Celebrating the founding of a city

It was sometime in June 2004 that the idea of celebrating the founding of Madras that is Chennai came about. Vincent D’Souza, editor, Mylapore Times, and I were at the home of Mr Muthiah, columnist, author, and Madras storyteller. And we were chatting over a cup of chai. Vincent had been organising the Mylapore Festival since a few years earlier, and had met with a fair amount of success. The three of us began talking of a Madras festival and the possibility of doing something to create an awareness about the city’s heritage among Chennai residents.

That first year, celebrations were mostly confined to a day – August 22, the day Madras was ‘founded’. There was a heritage project that was conducted at the Rajaji Hall where many schools participated; we got the descendants of the Beri Thimappa family (read more about the family in one of my early blogs) at a public function the same evening; there were English and Tamil quizzes; and a sketching competition at the Marina.

Madras Day (the city was founded on August 22, 1640) has now grown into Madras Week, thanks to many individuals, schools, colleges and institutions. Events that usually take place during Madras Week include a series of lectures on Madras by distinguished speakers, heritage walks, competitions for schoolchildren, display of old Madras pictures and coins by the city’s leading numismatists, etc. Please log on to www.themadrasday.in to find out more.

The past two years have seen V. Sriram, associate editor, Madras Musings; and Sushila Ravindranath, former editor, Sunday Express; joining us. This year, S.R. Madhu, senior writer-editor and formerly with The Times of India, Span magazine and the Bay of Bengal Project, has joined us catalysts. Catalysts, because we spread the good word about Madras and get others to join in.

Madras Week this year will be celebrated from August 17 to 24. As usual, there will be several events, so please note down somewhere the event you wish to attend.

One of the disappointments this year has been the lackadaisical attitude shown by schools and colleges to celebrating Madras Day. I would have expected some of them to have voluntarily come forward to participate, but that has not happened. However, I must mention here the enthusiasm shown by Suma Padmanabhan, principal, Asan Memorial Senior Secondary School, Nungambakkam. She, like last year, has put in place a team of students to oversee the celebrations there which will include a demonstration of the food, clothes, lifestyle, dance, music of the years gone by. Can we have more school principals like her? Remember: this is the celebration of a city of which you are a part.


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