Chennai

Neighbourhood stories waiting for a narrative

S. Muthiah (second from right), Editor, Madras Musings , narrates stories about Harrington Road in Chennai on Monday. Also seen are humorist Ja Ra Sundaresan, writer Padmapriya Baskaran and Bookmine founder Sudha Umashanker.— Photo: R. Ravindran  

It may be a one-minute recollection of eating piping hot medhu vadais on a road trip down the Bangalore-Chennai highway. Or it may be a fond monologue on the precise way your paati braided your hair during summer break at her house. Stories from the past can make us laugh, cry or cringe, but they do have a way of sticking around, adding little flecks of joy to the present, and snuggling up to the mysterious future as well.

“Most of us are living in neighbourhoods for years not even knowing the history of the area. It is time people start exploring these stories,” points out S. Muthiah, historian. He was addressing a small group of people gathered on Harrington Road to hear stories of their neighbourhood, on Saturday. “Our city streets are filled with so much history, and given that Madras Week is fast approaching, it would be good to see more people learning about their neighbourhoods,” Mr. Muthiah adds. It was with this idea that Sudha Umashanker organised a storytelling session for her road. Having thrown open her tiny library Bookmine again, which closed down in 2000, she hopes to encourages children to participate in storytelling. “We closed it back then when the Internet drew children away from reading. But we now hold weekly storytelling sessions with group activity for them,” she says.  

Padmapriya Baskaran left a full-time job recently to concentrate on her five-year-long project of chronicling the lesser known temples in and around the city. Author of the popular blog Aalayam Kanden she told the group about the samadhis of saints on Harrington Road. “A poet and Shiva devotee was particular to have his jeeva samadhi on the Sixth Cross Street across MCC school in 1929,” Ms. Baskaran says.  

Ja Ra Sundaresan, aka Bhakkiam Ramasami, of the Appusami- Kumudam fame proved recalling stories from the past can be hilarious too. Infusing his typical humour into stories old and rusted with time, he had everyone in splits. The sudden drizzle did not dampen spirits, as stories continued to be swapped over coffee and sandwiches.



Denizens of Harrington Road exchange tales that lend their locality a unique identity



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Printable version | Dec 1, 2020 5:13:12 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/neighbourhood-stories-waiting-for-a-narrative/article7368656.ece

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