Downtown

Mylapore in miniature

A mikeless kutcheri in progress at the park. Photo : K. V Srinivasan

A mikeless kutcheri in progress at the park. Photo : K. V Srinivasan   | Photo Credit: Deepak Shankar

Music. Art. Culture. Learning. Dr. Nageshwara Rao Park has space for all of them. K. Sarumathi on its evolution from a pond to a performing stage

The cultural potpourri called Mylapore has found abundant expression on the stage called Dr. Nageshwara Rao Park.

Promoting performing arts, Sundaram Finance started Margazhi Kuchteries at the Park. Expanding the concept, it began ‘mike-less Sunday kutcheries’. As the name implies, these concerts are mikeless, a feature adopted to avoid disturbing the people and the birds in the park. These concerts have been a platform for young musicians, including children.

Then, there is Soap Box Speaker’s Exnora. A group of residents, who are also members of the Mylapore Exnora Innovator’s Club, have been gathering at the park to speak on issues affecting the neighbourhood. These sessions are geared to two goals: sorting out the problems in their backyard and, two, developing public speaking skills. This activity is experiencing a temporary lull.

The group plans to restart the initiative in October this year. Thiru Vi. Ka. Speaker’s Forum is another public speaking promotion group that meets at the park

Promotion of art is another facet. Among the most notable exhibitions at the park is the photo exhibition in 2007 featuring German photographer Deidi von Schaewen.

Social activism has also found a space within the park.

Environment- and health-related campaigns have been organised here.

The park has attained such a level of importance because of the residents of Mylapore. They have had a deep and abiding partnership with the park. It is arguably the most people-centred park in the city.

This is in fact the defining character of the park which was once a pond called Arathu Kuttai. When the water dried up, the residents living around the pond, who were also co-owners of the land, gave it to the Corporation for the creation of a park. Desodharaka Nageswara Rao, Ramayamma Pantulu, Aravamutha Iyengar and Nainiappa Mudaliar were among those who made it possible. The park was named Nageswara Rao in the memory of Desodharaka Nageswara Rao Pantulu, the owner of Amruthanjan, and opened to the public in October, 1949. Until 2002 the park was maintained by the Corporation and issues such as garbage dumping and burning were quite common.

And then, the job of maintaining it was given to the American Chamber of Commerce and Industry (AMCHAM), Chennai. Their mandate was to improve the facilities at the park. In association with the residents, a corpus was created for the park. From there, the community’s engagement with the park grew.

Around nine years ago, AMCHAM relinquished its position and handed over the responsibilities of maintenance to Sundaram Finance.

The new managers have been successful in facilitating greater interaction between the people and the place, making them mutual beneficiaries.

Voices from residents

T.T. Srinivasaraghavan, MD, Sundaram Finance:

∝“When we took over the charge of the park, the idea was to preserve nature and at the same time use the public space to promote art and culture, especially among children. I have beautiful reminiscences about the park in the 70s when I was studying at Vivekananda College. The college’s cricket team would gather at the southern gate of the park and we would have lively debates on matches. It offered such a calm and green environment. After the Corporation knocked down the compound wall and installed a grille in its place, the noise levels inside the park have increased.”

K.V. Mathew, resident Luz Avenue:

“I have been living in the area for over 19 years and have a very fond memories of walking in the park. Its beauty is beyond compassion. And there are not many other parks in the city that have upheld culture and promoted art.”

Deeptha Vasudevan, Mandaveli resident and past performer in Sunday Kutcheri:

“Nageshwara Rao Park has been a part of my growing up days. I have fond memories of playing for hours together in the park during summer vacations. In fact, everyone who has ever visited the park would have some nice story to relate about playing in the chess square. The park also gave me and my sister Swetha an opportunity to perform a kuctheri a few years ago. The best part is these performances are in tune with nature. As there are no mikes, artists have no fear of singing. Also, singers can build a good rapport with the audience, who sit so close, unlike in an auditorium.”

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Printable version | Apr 1, 2020 4:09:40 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/downtown/mylapore-in-miniature/article6429563.ece

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