It all started with eating out and it is going strong with a 360-degree view. A recap…

Columns are perhaps the most reliable corners of any newspaper. Come what may, they become an integral part of the content. For editors, the columnists turn out to be the most dependable writers as their copies miraculously arrive on time. Regular writers can occasionally wriggle out from their assignments but never a columnist unless some emergency drives him or her to do so. Among readers, columns have a fan following too, as we in Team Metro have witnessed for years. Whether freelancers ran a column for us or the staffers wrote one, each of these columns came to occupy a special place in the mind of the readers.

Over the last 10 years, we have churned out more than a dozen different columns, some short-lived and some still going strong. Some became instantaneously popular and some tugged at emotions.

Madurai, often called a large village, has been a cosmopolitan city for long. This ancient but unpretentious city revealed something new at every corner, preserving the individualistic traits of its many communities while creating a mosaic of harmonious existence.

In the last ten years we at The Hindu Metroplus Madurai edition tried our best to capture the city’s myriad moods and aspects in various columns. We started in January 2003 with Eating Out, in this city famous for its Mallipoo idlis. We reviewed new and old, popular restaurants and food festivals. We walked the streets in search of different flavours. The column bounces off and on, but it remains one of our most popular.

Madurai means the Meenakshi Temple. But there is much more to the city. From 2004, Namma Madurai, our longest-running column, started exploring further, starting with Thirumalai Naicker Palace in the city and Kalinjamalai at Arittapatti Village. Different writers contributed initially, but from 2005 Namma Madurai became S.S.Kavitha’s adopted child. She hunted out obscure temples, churches, caves and monuments to nurture this column. Personally, it has enabled her to reach many a peak, though she admits, “I was often crawling by the end.” But all the gasping, tripping, falls and bruises faded the moment a positive call or comment came from a reader.

Mottaimalai, Meenakshipatti and Keezhavazhavu were some of Kavitha’s unforgettable expeditions, and these explorations, she feels, have inspired her and her readers to take possession of the city’s history and culture and pass it on to the next generation. She recalls how one of her friends celebrated her daughter’s birthday at Varichiyur hillock, where she told the party about the history of the hill, caves and temple.

City3Sixty is our youngest column. Launched last January, it has captured peoples’ imagination and revived memories of the city. We wanted to present the face of Madurai at different times of day. Readers here discovered some hitherto unknown places. And some of our faraway readers relived their early years in Madurai.

The more pragmatic Know Your Area brought to the fore positives of various neighbourhoods and simultaneously helped to identify local problems. This column highlighted the struggles of Kaithari Nagar residents to sustain their handlooms, while the walled Kremmerpuram, 114 years old, still keeps its spirit intact. In six years of strolling down lanes and streets of 70-odd residential areas, Metroplus writers have attracted strange looks. But every trip was filled with interesting anecdotes and slices of history, with special mention of Arasaradi, Zumbropuram and Puttuthoppu.

The city is a wider canvas for different communities to live and grow, taking on their varied features. Madurai Mosaic, a monthly column on communities, highlighted these factors.

A city is also what its people are. Madurai is full of ordinary people and organisations that leave an extraordinary impact on us. Making a Difference for the past five years has been recording their selfless service in a fortnightly column and passing on their inspiration.

We also connected with young people through Campus Hangout, while Metro Workout catered to fitness freaks. Other columns that caught the attention of the readers are Random Thoughts by Irai Anbu, Down Memory Lane by J. Vasanthan, Joy of Being by R. Dinesh, Smilingly Yours by Bharath K.S. and Kamala Thiagarajan’s fortnightly contributions on health, beauty and fitness.

Travel and food columns, wellness and beauty tips, automobiles and gadgets, we have compiled them all regularly and you will find samples of some of these as you go through this 10th anniversary issue.

S. B.

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