This is one of my favourite spots in the world. I dont know when racing in Coimbatore was brought to a halt (for that matter did it ever have a race course?)and the place put to alternative use, but whoever it was that did it, was a person with imagination. In what appears to me to be a quick adaptation of the traditional race course layout, the area became a residential space, following the contours of its earlier use. Thus we have a central island in which are several huge bungalows. A road envelops this entirely, probably the old race course. On the other side, that is the periphery, there are more bungalows. The ring road so to speak, is lined with trees and more importantly, a broad walking area that runs along it. Every morning and evening, this space is filled with walkers, joggers, talkers, lookers and others. There are road-side open air exercise spots with parallel bars and similar equipment. All along are milestones indicating how much you have walked (or jogged). Road-side vendors sell juices, nuts and other light eats. It is a clean and green space.
It is also one of the few public spaces in our country that has been put to good adaptive reuse with participation of all stake-holders – pedestrians, local residents, hawkers and transit users. That it is a success was made more than evident to me during my various visits as it has several fathers. Many prominent citizens of Coimbatore (and some elsewhere) have taken credit for the space and have told me that they dont like to mention it in public as they consider it a public service. “But if you ever do write about it, do let me know and I can give you a few quotes…”
Be that as it may, this is one of those places that makes the world go round and makes you realise that we are still only in the prathame pade of Kaliyuge. The day Race Course Road in Coimbatore becomes a concrete jungle, Lord Krishna will incarnate again and finish us all.
But that is not what I wanted to write about. The inner ring along the walkers track is a garden space and dotting it at various intervals are miniature replicas of architectural wonders of the world – the Red Fort, the Cellular Jail, the Bahai Temple, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Hawa Mahal and the Eiffel Tower. These are very well made, the scale and proportion being amazing. Walking along, I have often wondered that there is nothing local in these. No temple tower for instance.
These days when you go to Coimbatore, the only thing you hear of is the power crisis. This being a 100% entrepreneurial city with an amazing work culture, erratic power supply has been its bane. Industry after industry is making losses and there is a sense of despair in the town that I did not see even in the immediate aftermath of the notorious blasts in the 1990s. But the city has not lost its sense of humour. Walking on Race Course Road last week, I saw this and realised, that despite all their troubles, Coimbatorites still manage the odd laugh – they have paid tribute to Tamil Nadu’s most visible symbol these days.