I am now sitting in office sipping green tea. I needed it. The events of this morning alone… But before I get there let me share moments of joy.
The last two Madras Week events went off very well indeed. Dr Biswakumar kicked off the Chennai Heritage Madras Musings Lecture series with characteristic style and panache on the famous doctors of Madras. The event took place at the GRT Grand on the 19th. Humour and fact were wonderfully mixed. For some reason my camera settings got corrupted and I could only manage a couple of very poor pictures.
The hotel had put out a good spread and those in attendance were appreciative. The contingent of freeloaders was of course present in full strength but that is par for the course.
Last evening, the programme was at the Hyatt with Nirmal Shekar of The Hindu in conversation with Ramanathan Krishnan, the one and only Indian to make it to a Wimbledon Semi Final. It was a wonderful evening. A 100 strong audience, a great venue, a fantastic spread and some straight-from-the heart speaking by Tennis Krishnan. It was good of Nirmal to get Mrs Lalitha Krishnan to come on to stage as well. The audience loved it. N Sankar of the Sanmar Group presented mementoes.
This morning I was invited to speak at the Queen Mary’s College. I was asked to be there at 10.00 am and so naturally made it by 9.55 am only to find that things were on course for a 10.30 kick-off. So I wandered around the campus and what I saw saddened me. Ill-kept heritage buildings, garbage here and there, graffiti on the walls and an overall apathy towards what would be a dream campus. There was no power and so I made my speech sweating profusely. Each year it happens. First it was the speech at Studio Palazzo on Chisholm when the fuse blew. Last year it the Madras University Music Department’s steam-bath cum Black Hole of Calcutta rolled into one. And this year this event has drawn the short straw.
During the speech I strongly admonished the teachers and the students for keeping such a shabby campus. Ten years ago it was this very same college where students protested spiritedly and saved their campus from demolition. For what purpose? It now appears that at least two heritage structures – Beach House (Sir S Subramania Iyer’s bungalow) and Sankara Iyer’s bungalow are slated to be demolished as they are in a precarious state. How did they become like that? Owing to bad maintenance of course. Do we see any private university or the IIT or the IIMs like this? Even my alma mater, Delhi College of Engineering with its tiny campus, was always clean.
I suggested that for regular dusting and cleaning, the students themselves could pitch in and not wait for the Government to do something. I also said that they must band together to make their campus plastics free. I don’t know if my speech made any difference. And if the girls here are going to become immune to the filth then what of the future?
I came away profoundly depressed. Which is why the tea…