”Chennai, in the State of Tamil Nadu (and formerly known as Madras), was long considered the gateway to popular South Indian tourist destinations like Kerala but was overlooked as an attraction itself. It is, however, a national cultural capital and home to several dance and music schools like Kalakshetra for dance and the Music Academy for Carnatic South Indian music, which both regularly hold performances around town. There are also historic sites aplenty, including the Kapaleeswarar Temple, built in the name of the Hindu god Shiva. Fresh buzz makes this city especially enticing: Several major hotels including the Park Hyatt have recently opened, and there is a slew of new and trendy clubs, boutiques and restaurants, including Ottimo for excellent pizzas.”
That is the entry in The New York Times against Chennai, citing the reasons for it to make it to the annual list of top 52 travel destinations in the world. Our humble Madras that is Chennai rubs shoulders with exotic locales such as Cape Town and Rio de Janeiro. And in case you thought it came in last, here is another surprise – Chennai ranked a healthy 26 and, what’s more, was the only city from India. Move over snooty Delhi, moneyed Mumbai, and bumptious Bengaluru.
Not all the information is accurate as can be seen, after all the Music Academy and Kalakshetra are not itinerant impresarios. But it cannot be denied that Chennai is a national cultural capital – with religious festivals, art shows, literary events, music and dance programmes and, above all, theatre. If only the weather was somewhat pleasanter! But then nothing can be done about that.
Having said that, and having agreed that Chennai admittedly deserves this pat on the back, let us resolve to make it a better city and perhaps aspire to be Number One on the list. And here are some things we could do to make that happen.
Cut the poster and cutout culture out. Dirty walls and cluttered footpaths do not make for a good city.
Manage our traffic better. Let us resolve to respect traffic laws, observe lane discipline and give pedestrians their space.
Be more polite and display less of road rage no matter how tempting it is. And while we are about it, can we honk a little less?
Can we have more public toilets so that our populace need not relieve themselves in the open. And, yes, can people stop spitting?
Can we understand that the right to silence is one of the fundamental rights? Can we therefore tone down the television and radio and, more important, avoid high decibel speakers at public spaces? And, in the context, can we avoid shouting while speaking over cell phones?
Can we recognise that the footpath is a necessity for walking and easy access and therefore cannot be encroached upon?
Can we, while designing our buildings, respect the neighbours’ space and also ensure that those who are otherwise abled can easily gain access to our buildings?
Can we have a law to protect heritage buildings? After all, one of the reasons that Chennai has made it to the list is the presence of historic places.
Lastly, Chennai ranked number one on another scale just a few weeks ago – the national garbage creation index. That does not sound good for a city ranking 26th internationally among tourist destinations, does it?
This is just a first cut wish list. We are sure our readers will have a lot more. If all these fall into place, what more can we want in this, our city?