Society

Walking tall

Anitha Sharma and members of Tree Walk   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The GREEN CRUSADERS

Tree Walk

Begun by Anitha Sharma around three years ago, Tree Walk prompted many women to put their best foot forward and organise different kinds of walks that cater to varied interest groups. “The first walk was on May 12, 2012 along the green corridor of Vanchiyoor that we sadly lost to road development, recently,” recalls Anitha.

The Tree Walk was started in the memory of Botany professor Dr. Thankam who instilled a love for trees in many of her students and who also knew a lot about trees in the city. The rapid disappearance of the trees, the often failed attempts of a handful of people to protect the green cover and the need for the formation of a group of concerned citizens other than the branded ‘tree lovers’ was the primary motivation behind Tree Walk. “The single most important reason was to develop sensitivity about trees, not just when we lose them and also to conceive and propagate the thought of a city space with trees, open spaces and pedestrian friendly roads.”

Three years later, Anitha says: “The walkers are generally sensitive to the presence and disappearance of the city’s green cover. A positive change has been the change in the feeling that there is no point in reacting or responding. Through our small attempts in making participants sign petitions, write post cards to protect greenery and successes in saving individual trees from the axe, the Tree Walkers have realised the importance of small attempts.”

The outcome

The persistent and consistent rallying of many women for protecting one of the most verdant and valuable green lungs in the city – the Attakulangara Central High School, where more than 100 trees belonging to 35 species grow.

PAST PRESENT EXPLORERS

Heritage Walk

Archaeologist Elizabeth ‘Bina’ Thomas Tharakan says she had been toying with the idea of a heritage walk ever since she came to the city in 2010. Eventually, with the help of local history buffs such as Achuthsankar S. Nair and Malayinkeezh Gopalakrishnan, she managed to organise the first walk around Pettah in November 2013.

To her pleasant surprise, she was joined by people from all walks of life, professionals, homemakers, students and visitors to the city. “I was not sure if women would find it convenient to step out that early in the morning on a Sunday. But from the very first walk, women’s participation has been very encouraging,” she says.

Bina feels that the city is in the throes of attaining “higher levels of urbanisation. It is yet to comprehend the cost of development.” She makes an impassioned plea for a well-planned city, with effective and well-monitored options to protect and preserve its cultural and natural heritage. “Government agencies should take up or delegate the task of documenting whatever is remaining of its heritage, before it is completely wiped out or razed to the ground.”

The outcome

“Heritage Walk Trivandrum has been an excellent exercise is familiarising the citizens of this city with its heritage. Walkers have often lamented how little they knew of their neighbourhood and city at large and how happy and excited they are to learn more facts about their rich heritage through these walks,” says Bina.

INSIDE OUTSIDE

Architecture Walk

The city chapter of the Indian Association of Architects (IAA) is celebrating its golden jubilee and as part of its programmes, the IAA decided to organise architecture walks to create awareness about the built heritage of the city. The responsibility for organising the walks was given to city-based architect Maya Gomez.

“We have been organising the walk for five months now. It took quite a bit of convincing in the beginning, that this could indeed be done as a public outreach initiative, repeating the same walks and expecting a new set of walkers each time. But every time, it’s wonderful to see a new set of city lovers and architecture lovers joining in,” says Maya.

She has always been surprised at the wealth of stories and historical information that the city has to reveal. “Our catch phrase for our architecture walks is “our city has much to reveal to those who walk”.

Maya says the tours would not have been such a success without the wholehearted participation of their ‘walk leaders’ Ashalatha Thampuran, Sharat Sunder Rajeev and Thomas Oommen, who bring their knowledge, communication skill and, most importantly, intelligence into planning their talks at each stop point along the walk. “We plan our walks meticulously, including scripting and the stop points so that we stay on track and on time,” she says.

But Maya is disappointed to see buildings going to seed, a basic lack of housekeeping and neatness in public buildings and offices. “And the fact that we sometimes do not appreciate enough what we have, perhaps a lack of awareness which walks like these can hopefully allay to some extent.”

The outcome

“There are many people who are interested in the city and its architecture. Architects need to organise more public outreach programmes with an academic angle, to talk about aesthetics and to help inform tastes. The Fort area has too much traffic - a toll could perhaps reduce this,” says Maya.

LINES THAT WALK

Sketch and Walk

Rajshree Rajmohan was an enthusiastic participant of many walks and that is what encouraged her to organise one of her own. One that is whimsical, charming and explores the ying and yang of our perceptions. An architect, Rajshree decided to take her students of the College of Architecture and College of Engineering- Trivandrum to heritage spaces in the city for sketching and walking, and soon there were quite a few who wanted to SEE it too.

“Today, every smart phone has a camera. We point and click anything and everything that distracts or holds our attention. The purpose of our informal walk is to pause and observe the contexts in which we move and work with. As Paul Klee said, ‘A drawing is simply a line going for a walk.’ It is in the act of drawing that one really sees the details and features that enhance the spaces that surround us. This is an informal group for like minded sensitive professionals and students to walk, observe, sketch and share their viewpoints.

Rajshree says each walk over the last four months has helped them sharpen their ‘views’ better and focus on the different aspects of a place instead of rushing for the camera to click it. “Every Saturday morning at 7 a.m., we meet at a designated spot, sketch for an hour and a half and then share and discuss our drawings. It is interesting to see how each of us ‘see’ a place,” says Rajshree.

The floating group of architects and students and, at present, a sculptor, capture different vignettes of the same place. They have covered West Fort, Valiyashala, CSI Church (Palayam) and the vicinity of Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple.

The outcome

Some breathtaking sketches that capture in black and white the charms of a city that is changing at breakneck speed into a concrete jungle.




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Printable version | Jun 13, 2021 4:35:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/walking-tall/article6966550.ece

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