Sunday, August 12, 2007

Covering ground, after that morning at Chamiers

It was a meeting we had been planning for long. Anuradha Reddy, who has been resuscitating Ellements, the all-women's group in Chennai, Meera Rao, feature writer and once my professor at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, and I, were all set for a rendezvous one morning at Anokhi Chamiers to discuss what we could do for Madras Day. It was a strange morning really. When I landed up at Meera's, I found her recovering from a bad fall at home. Her toe was swollen but the doctor assured her that there was no fracture. She hobbled along into my car. On our way to Chamiers, we received a call from Anuradha (at Chamiers), saying she was rushing to Apollo - a relative had suddenly turned unwell. So, the morning ended with me trying to guide a Meera walking ever so gingerly to a secluded spot at the eatery. The following day, I received a rather weak sms from Anuradha - she was down with jaundice! No more of Chamiers, said both. It was the sort of start I never quite expected for Madras Day 2007.

Disappointment soon gave way to hope. There came glad tidings from several fronts. Lakshmy Venkataraman, who runs Gallery Sri Parvati on Eldams Road, said she would be glad to let out gallery space during Madras Week (Aug 19-26). Gita, a self-taught artist in Adyar, and Rod Hudson, a British-born numismatist, were keen to exhibit their paintings and pictures of Madras at Lakshmy's gallery. So, I had something going. The challenge now was to get speakers for each of the evenings, starting Aug 18th. Vincent had meanwhile done some spadework. Dr Suresh, archaeologist, and Sundar, director, Roja Muthiah Library Trust, were slotted for the first two days. I soon managed to rope in the other speakers: Kalpana, member INTACH; Prema Kasturi, who still wields considerable clout at WCC; Badri Seshadri, publisher and the founder-director of Crickinfo; Shreekumar Varma, whose writings are always a delight; and Dr Bhanumathi, better known for her skills in puppetry in recent years, but who prefers to be called 'environmental educationist'. They were all eager to contribute. So was R. Vaidyanathan, assistant sports editor, The Hindu; Gita had suggested his name.

Things brightened up on other fronts as well. Meeting Nanditha Krishna of The C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation is always such a delight. Nanditha was hardly audible this time - she had lost her voice to a bad cold. Yet, she immediately came up with ideas for Madras Week and took the trouble of showing me around the newly refurbished interiors at her Centre. She would set up an exhibition, she assured me, of photos and prints of parts of old Madras. Her Foundation would also re-publish during Madras Week the Early History of the Madras Region by Dr. K.V. Raman.

Another person I had on my list was V.R. Devika. She just needed a little encouragement, and there she was ready almost in an instant, deciding what she wanted to do for Madras Day. She would, through the Aseema Trust she runs, highlight Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddy's life and times with the help of a quiz programme.

I seemed to have made considerable progress in a week or so. And all it needed was just a few phone calls, some emails and a couple of meetings. That morning at Chamiers now lay in the shadows. My hunch about Meera's fall had proved right - her toe had suffered a fracture. But she is determined to cross the road to Gallery Sri Parvati and listen to some of the speakers during Madras Week. That's the spirit, Meera!

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