Have you ever fantasized about sitting on the middle of an otherwise busy road and playing any of the following games: carrom, chess , board game, Pallanguzhi, or display your talent in a game of badminton, or your power in a group of activity like `Tug of War` using a thick rope. All these and more are possible at our own `Bessy` as the the Elliots beach Road is called by the younger generation. It happens every Sunday morning between 6.00am and 9.00am when it is declared as `Car Free` zone by the Traffic Police of Chennai. You cannot miss the carnival atmosphere prevailing at that time.
As a regular walker on this stretch for the last 40 years I have been witnessing this activity for the last few Sundays, when senior citizens like me are able to walk on the middle of the road without the fear of being knocked out by speeding two wheeler drivers
A few thousand people consisting of both young and old participate in the activities of their choice without any participation fee. They come in two wheelers, cars, or even by chartered buses from far away places like Anna Nagar , Ambattur . It is a new attraction for Chennaites who are looking for a fun activity on a Sunday morning.
Opportunities to display participant`s creative talents in singing or dancing are also provided by a sponsor who puts up a stage with audio facilities. The same stage is also used by a young Yoga teacher who gives training in yoga for those interested - imagine yourself lying on a mat provided by the sponsor, on the middle of the road, learning yoga , watched by a group of curious onlookers.
An initiative of the Institute of Transportation Development Policy (ITDP), the event is sponsored by the Hindu group and is supported by others who sponsor individual events. The traffic police ensure that all entry points to the beach road are blocked so that it is vehicle free for the duration of the event. The organizers have rightly decided not to have any food stalls at the venue to save the place from littering by the participants. For those who are interested in having a late breakfast or a brunch or just a hot cup of `Kumbakonam degree coffee`, there are enough eateries/restaurants nearby to satiate their palate.
Judging by the response to this initiative it is clear that the event is growing in popularity among the Chennaites with demands for similar activities in other areas. But there are critics who have different views . The other day I heard a senior citizen complaining about the vinyl dispay boards put up by the main sponsor at regular intervals on the road which according to him blocked the free walking space. A local resident felt the idea would make better sense if it is held in the evenings when there is peak traffic. A middle aged lady could be heard grumbling that her car was stopped by a traffic cop at a distance and that she had to walk that extra distance to reach the beach road. I had to tell her that the extra walk would do her constitution some extra good!.
If you have not been to the Elliots Beach on a Sunday morning , please do so to experience the pleasure of witnessing an unusual leisure activity on the middle of the road!.