Saturday, April 23, 2016

A Sports Carnival with a difference!

                    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!.

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