Sunday, July 27, 2008

Heard of Kodambakkam?

Now here is some interesting information about Kodambakkam – sent by P. Venkataraman who is now a resident of Kalakshetra Road in Thiruvanmiyur. He was a Kodambakkam resident for 52 years, and the place, he writes, was originally a part of Shrotrium Village in the Puliyur Kottam, one of the 24 subdivisions of Thondainadu. There are several versions of how the name Kodambakkam came about – a corrupted form of Ghoda Bagh, the place where horses were reared during the times of the Nawab of Arcot; the sthalapuranam of one of the two Siva temples in the area (it is said that Lord Shiva turned the Meru Mountain into a bow, in Tamil, mountain is kodu, bow is ambu); after Karkodiyan, a descendant of Adisesha who is worshipped as Lord Narayana at the temple in Sivan Koil Street.

A conglomeration of several colonies, Venkataraman writes that he is sure that Aziz Nagar, one of them, was named after Md Abdul Aziz who owned the entire stretch of land gifted to his ancestors by none other than Akbar the Great. The postal division, 600024, was known as Akbarabad till the mid-1960s, he points out. Most of the early houses that came up in the 1930s were single-storied, tiled or terraced, or Madras terraced, complete with Burma-teak rafters. The place had a sedate rural lifestyle, he adds.

When Venkataraman moved to Kodambakkam in 1953, the place was home to many film artists – there were two dozen film studios beyond Vadapalani. He writes that there would always be a crowd at the main Kodambakkam railway gate watching film stars who waited there to cross once the trains passed. There were no proper roads, no drainage or water supply. The area was full of palm and coconut trees. The rainy season saw waist-deep water everywhere.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Interested in journalism?

The SRM School of Journalism & Mass Communication, Kattangulathur, has been running since February this year as a part-time Postgraduate Diploma Course in Journalism of nine months duration, at the SRM Nightingale Matriculation Higher Secondary School in West Mambalam (68, Thambiah Road), Chennai. The second batch is scheduled to commence September 2008. Classes are held from 6.30 pm to 8 pm, five days a week. The first batch students have completed the first semester exams.

The course has been designed as a postgraduate course, open to graduates from any recognised university / institution recognised by the University Grants Commission. Non-graduates showing exceptional promise will also be admitted and granted a certificate on completion of the course. The objective is to equip aspiring journalists and writers with the latest knowledge in the fields of newspaper and magazine publishing as well as other media and to impart professional skills to enable them to pursue careers as full-time or part-time journalists.

The faculty, an eminent one with long experience in journalism and communication, includes S. Muthiah, well-known journalist and author and Honorary Dean of the S.R.M. School of Journalism & Mass Communication; S.R. Madhu, senior writer-editor who has worked with The Times of India and Span; Sam Rajappa, senior journalist at The Statesman, Chennai; Vincent D’Souza, editor of Adyar Times and Mylapore Times; and myself. Prof. Venkat Pulapaka heads the S.R.M. School of Journalism & Mass Communication in Kattangalathur.

Admissions are open now for the second batch. If you are interested in pursuing journalism as a career or in gaining knowledge as a working journalist, you can call 9884133355.

One of the subjects taught in the second semester is New Media. In the first picture, ace blogger Kiruba Shankar (second from right) explains the world of blogs and Wikis to students. The second shows the front page of the newsletter SRM Nightingale Voice brought out by the students.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Why is there so much corruption in India?

Nandini Voice for the Deprived, a Chennai-based NGO, will organise a meeting for students on Independence Day to discuss the rampant corruption in India. Ten teams from different colleges will be invited to make presentations after a 12-minute discussion. The best three presentations will win prizes.

A team of chemical engineers and technologists runs Nandini Voice For The Deprived. The NGO provides services to deprived section of the society and runs a number of free computer schools at different places in Tamil Nadu for the benefit of lower income group. The NGO also works closely with differently-abled persons and supports them in their self-employment pursuits. Financial support is extended to poor students.

For more details, you can visit or call N.S. Venkataraman at 24916037 or 24961346.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A vegetable garden

Which brings me to my next piece… Of memories of old Bangalore still alive in the city’s outskirts today. I was in Rajeshwari Nagar to visit a relative. Clouds hung low, there was a nip in the air, and, yes, the occasional drizzle. My visit to the house was preceded by one to the Rajeshwari Temple after which the place is named. It was nice and quiet in the morning… there were few devotees… and taking pictures was not a problem.

The house had a lovely vegetable garden laid out in a plot of land adjacent to it. Most of the vegetables that are needed for the home are grown here. I just wondered whether this would have been possible in Chennai! My relative had employed a gardener and often bellowed instructions from the front verandah… sometimes he would walk gingerly over and be seated on a chair in the middle of the garden. Way to enjoy Nature’s bounty… and reason to thank God for a retired life!

The colourful and finely sculpted gopuram of the Rajeshwari Temple; and papayas, yam and coconut in the vegetable garden.

Garden City - those were the days

Today’s Bangalore is not really the Garden City of old, at least the one that I knew. I still remember vividly my first visit to the city in the early 1980s. Clouds would hang low… there was a nip in the air… there were occasional drizzles… and, of course, there were fewer people and hardly any traffic jams. The IT revolution had not started then. All that made a BIG difference, and sometimes it was almost as if you were in a hill station.

Today’s Bangalore is of course another world, of people trying to squeeze their way along crowded streets, of vehicles horning and inching themselves to the next traffic signal, of men, women and children trying to repel the fumes and smog, and of old-timers wondering how everything that was so beautiful had changed beyond redemption!

I was travelling in a Tata Sumo from the Cantonment area to the city’s outskirts. It was a Saturday morning. There were probably less office-goers than on a weekday, but the number of vehicles on the roads told a different story than that in the early 1980s. Heard of these lines in a poem: “Oh to be in England… now that April’s there…”? In the early 1980s, you could hum: “Oh to be in Bangalore… now that autumn’s there…” You wouldn’t say that today, though the Garden City of yore still holds a special charm.

And then there are wonders!

Have heard of miracles and wonders, but seeing is believing! Was at my cousin’s in Bangalore last week. The day I arrived, she led me to her puja room and pointed to the garland that adorned the picture of Lord Guruvayurappan. The garland had doubled in length, and by the following evening had grown even longer! It seemed to be lengthening gradually all the time. The garland would be replaced with a new one after a couple of days and so forth, and each one was likely to grow longer.

Thankfully, nothing was publicised and so there were no hordes of believers making their way to her home. It happened to be the day when reports spread from another home in Bangalore of a Shirdi Sai Baba statue opening an eye. But the mysterious growth of the garlands in my cousin’s puja room had begun weeks earlier.

Notice the difference in the length of the garland in the two pictures, and I had shot them within hours.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Join in to celebrate the founding of a city

What started as Madras Day in 2004 has gone on to become Madras Week. About the middle of that year, Vincent D’Souza, editor, Mylapore Times; S. Muthiah, senior journalist, author and city historian; and myself met at Muthiah’s place over a cup of tea and discussed the possibilities of celebrating the founding of Chennai that is Madras. According to Muthiah, Madras is considered to have been ‘founded’ on August 22, 1639 – Andrew Cogan and Francis Day of the British East India Company, and local dubash Beri Thimappa struck a deal that day with the local Nayaks. Which makes the city 369 years old this year.

The past two or three years, more and more people, groups and institutions have been coming forward to celebrate Madras’s birthday. It was heartening to see some colleges and schools respond last year and we hope to see even better response this year.

Joining us to help organize a few things is S.R. Madhu, senior journalist who in his younger days had worked with The Times of India, and then the U.N.’s Bay of Bengal Programme. Sushila Ravindranath, editor, Deccan Chronicle, and V. Sriram, businessman-cum-prolific writer, came on board last year. In any case it is a small team, and volunteers are always welcome.

Like last year, Hotel Green Park will provide a hall. On August 23, Saturday, a puppetry show for children, storytelling for children, and a talk on temples of Chennai have been planned. This year, the Jaigopal Garodia Vivekananda Vidyalaya Matriculation Higher Secondary School in Anna Nagar School will be part of Madras Week celebrations. A screening of a documentary film and a talk is being planned there.

Asan Memorial Senior Secondary School has already put in place a team to organise various events during the week. When I spoke to Suma Padmanabhan, the principal, she was full of enthusiasm as usual.

Lakshmy Venkatraman’s Gallery Sri Parvati will host a drawing and painting exhibition by a national award winning art director.

Others who have confirmed participation include Peekaboo Patterns, Hippocampus and Vanilla.

If you wish to volunteer, participate or even suggest anything, you can call 24761122 or email