Society

Carrying forward Besant Nagar’s causes

Ms. Subramaniyan was instrumental in the developing of the Corporation park on Fourth Avenue, Besant Nagar. Photo: K.V. Srinivasan

Ms. Subramaniyan was instrumental in the developing of the Corporation park on Fourth Avenue, Besant Nagar. Photo: K.V. Srinivasan   | Photo Credit: K_V_Srinivasan

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Eighty-seven-year-old Kamakshi Subramaniyan is best known for her struggle for the revamping of Schmidt Memorial

CHENNAI: Octogenarian Kamakshi Subramaniyan takes her favourite window seat in her house and gazes out at the roadside park she helped develop on Fourth Avenue in Besant Nagar.

“I am now the watchdog for this park. I make sure that it is watered every day, and the fencing is intact,” she says.

The park was developed by the Chennai Corporation on her 80th birthday, seven years ago. “After eight years of struggle to get the park set up, it felt like a birthday gift,” she says.

It is difficult to tell that she is 87 years old; although her face is lined, her voice and demeanour belie her age. “There are so many causes to fight for, so I do not have the time to think about my age,” she says.

Known to the neighbourhood as ‘Kamakshi Paati’, Ms. Subramaniyan has spent the last 15 years helping Besant Nagar’s residents. She is best known for her struggle to renovate the Schmidt Memorial on Elliots Beach.

Her journey started in 1985, when she moved to Chennai after 30 years in New Delhi. “A group of us got together to try and preserve the area on which Rajaji Bhavan was set up, and use it as a park,” she said. She spearheaded a signature campaign, and the matter went to court. “Even though we lost, it was a starting point for me,” she adds.

Recently, she led a campaign to shift bio-toilets erected on the beach. “I received a call from the Mayor’s office a few days ago, saying orders have been issued for the shifting,” she says, adding, “Nothing comes without a struggle. I spend hours on the phone to ensure stormwater drains are cleaned, or the street lighting is in order.”

Ms. Subramaniyan is now no stranger around the city. “After so many years, everyone from the police to the Corporation commissioner and the Mayor are familiar to me,” she says.

According to Corporation commissioner Vikram Kapur the restoration of Schmidt Memorial could be attributed in large measure to her tenacity. “Such public spiritedness is an inspiration to the younger generation. Her dedication to various public causes is exemplary,” he said. On December 14, the Besant Nagar Senior Citizens’ Group will be felicitating Ms. Subramaniyan. 

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2020 1:02:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/chen-society/carrying-forward-besant-nagars-causes/article6673695.ece

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