Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXIX No. 14, November 1-15, 2019
The story of Kotturpuram Tree Park was literally a breath of fresh air for Chennai. A passion project spanning over a decade in the making, it was built by Nizhal and its troupe of citizen volunteers when in 2006 the Public Works Department (PWD) approached the organisation to green a plot of land on the banks of the Adyar river. Over the years, this dynamic community planted and nurtured saplings, including indigenous species sourced from Auroville and Tiruvannamalai. They helped create a much-loved green haven in Kotturpuram, beloved by park-goers and fauna alike. In a costly communication error last week, a contractor working under the aegis of the PWD cleared a patch of park containing trees, shrubs and plants as part of a project to strengthen the bunds of the Adyar river.
The clearance came as a shock to the park community, who had reportedly met the authorities earlier this year in a bid to protect the space from exactly this sort of mishap. Apparently, the PWD had acquiesced to their request and accepted their proposed solution of using an alternate access path to conduct their work without compromising the greenery. Unfortunately, it looks like the message was not passed on to the contractor to whom the work was delegated. Unaware and apparently unsupervised, the contractor brought down a portion of the park overnight.
With this one act, Chennai has lost over a 100 trees, shrubs and plants that had flourished near the river, including a few rare tree species such as Kokottai (Garcinia Spicata), Kumizh (Gmelina Arborea), Azhinji (Alangium Salvifolium), Asoka (Saraca Asoca), Vennangu (Pterospermum Canescens), Suryagada (Suregada Augustifolia), Kalvirasu (Ehretia Laevis) and Uvamaram (Dillenia Indica). It is ironic that they were taken down to build pillars and a see-through boundary wall for the river when during the floods, it was the trees that helped prevent pollutants from being swept into the Adyar river. And it’s not just us people who have lost a precious green space in the city – the greenery had become a habitat for many creatures great and small, from butterflies, weaverbirds and sunbirds to snakes and mongooses. They too, have lost a home.
Disturbing reports of recent events point to poor quality of teachers in government schools affecting the ability of the education system to produce employable pass-outs. Of the 132 lakh students in schools in Tamil Nadu about 60 per cent go to government and aided schools. Inferior education quality has been producing poor quality teachers, perpetuating a vicious circle.
Over 8,000 teachers had to go without salary as there was delay in getting clearance from the Education Department for extension of these appointments made under the Rashtriya Madhyamik Sikhsha Abhiyan (RMSA). These were additional posts created for strengthening government higher secondary schools and extended periodically. Uncertainty of tenure and delayed salary payments must have affected teaching staff’s commitment to their duties and left children ill-prepared for examinations. This is a case of a well-intentioned scheme failing to deliver due to bureaucratic hitches.
Like everything else that is in the throes of a change, festivities and traditions around festivals too have undergone a sea change. From homes and temples, the Navarathri celebrations have in recent times spread to hotels, libraries and not to forget social media!!! .With the current trend of young families getting away from the city whenever there is a long weekend and some others being too busy to follow some or all of the old traditions which are getting short shrift, it was indeed heartening that GRT Grand Hotels Chennai not only organised a grand kolu on all nine days of Navarathri but also offered story-telling sessions centred around it, besides providing a platform for young musicians, vocalists and dancers, in the real spirit of the season.
“Another fine building in Egmore is Arni House, residence of the Jagirdar of Arni” – thus runs a line in Alistair MacMillan’s Seaports of India and Ceylon. That was in 1928. Now, 90 years later, you would be hard put to even identify the place where it stood. The debate on its exact location went on for quite some time in S. Muthiah’s Madras Miscellany column in The Hindu, the first of the posts appearing in 2017.
The Government Museum, Egmore had a splendid exhibition of wood carvings in September-October taken from its huge collection. The museum authorities had thoughtfully provided authentic and interesting titbits of information to visitors about the ther or rathas (temple-chariots) on which many of these sculptures were originally fixed. These rathas, which resemble the vimanam (superstructure above the sanctum) of temples, usually have about two hundred and fifty to three hundred wood carvings on them.