening's talk at Anokhee is a great one - Chithra Madhavan is always interesting. 'Less Known features of Well known Temples. . . . ' she starts off with and then leads us through the Less Known Temples of Madras.

Chithra packs in so much into her talks that you want a Part II. Or you want her to take us to the spots she talks about. The illustrations are exhaustive.
Why don't you write a book on this topic?, suggests some one. She says part of the manuscript is on her desktop.
How about a tour of the less known temples?, asks another.
Chithra is willing. And we hope to organise one in a week or two. Look out for details here! A 6 am to 12 noon tour of select temples.

Madras Day 2008: Day One

80 people greet us at the parking lot outside Fort St George. For the first of two walking tours of the fort. With me is Dr. Suresh, the archaelogist who has just got back from Gingee Fort, assisting DD on a docu-film.
Doing the walking tours of the fort early in the day isn't easy - security issues bind you but on this occasion, in addition to the green signal the police have given us, the awareness of Madras Day among the men and women at the gate, makes this is a smooth check in.

I enjoy taking people around the Fort. On a holiday, you have this great space to yourself.
When we end this walk a shade before 10 am this Sunday, I guess most of the 80 who came along also enjoyed the tour.
Suresh will be back next Sunday (24th) to repeat this walk. I won't. I have a new one to lead - the Mount Road Walk!

The time is just right to peep into a formal event at the Taj Connemara - the release of an illustrated book 'Historic Residences of Madras', an effort of V. Sriram and Chandra Sankar.
Copies of the book, well packaged, are given free to all the guests. (If you want one you may have to chance a query).
This Sunday evening, the Chennai Heritage talk is at The Park Hotel. V A K Ranga Rao and V Sriram talk on the early music recordings of Madras. This is Rao's area - the man is said to have hundreds of music records, tracks and labels of all kinds. With pictures and music clips, it is an enjoyable journey.
A question pops up - since the talk dwelt almost completely on classical music, was this the only form of music recorded then?
Friends who are at this talk carry on the debate as we unwind. We talk about the pre and post- Illaya Raja era in film music. And we talk about the Anglos and the Goans who were the backbone of the film music industry of Madras.
And lo! We have a topic for a talk for 2009 - Contribution of the Anglo-Indian and Goan Community in Madras to Film Music - and volunteers to work on it.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Send us your reports / pictures!

The Madras Week starts in about 10 hours.
We have a walk at the Fort on Sunday - the police men from the Intelligence Wing were keen to know what the walk was all about. 
With the state of the nation what it is today, security is of concern.
They understood our intention and I hope the two walks will go on smoothly. . .

Meanwhile if you are taking part in any of the Madras Day/ Week events, we want you to write on them and also post pictures.
You can mail pics to us. And post your reports too.

Or you can do so on your blogs / sites / boards and let us know.

This will help document this unique event.
And do tell many others to soak in.
We have created a easy-to-use calendar on the web site -

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Locations of Madras Day events on Google map

We receive many calls from passionate Chennaiites - What can we do for the Madras day?
We tell them, just anything you would love to do for your city!

When Arun Ganesh looked at the Madras Day events calendar online, he decided to do his bit for the occasion.
He started locating the venues of all the Madras Day events and planted them on Google map. He mailed the link to us. And now the calendar page has a link to the map giving you the location.

It might have taken at least a day to point all the locations with details of events happening at each of these places for Arun. But he didn't mind doing it as he loves his city as we all do.
Thank you Arun!

Technology is available online, but the idea comes from one's heart.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Madras by Night!

Now why didn't we think about that?
Well, the idea is rolling .  . .

A couple of people have begun working on this tour. Madras by Night.
Well, it isn't about visiting the sleazy, the grimy and the shady joints of the city (but then all this also makes a city).
It is about experiencing Chennai after 8 p.m.

So which are the hot spots on your mind?
The places which come to life only after 8 p.m.
Well, the team has picked up a few destinations in north Madras where, after the godowns, the shops and the stores down their shutters another life bubbles up.

I wouldn't want to skip the Marina. Or Pondy Bazaar. Or Purusawalkam.

But this team needs ideas. Please post them here. Give us details of places of food, bazaar, koothu. .  that can be part of this tour. Double up as guides.

The tour may well be by bus and on foot. You could climb on to the roof of the bus and run your cams. Somebody suggests we ask MTC to sponsor the ride. Why not?

Log in to get the latest on this plan.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The media gets going . . .

We had a press conference this evening.
To share with the media the buzz about Madras Day 2008.
Taj Coromandel was the tea sponsor and host.
The Bhatts who run Prism PR got the event together (Prism PR is yet another collaborator since we started 4 years ago. Thanks Satyan and Parul)

Some media people wanted to know why we didn't have a formal inauguration. A launch. A kick-off. Others wondered how we worked without a committee. . .

Madras Day is all about people of the city hosting their own events. Of any kind. They don't need to check with Muthiah or Sriram or me or anyone! Just do it.
And do let others know so they too can participate.

We are hoping that once the media buzz goes out many other citizens will plan events.
Revathi, my colleague has just posted a compact calendar of events for the Week and will update it the moment the buzz comes in.
So just go ahead and print that out and prepare to soak in. 6 sheets of events!

P. S.: The K and P photo exhibition at the Taj Connemara took off on Saturday evening. I wasn't impressed at all. It seems to be a lopsided, poor selection of photos. Surely not 4 plus pictures of a 'religious beggar'! 

P. S.: I took out a group of students and their parents on a  Mylapore Walking Your on Sunday. That has inspired people to send a group for the Aug.18 walk of the Fort. We can host 3 more school groups (limited to 30). Do get in touch!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Mad Bulls are back!

There are some Chennaiites who have filed Madras Day into their systems.
The Mad Bulls is one.

On the dot, Senthil, who co ordinates some events for this club of Enfield bike riders, calls me.
He doesn't want the MB to be left out.
And lo! a circuit is being planned for the bikers.
Perhaps some odd places on the fringe of North Madras.
If you own an Enfield check out these guys.

Meanwhile I am digging up docus on anything to do with the city.
For the Docu Film Fest. Aug.24, 25.
INTACH is sending us a film it made on the renovation of a temple tank.
Architect Sujatha Sankar parts with one on the architecture of the city.
A film on the San Thome cathedral is on its way.
They may not sound exciting and cutting edge films.
But they will do for a small start.
If you know of anyone who has done docus on Madras, please alert them to his event.

Some day, we hope docus on Chennai will be a 'movement'.
There are dozens on Mumbai/Bombay.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

50 events. And counting . . .

Sudhakar confirms a tour of Nanmangalam forest.
So that is the contribution of MNS (Madras Naturalists Society) to the Madras Week events.
30 mins drive from Adyar and a 90 min. tour of the area where you spot the lovely Great Horned Owl (Read a feature on 'Birds of Madras' in the Aug. issue of Outlook Traveller magazine; a birding guide provided).

Eric Miller (World Storytelling Institute) has planned a walk of the statues on the Marina. He promises impromptu readings and performances at some points. Imagine!

The buzz has gone out to all the FM Radio stations and we hope the airwaves will get exclusive too.

Journalist-columnist Swahilya ( columnist in The New Indian Express) has planned a walking tour of North Madras. She has lived in the region and written on it for years and is a nice storyteller too.

50 plus events and counting . . .

You too can plan and organise an event for the city. Let it be simple. Let it make you proud!