Catch glimpses of street art, get to know your neighbours and your city through Jane’s Walk

She is Jane. Not the chronicler of intimate drawing rooms, but a champion of wide open spaces.

Jane Jacobs may be less familiar than the famous bearer of her name, but she has her own circle of admirers worldwide who will celebrate her birth anniversary on May 4 with neighbourhood walking tours. But what does the American activist and urban planning expert have to do with the city we live in? With roads spilling over to sidewalks and motor vehicles getting right of way, edging out pedestrians and pedal pushers, the late Jane Jacobs’s call for walkable cities is highly relevant for Puducherry. Three free neighbourhood tours commencing in May will offer Puducherry residents a chance to rediscover the city they live in.

The Jane’s Walk, a Toronto-based initiative, is coordinated by Urban Design Collective in India as a three-city plan in Chennai, Puducherry and Bangalore. “But this is not a heritage tour where somebody points out something and you gape at it,” says Devangi Ramakrishnan, city organiser. “It is to get people to see things they may have never noticed before, ask questions and to look at your city with a new eye.”

The walks attempt to live out Jane’s ideas of engaging communities and creating conversations around the city they inhabit. ‘Meet your neighbours,’ one of the three tours will revisit Romain Rolland Street and Rue Dumas as a community exercise. “Romain Rolland attracts tourists with its vibrant walls overhanging with bougainvillea. But there are people who have made it their home, some for generations,” notes Devangi. Walking around the neighbourhood with Ashok Panda of INTACH at the helm, volunteers hope to get residents to talk about what makes good streets, how important it is to preserve heritage and what they could change about where they live.

The focus turns to architecture and changing streetscapes in ‘Framing the Muslim quarter’, a photowalk. Shutterbugs may get a new look at the better preserved yet a quieter section of the Tamil quarter. Getting residents to offer a peek into their garden or open up their homes are also part of the tours.

“What place does art have in a city,” is a question that Fiona and Idriss of My Vintage Bicylette and Fleur of SITA cultural centre want to discuss. What better way of doing it than riding through the streets of Puducherry, and searching for grafitti and stencils in unthinkable places. “We wanted to do the cycle tour to let people rediscover hidden street arts in their city,” says Fiona. But the tour is limited to the first 15 who register.

Long-time resident or newcomer, everyone may have their dream, aspiration or story to share about Pondy. What is yours? Take a walk, share a memory, and talk about the city you love.

(INTACH, My Vintage Bicyclette, SITA Cultural Centre, Ganesh Garden and the Raj Bhavan Neighbourhood are partners for the event)

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