Today is Madras Day! Woke up to find Rajagopalan Venkataraman has posted birthday greetings to me on Facebook. I wish it was my birthday as well to justify what someone else remarked was a DK Baruah (India Is Indira) like comment. There are some lucky people though. Apart from a beloved cousin and nephew, another person born on Madras Day is Venkatesh Ramakrishnan, author, and creator of the Madras History page on fb. So I called him and sang my greetings to him. He and I go back a long way by the way. We studied together in Vidya Mandir. At the end of the day I found several others had posted greetings on my Fb wall.
Sushi Natraj sent several visuals of place mats containing info on Chennai that the Inner Wheel Dist 323 has been distributing to restaurants. The full set is shown up top and above you have a pic from a restaurant where guests are reading it all.
Had a long chat with the Chief who I am convinced is on steroids like some of these sportspersons. How else can I explain his energy, which enabled him to go and attend the Singapore Consul’s dinner after Anvar’s talk last night? How does he manage to do it so often, and at his age, as they once wondered about Gemini Ganesan? Anyway, more power to you Chief! During the course of that chat he informed me that the New Indian Express is running a hop-on/hop-off bus service down Beach Road, four times a day. This is the paper’s contribution to Madras Week. Have arranged to go and check this out. Am looking forward to it. Talking about papers, it is heartening to see the amount of coverage of Madras Week in the English and Tamil dailies. They are publicising each day’s events and also reporting on several of them. They are also carrying stories on heritage and civic issues. The Hindu is devoting its second page to snippets from the city’s past. They are also quoting one person associated with heritage each day.
There was a call from Thanthi TV this morning asking for a sound byte on Chennai, which I willingly gave. I am all for this kind of interviewing where the business is finished over phone rather than your spending hours trudging to some studio that is closer to Bangalore than Chennai. There were also interviews with The News Minute and The Mint. Came into office to see Saritha Rao has sent in a link to her story on how some organisations/individuals celebrate the city, differently, right through the year. Gratified to see Past Forward also featured in it. Sreemathy Mohan called, all excited. The newspapers have done her and her heritage walk proud.
In the afternoon went with Mohan V Raman to the Press Institute, Taramani to give a talk on Street Names and Their Histories. The Institute is run by Sashi Nair, one of the founders of Madras Week. There was a good gathering, chiefly students from neighbouring ACJ. The only hassle with this location is the distance. We left Royapettah at 4.00 pm and still managed to reach only at 5.10, a good ten minutes after kick off time for the talk. Saw RV Rajan, Rangarathnam Gopu and Ravichandar Krishnamoorthy in the audience, as also Sujatha Shankar who this year is attending Madras Week programmes with a vengeance. Also happy to reconnect with the other Sujatha, a doughty grandmother from Orissa who has made Chennai her home. Mohan took the above pic.
It was then time to rush to the Crowne Plaza for Vijay Kumar’s much awaited talk on Busting The Idol Racket. The statistics were shocking to say the least as was the lethargy of the Government agencies. The mood was sombre but it was a moment of awakening for the audience. A great talk by Vijay. Rajagopal Venkataraman managed to post his notes on Vijay’s talk almost simultaneously. How does he do it? Must be powerful hands. There is after all a theory that the smaller a person’s frame, the better endowed he is.
I noticed that the usual Madras Week suspects have begun thronging to the lectures, chiefly to attack the food. The Gorilla has reappeared, as has the tall thin man who looks like a vulture with a secret sorrow. These two by themselves eat enough for twenty people. There are others as well – the camp one, the couple-that-comes-only-to-eat and the insurance-agent-who-solicits. The food ran out in the first ten minutes leaving nothing for those who came later or the poor fools who thought they should wait for these hungry hordes to have their fill. The Gorilla began eating at 6.10 and continued non-stop till 7.10. The camp one managed to take away two water bottles hidden under a Madras Week brochure. Some others don’t eat but emerge from the woodwork at this time– the sleeveless wonder, the compulsive questioner and the oddball who did odd jobs in films. Met Vincent briefly at the talk and discussed with him about the tough attitude of the police at the Fort. Apparently the situation in the Assembly is not good and there is heightened security around the Fort. We were lucky that our walk got over on 21st and is not scheduled for later in the week.
And so it was time for bed. Just before crawling in I noticed someone has put up on Youtube a video recording of my talk on Sir CP Ramaswami Aiyar. Tomorrow, as Scarlett O’Hara said, is another day.