It comes to life before sunrise, is a favourite haunt of fitness freaks and a Chennai landmark. Sudhish Kamath takes a walk around the Anna Nagar Tower Park

The sun is yet to rise. And daybreak seems far away as we make our way into the Anna Nagar Tower Park at 5 a.m. wondering if the security guards would let us in.

We are in for a surprise.

Not only is the Tower Park open, it’s busy. And very well-lit for the early morning joggers. We find out that it opened at 4 a.m.!

The energy is unbelievable and you can hear the sound of a hundred birds chirping. The waft of fresh air instantly rids you of any remnants of sleep. Within moments of walking in, you understand why the walkers just love this park.

We walk towards the 135-ft. tall tower to check what time we could go up, around the winding pathway, 12 floors up, all the way to the top.

“They don’t allow people up anymore. It’s been over a year. Too many suicides.

It’s unbelievable that young people pay to go up and kill themselves by jumping off the tower,” says a government official, still positioned in his ‘asana’.

“I come here every morning to do yoga,” he adds.

It’s very well maintained, we tell him as he points towards a walker and tells us how he’s related to a bureaucrat. “Many VIPs frequent this park. So it’s always well-maintained.”

Unable to get good pictures with no trace of sunlight yet, we walk around, accompanied by the buzz of mosquitoes in the garden around the tower, trying not to get in the way of the joggers and those walking in reverse.

There are at least about 500 people walking, stretching, jogging or just sitting on the park benches.

Considering that the beach is far away, this seems to be a great alternative for the residents of Anna Nagar. History has it that the tower was inaugurated in 1968 during the World Trade Fair by former Vice-President V.V. Giri in the presence of C.N. Annadurai, the then Chief Minister. You could see the entire city of Madras from the top. People would even come from suburbs to get a bird’s eye view of the city.

Our history lesson from a scrawny security guard is cut short by an announcement on the public address system. The time is 6 a.m., the voice behind the microphone informs and requests walkers not to walk on the lawns. “The tower closes by 11.30 a.m. and opens only after 3 p.m. Too much nuisance otherwise,” says the security guard.

Love-birds aren’t welcome here. A few years ago, the police had cracked down on young lovers in the park (and were subsequently criticised for moral policing).

As we walk around, we find an aerobics class for senior citizens in progress. The older generation seems to be more health conscious than the youth who account for barely 15-20 per cent of the morning crowd.

The skating rink wears a deserted look, so does the open air auditorium and toilet block.

The beautiful bird-watching deck looks over a lake but there’s not much activity there this season. In the evenings, these areas are packed with families. And more so during the weekends.

At about half past six, the fountains spring to life in the garden and groups of joggers sit around the park to catch up with breath and chit-chat. The 15.35-acre park in its new avatar was renovated at a cost of Rs. 6.2 crore and reopened in 2010.

As we take more pictures of the fountains with the tower in the background, we are soon distracted by instrumental film music over the public address system entertaining the morning visitors.

The city outside finally seems to have woken up.

Hungry after all that walking, we leave the tower behind and make our way out for breakfast, truly proud of Anna Nagar’s landmark that stands tallest among all the parks in the city.

PARK STORY

Officially called Dr. Visveswaraya Tower Park

Built in 1968, as part of the World Trade Fair, it is the only one of its kind in the city

The 135 foot tall structure and 15.35 acre park is maintained by the Chennai Corporation

Open from 4 a.m. to 11.30 a.m. and 3 p.m to 9 p.m.

Entry to the tower itself closed last year on account of instances of suicides

Equipped with an amphitheatre, a bird watching deck, badminton courts, play area for kids, a skating rink, a toilet block and a lake.

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