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Vol. XXX No. No. 12, October 16-31, 2020

Our Readers Write

Cleanliness and Chennai

Your article on Chennai (MM, September 1st) is certainly thought provoking. The article ended by stating that clean Chennai requires the cooperation of citizens too. It is sadly lacking here.

During last December we were on a pilgrimage to Ujjain through Indore.

We had glimpse of what it makes to be a number one city.

When I had told my friend who took care of our pilgrimage that I would like to visit a toilet – preferably his office toilet – before starting to Ujjain, he advised me to use the public toilet, just in front of the place where we were instead of his office toilet which was some distance away from our place.

I attach the photo of the public toilet. You could see it has provision for gents and ladies, handicapped (notice the wheel chair outside) and for children separately.

On the left side, it was painted “We would stay Number One!”
First point, the toilet was very clean, a five-star quality and in use.
Second, this is possible, because of the sense of pride of the people.

My Indore resident friend, the driver, the salesman in a saree shop, the security guard at a Ganesh temple, whoever you met and talked to, said “We did it” and WE WILL for the fourth time too.

In my view the toilet is a test stone. One dare not enter in Chennai even Pay and Use toilets. It is a pity.

Like the Corona precautions, which were dinned into our ears, i think we need to educate the masses in a massive way and inculcate a sense of pride in what we do and practise.

T. Anantha Narayanan

Remembering N.S. Ramaswami

I was overjoyed to see the “gem” of a piece written by N.S. Ramaswami in 1956 in the latest issue of MM (Mylapore vs Triplicane). As one who worked with him during my formative years in the Indian Express from the late sixties to the late seventies (when he retired) I always used to appreciate his scholarly approach to writing whether it was history or archaeology, cricket or editorials. This article certainly brought back happy memories of those days when I had the good fortune of going through several of his copies as a sports sub-editor immediately after they were hammered out on his old typewriter. There were times when he had us subs scurrying to the dictionary to find out the meanings of some of his words and phrases by which we were ultimately enlightened.

Partab Ramchand

Besant Nagar, then and now

As Nagars go, Besant Nagar is still one of the younger lot. We moved to the area in mid-June 1976, to a flat allotted by the TNHB. My friends had dissuaded me from opting for Besant Nagar. “Angay yaaravathu povaala?” – Will anyone choose to live there, they asked. In those days, it was an area in the back of the beyond! It was largely marked by vast, empty spaces, with not many buildings and hardly any traffic. There was only one bank in Besant Nagar at that time: the Canara Bank. There were only two bus routes connecting the locality to the rest of the world: 21A, which went to Parry’s, and 23A, which plied from Tiruvanmiyur to a destination that I forget. Both were infrequent.

But we fell in love with the place. It was serene, calm and tranquil. The fans in our house ran on wind power for the most part: such was the breeze blowing from the sea, which we could see from our terrace. All this is past history, perhaps hard to believe for a newcomer.

There were no music sabhas in Besant Nagar. Not even now. In the early years, one had to go to Mylapore or T’Nagar. In the late eighties (or was it early nineties?) came Hamsadhwani in Indira Nagar, a well-run institution with a large membership.

And then came along ‘development’, with housing tenements fast-filling up the vacant spaces. Mercifully, there are no skyscrapers yet – most buildings are no taller than 4 or 5 floors. Today, the area is connected by innumerable bus routes and frequent buses; traffic has also increased, and so have traffic jams. But nothing that cannot be efficiently managed by the traffic police. There are only two traffic signals in the entire locality – one at the crossing of the Seventh and Sixth Avenues and Tiger Varadachari Road leading to Kalakshetra; and the other in front of the Theosophical Society entrance! While the latter seems unnecessary, the former does not work all the time.

Elliot’s beach or Bessy, as its fond moniker goes, is a truly ‘happening’ beach. Apart from the crowds that throng the sands, the beach is a paradise for morning walkers (less so for evening walkers). Sunday mornings are car-free and walkers can walk care-free without the fear of being hit by moving vehicles, children play happily and visitors even play games like shuttlecock. The beach exudes an air of new-found freedom! It is also the favourite venue for protest marches, rallies promoted by businesses and NGOs, the Vintage Car Rally and much else. At the far end of the beach lies Orur Kuppam, a bustling fisher colony. In recent years, the Kuppam celebrates its annual fest of music, dance and drums, ably aided and abetted by Nityananad Jayaraman, an inveterate environmental activist and TM Krishna, noted musician. The sands of the beach is the venue! The Kuppam’s fest has, of late, crossed Besant Nagar boundaries to include other venues in the city.

The beach and nearby streets offer plenty of choice for gourmets. You name the cuisine and you will have it.
Besant Nagar has reached the limits of its expansion potential. Thank God for that! There simply is no possibility of horizontal expansion because Besant Nagar is bounded on one side by the sea, on two other sides by Kalakshetra and its extensive grounds, as well as the Theosophical Society and its forested grounds. I fervently hope the authorities do not grant permission for vertical expansion. Let there be at least one locality in the crowded city free, relatively speaking, from noise and noxious pollution.

Now, I have lost count of the banks, public and private sectors, dotting the area. And innumerable ATMs. I wonder if there is adequate business for all of them. Save for daily necessities and groceries, one has to go to Adyar for any serious shopping; this is good for the Nagar because it keeps it relatively traffic and pollution free. For the religiously inclined, there are a number of temples: Vara Siddhi Vinayakar, Ratnagiriswar, Arupadai Shanmugha, and Ashtalakshmi, virtually close to the sea. And, of course, the famous Annai Velankanni Church.

All said and done, Besant Nagar remains one of the better residential colonies in the city.

Gopalakrishnan Sankaran

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