Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXV No. 14, November 1-15, 2015

‘We must better use public spaces’

Vincent D’Souza’s Jottings

Many years ago, when the ‘Mylapore Festival’ that I curate annually began to blossom, we decided to move the hugely popular kolam contest and display to the streets.

North Mada Street was our obvi­ous choice – since it was less populated on the weekend. And, it would create a gateway to the other venues of the cultural fest.

I had a torrid time conducting the kolam event. For, on the even­ing we invited over 100 peo­ple to start designing the kolams, two sets of people confronted us. They wanted us to stop the event and move out at once.

No amount of reasoning helped. They said they would do all it would take them to get us out. For a cultural event of this kind held on a street space ­affected their business. They said their clients would be cheesed off and that entry to their stores blocked.

Over the years, reason, persistence and understanding has helped us continue with this Fest and make it bigger.
I strongly believe that the temple precinct of Mylapore makes for a wonderful religio-heritage-cultural space, the like this city will be proud of if only the State and the community develops it.

Every year, when hawkers begin to set up earthen dolls for Vinayaka Chathurthi and Nava­ra­tri, I imagine a street­scape which is colourful, attractive, automobileless and uni­que.

The Mada Streets get a festive character and their stalls draw thousands of people from across the city.
If we could bar traffic for a few hours every evening and also create alternate parking spaces for all those who must visit the temple or shop at the local stores, and let shoppers and hawkers enjoy the festival spirit, this Mylapore zone would be the go-to place at this time of the year.

Big, small and street business must live and let live in such zones. They all stand to gain.
If the State can visualise a Central Plaza around Central Station, our city Corporation can also develop real a heritage-cultural precinct around Sri Kapali Temple.

Perhaps Mayor Saidai Durai­swamy and Commissioner Vik­ram Kapur can take the lead.

* * *

It was a pleasure to go through pictures of a small celebration that took place at Nageswara Rao Park in Luz on a recent Sunday.

Members of Chennai Weekend Artists (CWA) got together to celebrate three years of their outdoor life and passion. They had a cake made for this occasion and shared it after the morning sketching session. CWA is an informal group – it decides on a venue in the city, members meet there and sketch, draw or paint on the spot.

Semmozhi Poonga, the botanical park on Cathedral Road, and Nageswara Rao Park seem to be the group’s favourite ‘green’ spaces. These public spaces – and many others like them – serve many interests of a community. But we must also take charge of them. Keep an eye on their condition, open lines with the state officers who manage them and talk to them on maintenance and improvement and alert them to degradation and encroachment.

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