The Sunday Kutcheri by Sundaram Finance has been held for the last six years

Nageswara Rao Park near Luz is a popular spot for morning-walkers. The Chess Square there, however, has proved a launch-pad for the musical journey of many a youngster. Much before the term CSR (corporate social responsibility) became an oft-flaunted word by modern companies, Sundaram Finance Ltd. of the TVS Group has been quietly doing its bit to promote Carnatic music.

Catch them young, the company says; and it has been doing just that. No waiting for December to arrive to announce the ritual. The Sundaram Finance Sunday Kutcheri at the Park has been held every first Sunday, month after month, since February 2006. The idea is to offer kids in the below-15-year age group a platform to showcase their musical wares in a natural ambience shorn of mikes. Over 600 kids have performed at Chess Square since the advent of the event.

“Our former chairman, the late T.S. Santhanam, believed that we should always give back something to the community in which you function,” says T.T. Srinivasaraghavan, Managing Director of Sundaram Finance. The mike-less concert at the park is an extension of the larger Mylapore Festival that the company has been hosting every year. Why do they hold it in Mylapore? “Our roots, so to speak, are in Mylapore. Many of our depositors come from this area. In a way, Mylapore is the epicentre of Madras culture, which is steeped in music, dance, drama, et al,” he points out.

Kolam contest

The tradition began as a kolam contest. “Kolam is intrinsic not just to Chennai but to Tamil Nadu as a whole. We like to associate, promote and preserve things that are quintessential to Chennai,” points out Mr. Srinivasaraghavan. Subsequently, the kolam contest led the company to organise the Mylapore festival of art and music.

The mike-less park concert was started, initially, in 2004 as a component of the larger four-day annual Mylapore festival. When Sundaram Finance began sponsoring the maintenance of Nageswara Rao Park, the concept expanded onto a larger canvas. A “sub-text” has been added to the mike-less park kutcheri with the TVS Group firm hosting, for the last three years, a three-day annual Navaratri Kutcheri in the park. All three components — the Mylapore Festival, the monthly Sunday concerts, and the Navaratri one — would have collectively seen over 700 kids from within and outside the country present mike-less kutcheri in the park.

There have been pressures to have mikes incorporated into the event. But Sundaram Finance has stuck to its original concept for two reasons. “For one, we want to recapture the times of the past. For another, we can’t arrogate to ourselves the power to force every morning-walker at the park to listen to the concert,” argues Mr. Srinivasaraghavan. “Sound is contained within an audible distance, as we want to be sensitive to the public at large,” he says. Can this be extended to other areas in the city? He is not so enthusiastic about the idea, but concedes: “Our initiative can sprout similar efforts by others elsewhere. We could be a reference point or a benchmark for them.” What the right hand does, the left hand shouldn’t know. So saying, he asserts that the focus is on kids and kids alone.