I dropped writing this somewhere in the middle of the Mad Rush week, largely to keep sanity intact. But I must say I enjoyed the insanity while it lasted. On the 23rd I was at Vruksha, a Montessori school, giving a group of small kids the story of Chennai. The ppt with pictures helped tremendously and it was nice to see the kids wanting to have ALL details of the buildings featured. In the evening I presented Crazy Chennai Part II at the Rotary Club of Madras South. It was not as much of a hit as part 1. I need to work some more on it. And a series of photos alone does not make for a good presentation. I did not make it to the Madras Week talk by by R Mohan that evening. I was told that the talk was fantastic and the spread put out by the hotel lavish in the extreme. But the turnout it seems was rather disappointing.
On Wednesday, the Madras University’s Music Department celebrated Madras Day. The room was an oven like space into which were packed in around 50 and more students, faculty and visitors. At one stage I thought both Muthiah and Sarada were going to faint. But all was well. The former it appears, had merely shut his eyes to catch 40 winks and Sarada was trying to locate a pen she had dropped. The Chief spoke on the history of the Madras Univ, I spoke on the life of C Saraswathi Bai and Swarnamalya spoke on Javalis associated with Madras. Her presentation was the best. Somewhere in his speech Muthiah hoped that the Univ would get new speakers for next year (he and I have done our bit for 5 years running). I second that, especially if the ventilation is going to be like the Black Hole of Calcutta.
In the evening we had Mohan Raman’s talk on ‘Three Women Directors of Chennai’ featuring TP Rajalakshmi, Bhanumathi and Savitri. There was a huge turnout at Savera. The talk went beyond the time limit but nobody appeared to notice. Mohan has the knack – of exceeding time and yet managing to engage with the audience. The Hindu reported on his speech in detail -
After the talk, I was asked by Mohan to drop his mother home. A few turns around Mandaveli we realised that we were hopelessly lost, with her sense of direction being very close to mine. Sarada and I however enjoyed the journey for the lady had with her a fund of stories that kept us entertained while we searched for the house. Now we know where Mohan gets his talent. A raconteuse as mother and a top ranking lawyer as a father make for a deadly combination.
On Thursday, the 25th, I spent the morning at the Alumni Club with Chithra Madhavan, judging presentations by school teams. These were kids that had been on heritage tours guided by the famous five of Chennai Heritage, around the beach and Park Town. Chithra had also taken them to Dakshinchitra. The presentations were of varying quality and I was rather disappointed that Park Town, my favourite route was given short shrift by almost all the teams. This was noticed by S Muthiah as well, for he said as much in his speech. The best team was Bhaktavatsalam Vidyashram,both simplicity in presentation and a dance performance getting them good marks. The second was Children’s Garden School for managing to put together a dance on Chennai AND presenting it despite a complete breakdown of the audio system. The third was Sri Sankara Senior Secondary School.
In the evening, we had Geeta Doctor in conversation with artist Viswanathan and gallery owner Ashwin Rajagopal (of Ashwitha Art Gallery) at the Park Sheraton. The food was great as was the discussion. Freeloaders were present in plenty and I noticed one man downing six cups of coffee. What a digestion he must have. Cakes, patties and sandwiches vanished in seconds as the hotel staff looked on in stunned disbelief. But I did not then realise that retribution was just around the corner.
The 26th, Friday, was largely eventless as far as my diary went. I spent most of the day preparing for the two walks. The Mount Road one was a real challenge as it had 80 different personalities/institutions/events to be covered. The accounts staff in office had a tough time warding off those who still wanted to register despite our having announced that the tours were overbooked. Some shouted in anger over the phone, others landed in person to argue it all out and several sent me emails. But what was to be done? There was no way that we could accommodate more numbers, both in view of logistics (getting on and off vans takes time) and police permission.
But to come to the retribution bit – the evening’s talk was by PC Ramakrishna at the Madras Gymkhana Club. The talk was wonderful with PC in his usual way, making a perfect presentation on the history of English Theatre in the city. But for some reason, (and here I may have been at fault, or was it divine will?) there were no ‘refreshments’ on offer. The freeloaders were disappointed to say the least but bore it with stiff upper lip. To give them credit, they stayed on for the presentation and not one asked about the absent victuals. They must have borne it with the fortitude of a solah shukravar vrat. The Gym as a venue has some problems. To accommodate 80 or more people, the talk has to be held in the ball-room section of the ground floor. That means it is open to the noises made by diners and those walking by. I also saw a dog and cat walking in and out (not arm in arm but independent of each other during the talk). One even sniffed at PC’s trousers but he did not notice.
And so to bed, full of nervousness and excitement about the walk of the next morning. I am sure all this stress will not do my eyesight any good but then what is life without some stress in it?