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Vol. XXXII No. 22, March 1-15, 2023

Our Readers Write

What connects Calicut and Mylapore? Heritage is one.

I spent four days in Calicut, Kozhikode, in Kerala. And as I always do, I soaked in well and also learnt much.

The idea of a literary festival on the beach partly drew me there. But I was not expecting the mela atmosphere that this annual event creates and sustains. Five tents pitched on the beach front, a series of talks, conversations and discussions that roll from one hour to the next, celebrity buzz from people like Shashi Tharoor, Prakash Raj and Kamal Hassan and a steady sales of books.

I loved the sight of hundreds of young people hanging around: some sat under the tents, some had a good time and some bought lots of books. I also loved the sight of young parents bringing their children to this Festival and guiding them to buy their first set of books.

And I also realised the power of the digital pop. The duo who make JordIndian, who have 1.6 million followers and make fun videos based on you and me and no profanity. Under one beachfront tent, some 3,000 young people jumped, screamed, laughed and made merry at the duo’s act, drowning the neighbourhood conversation of writers!

The host, DC Books does know how to mix a cocktail when it curates a Lit Fest.

The Fest gave me the opportunity to explore heritage Calicut and if you know the histories of this part of Kerala, this world is so, so huge and deep. Senior historian and story-teller Mohan took me on a Walk through the wholesale bazaar, the Silk Street with Chinese histories and the Gujarati Street, once the hub of the community, which first came here centuries ago, perhaps with Jain monks and easily took to trading, big time. So big that one family, which still trades here owned about 50 ‘urus’, the traditional, large sailing vessels, still built in nearby Beypore.

Mosque in Calicut with Indian and Chinese features.

But lessons on heritage, conservation and community popped up when we chatted with one Gujarati family head. Some 80 per cent of the members here are now senior citizens – how and why would they continue sustaining their fantastic houses? Almost all youths had gone to Kochi and Bangalore and Dellhi to study and then, got employed in India or abroad: they visited but had no plans to resettle in this zone of Calicut. So how could the community preserve its heritage?

I saw small boutiques, art and craft shops, bistros and such businesses had rented some of these old houses. But the signages and decor over-ruled the traditional architecture and design.

And I wondered – how long would Mylapore’s old houses, even the Madras-tiled bungalows which are perhaps 1970s built, survive?

What character had the new-age stores on North Mada Street, which cannibalised the old garden houses created today? And why does a state minister for Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments and his team want to demolish the old temple-linked zone on the south side of Sri Kapaleeswarar Temple, to build a large complex of wedding/community hall, lodging rooms, washrooms and parking spaces when, smart conservation of this slice of old Mylapore would be in keeping with highlighting local heritage?

Unless people express themselves and show their interest in public issues, and not leave it to individuals, we are bound to lose what we have inherited. – Courtesy: Mylapore Times.

– Vincent D’ Souza

Are Tamil Nadu and Chennai city water stressed?

One assertion often made by water experts, government officials, academicians and politicians in seminars, panel discussions and workshops is that “Tamil Nadu is a water-stressed State”. This indirectly implies that Chennai city, being the capital of Tamil Nadu is also water stressed.

What does this mean? On what basis does one make such a statement? What are the parameters that decide whether a city, State or country is water stressed? When did T.N. become water stressed? Was it always one? These are questions that remain unanswered.

Assuming the State has come under stress for water only in the recent past, how did it get there? What were the wrong strategies adopted, the incorrect decisions made that led to this situation? What remedial measures were taken?

It is understandable if the State and the city turned water-deficient for one or a few years at the most, when the monsoon failed during consecutive years, but not permanently.

But the assertion has been made several times and it is taken for granted and assumed to be real, never questioned.

Has the State and city suffered water stress due to a rising population and subsequent demand hike or just mismanagement? In other words, is it because of expansion or is it man-made?

It is true that rain is the primary source of freshwater for both Tamil Nadu and Chennai and it rains only for a few days in a year. Harvesting is the only way to sustain both surface and subsoil water. Therefore, rainwater harvesting (RWH) is the keyword in any wise water management exercise.

But is that being done completely and efficiently at the scale of the State and Chennai city? The answer is a loud no. Having failed to harvest rain, it is unfair to call both T.N. and Chennai water stressed. It can be true only after we harvest every drop of rain.

Both T.N. and Chennai have been turned into a water-stressed State and city. Water managers have always gone in for new, hitherto unknown sources instead of making attempts to understand the reasons for failure of water sources and the remedial measures needed. Here are two examples – one each from the rural and urban areas.

In rural areas, agriculture being the predominant profession, water is an essential input. This was obtained mostly from traditional water bodies called erys, which collected rainwater during monsoon and retained it for a few months. This was augmented by groundwater from open wells, a large number of which tapped the shallow layer of the groundwater source sustained by seepage from the erys. Tapping the shallow aquifer through open wells is an age-old practice.

What happened in 200 years

Erys were under the control of the State during British rule and the practice continued in Independent India. Failure to carry out maintenance led to a considerable reduction in collection and retention of rainwater. This impacted the open wells too, as ery seepage stopped.

The erys were not given due importance during colonial rule mainly due to indifference, and after independence, erys were not only ignored but also abused by way of encroachments and dumping of solid and liquid waste. Large scale sand quarrying in rivers resulted in erys not getting filled up.

Did it happen due to a lack of awareness or contempt for anything traditional? In the last three decades or so, permission was granted by the State to construct factories and also housing colonies in such water bodies.

Farmers, having no role to play in ery maintenance and their open wells having gone dry, tapped the deeper layers of groundwater. This source is neither predictable nor sustainable, and suicides by farmers followed. Free power granted to farmers led to over-extraction of both shallow and deep aquifers.

Something similar happened in urban areas too. Here, the problems are of more recent origin. The shallow aquifer, the traditional source, due to over-exploitation, got depleted and shallow sources such as open wells and tube wells went dry. Citizens went in for deep bore wells.

The missed opportunity

In rural areas, traditional waterbodies such as erys and ooranies should not have been neglected. This may have been impossible to prevent during British rule, but after independence there was no excuse not to nurture them. To do this, the State should have involved the society in desilting the water bodies, strengthening the bunds, repairing the sluices, overflow weirs and so on.

Citizens living in both rural and urban areas, instead of understanding the reasons behind the depletion and the steps to sustain them, switched over to deep aquifers through deep bore wells. There was a lack of awareness that the shallow and deep were two discontinuous sources of groundwater and that the shallow could be sustained through recharge – GWR – which is one aspect of RWH. The citizens were also misled by bore well diggers.

Though erys were created and meant only for agricultural use, several of them, found in extended urban areas have lost their agricultural relevance. Therefore, they were considered useless and encroached upon by both the society and the State.

What if they have lost their agricultural relevance? They are still good traditional rainwater harvesting systems to collect rainwater during monsoon and for use in supplying freshwater for domestic and industrial uses. For example, four erys – Red Hills, Sholavaram, Chembarambakkam and Veeranam – meet a large percentage of Chennai’s fresh water needs.

Why not adopt the same policy for erys in the extended areas of Chennai city and CMA as well as Chengalpattu, Thiruvallur and Kanchipuram districts, which stand shorn of agricultural relevance?

This plan can eliminate the need for bringing water from Veeranam ery or for requesting Andhra Pradesh for water and last but not the least, desalinating seawater into freshwater, as is being done in Minjur and Nemmeli plants. All the three are expensive solutions drawing heavy electricity and proving to be unsustainable.

Dr. Sekhar Raghavan
Director, Rain Centre

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  1. C.K. SUBRAMANIAM says:




    On 22nd March is the death anniversay of Gemini Ganesh, my favorite actor of all time. He was a living legend in Tamil Film Industry. Ramaswamy Ganesan, better known by his stage name Gemini Ganesan, was an Indian film actor who worked mainly in Tamil cinema. He was nicknamed “Kadhal Mannan” for the romantic roles he played in films. When the matinee idols of Tamil Cinema were dominating the scene of action, Gemini Ganesh got his pride of place as a loving hero. The tinsel hero was an enigma in the field of cinema as he used to be acrobatic in action and that he cultivated from his Christian College days. He used to play cricket and was a right handed bat.

    Gemini Ganesh considered that his film Punnagai was the best as far as his knowledge goes. He won the Screen Film Award, Kalaimamani Award of the TN State, Filmfare LifeTime Award, MGR Gold medal, Filmfare award for the best actor, Padmashree award and Tamil Nadu award for the best actor.

    Sangamam was his 200th Tamil film. He acted in Bollywood films as well. He was a graduate actor and worked in Gemini Studios before becoming a full fledged actor. That was how he was called Gemini Ganesh. In Indian Cinema he made name and fame as Kadhal Mannan of Tamil Cinema, who made his presence felt with breath taking performances as a hero. In his later years he took the roles played by Ashok Kumar in Bollywood. Gemini came, saw and conquered the film world with his versatility, powerful performances and a loving man of Indian Cinema. He is a living legend of Indian cinema and there is no doubt about it

    Ramasamy Ganesan (17 November 1920 – 22 March 2005), better known by his stage name Gemini Ganesan, was an Indian actor who worked mainly in Tamil cinema. He was nicknamed “Kaadhal Mannan” (King of Romance) for the romantic roles he played in films. Ganesan was one of the “three biggest names of Tamil cinema”, the other two being M. G. Ramachandran (known by his initials as MGR) and Sivaji Ganesan. While Sivaji Ganesan excelled in dramatic films and Ramachandran was popular as an action hero, Gemini Ganesan was known for his romantic films. A recipient of the Padma Shri in 1971, he had also won several other awards including the “Kalaimamani”, the “MGR Gold Medal” and the “Screen Lifetime Achievement Award”. He is one of the few college graduates to enter the film industry at that time.

    Gemini Ganesan made his debut with Miss Malini in 1947, but was noticed only after playing the villain in Thai Ullam in 1953. After playing the lead role in Manam Pola Mangalyam (1954), he finally acquired star status. However, unlike Sivaji Ganesan or Ramachandran, Gemini Ganesan was not originally a stage performer, and was never involved in politics. In his long film career spanning over five decades, Ganesan acted in more than 200 films. His performances on the screen were enhanced by successful playback singers such as A. M. Rajah and P. B. Sreenivas. In spite of his celebrated film career, Ganesan’s personal life, particularly his marriages to multiple women over the years, has often been a subject of criticism. He married the famous South Indian actress Savitri with whom he had a daughter and a son. He won two Filmfare Awards. Former Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi praised him as super star while celebrating the artistic achievements of actor ‘Gemini’ Ganesan, we should also keep in mind that he had a reformer’s mind and rose above narrow considerations of caste and religion.

    Gemini Ganesan acted in a few Hindi films, most of which were remakes of his Tamil films. His first Hindi film was Missiamma’s remake Miss Mary (1957), which became one of the biggest Indian hits of that year. He played the lead role in Devta, the Hindi version of his own Tamil film Kanavane Kankanda Deivam. He also acted in the Ruritanian epic film Raj Tilak (1958), based on his own Vanjikottai Valiban. It was a box office failure, having collapsed within a week of its release. He later appeared in a guest role in Nazrana (1961), the Hindi remake of his own Kalyana Parisu. Though the film was an average grosser, it was the 12th highest-grossing film of the year.

    As a fan of Gemini Ganesh I made an obituary album when he died on 22-3-2005. I saw his number of his black and white and color films and he is my most loveable action hero. His birth centenary was on 17th November 2020 and I still had his handwritten letter and I preserved it like a treasure for posterity.

  2. C.K. SUBRAMANIAM says:


    Tower Park was built in 1968 by BS Abdur Rahman and was inaugurated by former Vice-President VV Giri on January 21 in the presence of the then Chief Minister of TN CN Annadurai on January 21. Tower Park was built in 1968 by BS Abdur Rahman and was inaugurated by former Vice-President VV Giri on January 21 in the presence of the then Chief Minister of TN CN Annadurai on January 21. Anna Nagar Tower Park, officially known as Dr Visvesvaraya Tower Park, is an urban park in the suburb of Anna Nagar, Chennai. It is the tallest park tower in Chennai.. The iconic 12-story tower with a spiraling ramp overlooking a surrounding park, fountain and sport courts.. We can spend time with family, the park has restrooms, a play area, skate, dance area, People relaxing can go for morning walks as it is a very cool place!. They have well maintained rest rooms and water facilities.

    The Anna Nagar Clock Tower, a 100-feet-tall structure, will soon become a reality when the Greater Chennai Corporation opens it to the public after a 12-year hiatus, shortly after the renovation work for public safety is finished. The main component of the park is the 135-foot-tall, 12-storied tower located at the centre of the park. The tower has a cyclic ramp spiralling to the top and also has an elevator at the centre. The park, along with the tower, is maintained by the Chennai Corporation. The park has an amphitheatre, a bird-watching deck, badminton courts, a play area for kids, a skating rink, a lake, and convenience facilities for visitors.The park contains an amphitheatre, a bird-watching deck, badminton courts, a children’s play area, a skating rink, a lake, and tourist conveniences. The park, along with the tower, is maintained by the Chennai Corporation.

    At a cost of ₹62 million, the park underwent renovations and reopened in 2010. Entry to the tower has been prohibited since 2011 due to incidents of suicides and scribblers, making the city lose a valuable tourist destination. To quickly reopen it to the public, the authorities began a ₹3 million renovation project on it in 2018. The civic body began repair work last year to install grills to cover open balconies on each of the 12 levels of the building, making it safe for use by the public and ensuring visitor safety. The tower, which was originally supposed to be opened to the public last month, was delayed due to the artwork undertaken in and around the locality. While the tower has been closed to the public, the park continues to be in use.

    As an old timer from Thirumangalam area I enjoyed the tower surroundings and my children enjoyed walking around the area as the place was a landmark place. Those days, the crowd was less, but now, the number increases with lots of other attractions. A functional toy train going round the tower area can give value added attraction. Charges must be collected for entry as the maintenance level must be upgraded to provide the best ambience. The people should realise and keep the place neat and clean following Swachh Bharat Abhiyan guidelines strictly. The Dr. Vishweshwaraiah Tower gets renamed as Anna Nagar Clock Tower but as such there is no clock to prove that point. After all, cleanliness is next to Godliness.

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