Singer-songwriter MS Krsna cannot forget last Wednesday evening, when he and his friends from the music industry performed at a unique space: the Pondy Bazaar pedestrian plaza.
The musicians performed some original Tamil compositions and several curious onlookers tapped their feet to the music. “It was amazing,” says Krsna, who is looking to make this a weekly feature, inviting other artistes too, “There was so much energy, and it is a channel to take your art straight to the people.”
The plaza is not being envisioned as a place just for walkers and shoppers — but also for the culturally and artistically inclined. It is, in other words, billed to be an ‘open-air mall’ in the heart of the city. “At a hotel or a pub, there is still some kind of separation between the musician and the audience. Here, on the street, you are one among the people,” adds Krsna.
During weekends, you would be one among a lot. That would have been the case even a few years ago, but today, there is one major difference: most of them are on their feet, and walking the street even as they shop. “I cannot believe this is Chennai,” says Srividya S, who has parked her scooter and is heading to check out textile stores, “I just hope that we keep it as neat as it is now.”
‘A new experience’
B Duraisamy sports a broad smile: he just had the best ride of his life. And no, it was not in a luxury car. It was in a battery-operated vehicle, and what made it special was that this short ride was one that ferried him and his wife, D Usha, from Panagal Park till the Big Bazaar store on the Pondy Bazaar stretch. “Isn’t this nice,” he says, even as he poses for a photograph, “Chennai needs such initiatives. This will promote walking among people, thereby reducing our dependence on cars and vehicles.”
He has just got off the six-seater buggy that is run for free by Shuttlecars India. There are five such buggies, most of them parked opposite the Soundarapandianar Angadi R4 Police Station, to ferry people from one end to the another. “This will be a new experience for shoppers, and will be a boon for the elderly and those with children,” says driver Ramesh M, who has been operating a buggy at the airport for five years now.
It is a cheerful scene with brightly-painted stools and seats that have been fixed at various points across the plaza. A children’s play area is being planned, and a multi-level parking lot will be up and running in a few months. There are also bicycle sharing facilities to help with last-mile connectivity to the Metro. And with music and cultural events happening in between all this, Pondy Bazaar might just become the public space hangout that Chennai always needed.