Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXXI No. 12, October 1-15, 2021
September 27 being World Tourism Day as declared by the United Nations, it was heartening to see the Department of Tourism, Govt of Tamil Nadu, celebrating it with many events spread across the State. In the city, the festivities began on Sunday 26th, with your editor leading a heritage walk at Fort St George (see Heritage Watch for further details). The roster of events, and the degree of enthusiasm for participation augurs well for the State but what is of concern is the lack of even basic facilities across many tourist locations. It is high time that the authorities address these hygiene factors so that this industry can grow to great heights in Tamil Nadu.
When you think of it, no State has it as good as our own – we have hills, rivers (well, at least some have water), a long coastline, forts, and plenty of built structures to mark our heritage. And what’s more, there is plenty of living heritage too, for unlike many other parts of the world, several of our heritage structures remain in active use and are not just empty buildings. And yet, not many are aware of what heritage Tamil Nadu possesses – too often we are dismissed as the State with temples and nothing beyond. We also score far less in terms of footfalls when compared to say the golden triangle of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. However, as we score far higher in terms of medical tourism footfalls, our State remains complacent – taken together with regular tourism our figures become impressive. It is high time we bifurcate this and take a hard look at plain leisure tourism statistics. If done, this is bound to throw up some not-so-good facts.
Tamil Nadu suffers from multiplicity of authorities when it comes to tourism. Our temples for instance come under the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Department of the Government, which has its own agenda when it comes to administration. The forts are with the Archaeological Survey of India, the forests with the Forest Department and so on. Too often, when the Department of Tourism takes up promotion of a particular spot, it falls foul of some other agency which works at cross purposes. The proposed wholesale demolition planned by the HR&CE of heritage houses owned by the Kapaliswarar Temple in Mylapore is an instance. If the entire neighbourhood is to become high rise, then what is it that is left for the tourist? Tharangampadi is another example – lack of clarity in ownership and responsibilities, no civic amenities of any kind in the entire town and no involvement of the locals have reduced what could have been a thriving heritage centre to a ghost town.
The Institute of Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) is working with the Greater Chennai Corporation to finalize the city’s new parking management policy. In a comment to the media, the ITDP said that the goals of the new framework included reducing the demand for parking and reclaiming on-street parking spots for sustainable modes of transport – the expectation is that the new policy will minimize traffic congestion, air pollution and accidents. “In many Indian cities, the phenomenal growth in ownership of private motor vehicles combined with dwindling investments in Public Transport has resulted in streets choked with traffic. Haphazard parking takes up significant real estate on-street and it is fairly common to see parked vehicles occupying the footpaths as well,” pointed out Santhosh Loganaathan, Senior Associate – Urban Development at ITDP. The available data does illustrate a grim picture – a Times of India article from August 2021 reports that the number of private vehicles in the state has doubled over the past decade; Chennai’s roads alone are struggling to support nearly 60 lakh vehicles. It’s no longer possible – or fair – to take public parking for granted.
The late Mr. S. Muthiah often regretted that the Fort remained so out of bounds for the public. Some of us who have led heritage walks here have in some ways ensured that it has become more accessible. But on September 26th the Fort was as Mr. Muthiah would have wished it to be. With your editor leading a group to commemorate World Tourism Day, it was wonderful to be able to wander at will around the place.
Madras Day has always been about heritage, history, walks and talks. When The Idea Factory wanted to celebrate Chennai this year, they wanted to do something ‘out of the box’. Joining hands with Brand Blitz and associated with Viveks, Naga Foods Savorit and Equitas, TIF hit upon the idea of celebrating the city on the day of its inception. Instead of focusing on the city’s architecture and landmarks, they decided to honour the people who stood up for the city when it needed them.
The R’VIVE Cafes are at opposite ends of Chennai’s gastronomic landscape.
What makes the first one different is that it’s on the premises of the outpatient’s department of the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) at Ayanavaram.
The second R’VIVE Cafe is at Mahabalipuram.
Any project started by the City’s own “Hotbreads Mahadevan” is bound to kindle one’s interest.
“Doesn’t it sound a bit like a packet of starch?” I ask him.