A struggle for information
A friend from the UK seeking information about ‘Kora’s Indigenous Arts Centre’ on Orme’s Road, Kilpauk, and failing to get a satisfactory reply from me or his other Indian contacts in Madras wrote, “How very odd. What is it about Madras that makes the establishment of what should be very simple facts so extremely difficult to discover? I have never come across such immense difficulty anywhere else in the entire world! I should have said that the book is dated 1986, so the Kora Arts Centre was clearly there then – not THAT long ago.”
Whereupon, one of those friends who lives abroad wrote:
“To your remark ‘How very odd. What is it about Madras that makes the establishment of what should be very simple facts so extremely difficult to discover? etc. etc.’, my answer is ‘Elementary, my dear Watson, elementary’.”
People have other priorities in life; we have lost our sense of and sensitivity to history, probably either because we have too long a history for us to worry about or because we have more important day-to-day things to do (e.g. worrying about the next meal). My example for the latter explanation was true until the 1970s. But soon afterwards, that Indian generation got severely engaged itself with learning to ape America and the Americans. So the immediate priorities changed from what we valued as culture (+history) and tradition to things that Americans defined as culture and tradition.
Talking of this, I am unable to refrain from narrating this tale, although it is not directly linked to what we are talking about, about what is happening in my university campus abroad. The university has added a School of Dentistry, a money-spinning educational programme. It has constructed a new building (claimed to be a state-of-the-art structure and with state-of-the-art facilities), which does not harmonise with the remaining buildings in the campus done in the 1970s; the latter are all single-storeyed and have tiled roofs. While everyone waxes eloquently on the Dentistry building, to me it is a bloody eyesore, which is destroying the elegance and majesty of my campus. Why, I asked my friends here, couldn’t the new building be matched with the other buildings in the campus? The explanation I got was “Money”. When wealthy nations worry about this aspect, how do you expect poorer nations such as India not to worry about the ‘divine’ currency notes?
I am not trying to defend the lacklustre attitude of our people to history, but you can see some merit in my argument that even in wealthy countries sensitivity to history and historical contexts is ‘severely’ lacking. How can we expect this of nations such as India, which is, firstly, struggling to find its feet (mainly because of a staggering population) and, secondly, because of aping America!
“If you would mull over my above-mentioned remarks, you will appreciate why simple facts are extremely difficult to find.
When I was in high school and college (late 1970s, early 1980s), I was given to understand that anything to do with history was a wasteful effort; I was encouraged to see how I could sharpen my intelligence to make some money! History and sensitivity to history were victims of this economic focus.
Take the case of a family I know. The maternal grandfather was affluent, whereas the paternal grandfather was struggling to make both ends meet. The maternal grandfather reconstructed his lineage up to his children, whereas no such details were available with the paternal grandfather’s household. The maternal grandfather had the time and affluence to search for roots, whereas the paternal grandfather’s priorities were certainly different. If you put these two sentences in context, you will appreciate why no sensitivity of history and historical details exists in our people and getting details is a hard and uphill task.
I would not blame the people until the 1970s; but I would blame the post-1970 generation for their callous attitude.
Charles Sturt University, Orange,
New South Wales, Australia
EDITOR’S NOTE: He should have added that the resources which have the potential to provide such simple information are generally ridden with inefficiency, disinterestedness and lethargy, to which low salaries contribute greatly, compounded by red tapism, to overcome which corruption has become the only way.
Here is an alternative to the controversial proposal of the Tamil Nadu Government to build an elevated expressway from the Lighthouse on Marina Beach to Kottivakkam on the East Coast Road.
Such an expressway would involve building a conventional brick and mortar concrete bridge for the entire stretch of seafront from the Ururkuppam side to the Velankanni church end, marring the natural beauty of this God-given beach.
My compromise proposal might meet the points of view of both the environmentalists and the Government. Let the Government build a double cantilever steel bridge over the entire stretch of seafront in Besant Nagar as part of its project connecting Ururkuppam on one side and the Velankanni church on the other. Such a bridge will preserve the beauty of the seafront while at the same time meeting transportation requirements.
Such bridges have been built in India in the past. The bridge over the Hooghly river in Calcutta connecting the Hooghly Railway Station on one side and the city of Calcutta is an example. This bridge is designed to carry heavy vehicular traffic to and from the city of Calcutta while seagoing ships pass freely below.
Prof. R.C. Narayanan
(Principal (Retd.), Delhi College of Engineering)
25, 32nd Cross Street
Besant Nagar, Chennai 600 090
It is a common sight in the city, and even more so in the districts, to see 3 or 4 people travelling at great speed on a 2-wheeler. A 2-wheeler is meant for two persons and an infant or a child below 3 at most. But we find grown-up boys and girls in their teens travelling ‘trebles’ on motorcycles, scooters, etc. at great speed. It is a great risk not only to them but also to other road-users.
Recently, we read about how three youths returning on a motorbike after watching a midnight movie rammed into a stationary lorry and died on the spot. Three years ago an English daily carried a picture of a young man from Minjur carrying 7 persons (two adults and five children) on his Bullet motorcycle. Sheer madness
Why are the Police, who hold up 2-wheeler riders for small violations like not carrying the driving licence, not wearing helmet, stopped beyond yellow line etc. not looking the other way at this grave violation of overloading?
Go past any college and you will see scooters zooming away carrying three well-built teenagers to overtake a vehicle. It is also common to see a man riding a motorcycle with his wife on the pillion, a grown-up daughter sandwiched in between and a 10-year old son perched on the petrol tank blocking the rider’s view. Both are high risk situations and it is high time the traffic police took action on such violations by cancelling the licences of the violators. They must enforce the “only two persons on a 2 wheelers” rule strictly.
Barakath House, 11, Mosque Road
Hasthinapuram, Chennai 600 064
Two localities, far from one another, have names that connect them! Mudichur and Mogapair. Mudichur has been shortened form of Manamudichur. Manam in Tamil is marriage. Here there is a temple where parents of nubile girls pray for their early marriage.
Mogappair is really an anglicised form of Magapperu, meaning in Tamil ‘childbirth’. Here too there is a temple where married girls pray for progeny.
Plot 456, II Link Road
Chennai 600 091
The write-up by Mohan Raman with inputs by T. Murali on Puthiya Paravai was indeed nostalgic. But there were factual errors in it. In Chase a crooked shadow, the heroine had killed her brother and not her husband. I remember Paragon Theatre getting revamped with pushback seats (a novelty at the time) etc. in 1961 itself and the first movie shown thereafter was Kappalottiya Thamizhan, for which I booked balcony tickets. It was once again refurbished in 1964 for Puthiya Paravai. And I am rather upset that the fan culture in India is assuming alarming proportions. It would not have been this much when the movie was released in 1964. I do not see this kind of frenzy for movies and stars elsewhere. Will we ever come out of it?
10, Kalyanapuram Street
Choolaimedu, Chennai 600 094