Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXV No. 9, August 16-31, 2015
Madras Week enters its 13th edition this year. It looks as though it is all set to become yet another annual highlight of Chennai’s social calendar, like the Music Festival and The Hindu’s Lit for Life event. There is a sense of anticipation among people even as the event approaches and this is also reflected in the increasing levels of participation.
And yet there is a certain section that persists in dubbing Madras Week as elitist and being an apologist for the British Raj. One Tamil newspaper has even gone to the extent of claiming that by celebrating Madras Week, the organisers are indulging in anti-national activities! While it is gratifying to think that someone is writing about us for a change (and that means we are getting noticed), the grave nature of the charges forces us to reiterate what Madras Week stands for and what it hopes to achieve.
The article referred to stated that it saw no reason why Madras Week had to be celebrated given that several areas of the city are far older than the 376 years of Madras’ existence. We have never denied the antiquity of some of the villages that eventually came to form Madras city. In fact, when the Government began setting about changing the official name of the city to Chennai, we had suggested that Mylapore would be a far better option given that it was one of the oldest parts of the city, far older than Madras or Chennai. And don’t we already have a Mylapore festival that is older than Madras Week itself and is it not organised by one of the prime movers behind Madras Week? And have we not been repeatedly highlighting the necessity to have local area festivals on the same lines?
Is Madras Week really an occasion that just celebrates the colonial past? Nothing can be further than the truth behind this charge. Is a Textile Tour of T’Nagar colonial? Or is a walk down Adyar Poonga to observe butterflies anti-national? How then can we explain the conduct of a heritage walk that traces the connection between Mylapore and the Freedom Movement? Is a talk on 11th century inscriptions in the Tiruvottriyur temple something that celebrates the British raj? Yes, we do have events that celebrate the city’s architectural heritage, much of which has to do with the colonial period. But as we have always maintained, while these buildings may have been designed by British architects, the construction – and much of the methodology and embellishments – were South Indian and done by local artisans. Sadly, we have lost those talents. So much for our ability to protect our heritage!
At a time when it is largely the negative news that hogs the limelight and there is despondency all around, festivals such as Madras Week play an important role in creating a feel-good factor. A city festival like Madras Week inculcates a sense of pride in the place where we live. It is that time when we learn to appreciate the positive attributes of our metro and also take cognisance of the areas that need improvement.
As responsible citizens, we take stock of the direction in which our city is moving and rejoice in its progress. “We do not take anyone’s money to celebrate the event and neither do we thrust it down unwilling people’s throats. We are mere facilitators and those who wish to celebrate join us. Those who do not wish to do so are not in any compelled to participate,” say those who celebrate the city. What is wrong with this?