As it steps into its 26th year, Madras Musings is happy to find that the maximum number of greetings and best wishes for its continued existence has come in on social media – the preserve of the young. This makes us most happy for we believe that by making an impact on the next generation, we have carried forward the concerns over heritage – both built and natural – as well as over our city to the guardians of the future. This by itself is a victory for us.
It was only in the last issue that we made it known that we as a publication have completed 25. Ever since then, we have received countless messages on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter wishing us well. We thank every one of these people and promise them that we will live up to their expectations. At the same time, we also express our gratitude to these young people who have dispelled the notion that concerns about heritage and the city are exclusive to the elderly. This is a definite sign of changing times.
Let us take for instance Facebook forums that discuss our city. The Madras Local History Group is perhaps the best known. The focus is chiefly on uploading photographs of our city’s past and the volume. The variety that has been dug up from various online and offline sources is simply amazing. This remains one of the busiest groups with uploads happening all times of the day and night. Singara Chennai looks at various places in our city that add colour, vibrancy and beauty. There are other groups that specifically concentrate on waste reduction, environment and water bodies. On the blogging front, there are numerous writers who devote columns to their areas of interest within the city – its arts environment, theatre, temples, and general city history. Mention must also be made of people like Ramaswami Nallaperumal and R Shantaram who add a photograph every day to the World Wide Web from our city and have been doing it for years.
The walks and tours are another success story. Gone are the days when Mylapore or Beach Road was the only choice for a heritage walk. Hundreds of routes have been mapped across the city and, on any given day, chances are that a group of volunteers have set out for some unknown spot, making a picnic outing from it. The bulk of these people are young and adventurous.
Which brings us to this oft-quoted opinion of some people that heritage is against progress. If that be so, what would these people have to say about the young people who combine exciting, cutting edge jobs with a passion for searching out the past? These are people who are as enthusiastic about their work as they are in attending a temple or a beach festival and posting photographs about it on platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest. Are we to assume that all of them are against progress?
These young persons only strengthen our basic philosophy – heritage and progress are not antithetic. They complement each other and while it is necessary to look ahead, this need not be done by wiping out the past. Sadly, our political masters have not yet woken up to this fact. Not one party has even made a mention of heritage conservation in its manifesto for the upcoming elections. Or of how to make Madras a better city. Today’s generation demands sensitivity and an all inclusiveness and this can best be demonstrated by adapting heritage to serve current needs as we have maintained all along. The sooner those in power see this, the better for our city.