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Walkathon Diaries – 2

June 30, 2010

It has been more than two months since I wrote the first of my walkathon diaries and life has changed a lot since then. First, my office has shifted from Teynampet to Kanagam, Taramani. Second, I also moved from a paying guest accommodation in Gandhinagar, Adyar to another house in Padmanabha Nagar, Adyar. Third, I have spent two more months in my very own city of beaches, with its amazing culture and simple people – Namba Chennai! :) All these changes mean that I have a new story to tell, a new walkway to talk about and an opportunity to blog on Transparent Chennai, a platform which brings together the residents of Chennai.

Scene: Garbage lying around in the open, kids going to school and, the new IIT Madras Research Park which houses the IFMR campus on the 10th floor in the background.
Photograph by Shweta Bhagwat,IFMR.

The new IFMR campus (my workplace) has relocated to the 10th floor of IIT Madras Research Park (a brand new building), somewhat close to one of the oldest film cities of Chennai – the MGR Film Institute. Another landmark would be the famous Tidel Park (TP) and Ascendas next to Taramani signal. If you are coming from Madhya Kailash (MK), take a U turn from TP signal and then the left next to TP, onto a long narrow road which takes you directly to my office. Instead of the hustle bustle of Teynampet, I now travel everyday to this very quiet and seemingly less polluted environment of the new IFMR campus. From the 10th floor, when you look at the city, you realize the beauty of it all – so many trees, water surrounds the most of the city and, unlike other metropolitans, Chennai doesn’t have too many tall buildings either.

The distance I travel from my home to office has decreased, but surprisingly, the auto fare has increased. The moment I tell auto annas to take me to my new office on Old Mahabalipuram Road (OMR), they quote Rs 80. They all reason with me that it is difficult to get a sawari on their way back from the office premises because the area is isolated. The total distance I cover one way must be hardly 5 kms, and Rs 80 does seem too much and on most days I end up getting in an argument.

Another striking observation about my journey every day is the difference in the walkways and other infrastructure on OMR and Adyar road. While the OMR has an amazing uniform walkway (at least between MK and TP signal), Adyar has discontinuous and broken walkways/footpaths. The stretch between MK and TP is adequately lit, green, and houses three railway stations – Kasturibai Nagar, Indira Nagar and Thiruvanmiyur stations. For the convenience of the pedestrians, there are even footbridges to get to the other side of the road.

I notice the stark difference when I walk back home from MK to Padmanabha Nagar. The Adyar flyover signal doesn’t have a proper pedestrian crossing and one encounters traffic from all directions. It is always an ordeal and a constant tension to get to my house. When it rains, the situation is all the more horrifying. Due to improper footpaths, I am forced to walk on the road with potholes and puddles of water here and there. I really wonder why the city has such a bad drainage system? A few drops of rain and the traffic in Chennai come to a standstill. I really don’t know what to wish for – the scorching heat in Chennai but smooth traffic OR respite from the heat through the rains but traffic jams everywhere. Clearly, it’s difficult to wish for either.

Nevertheless, though relatively inaccessible, the new office is much more inviting due to its green and clean surroundings. At least when I am walking, I am not scared that a vehicle might hit me and even the noise and air pollution seem much lesser. My new home in Padmanabha Nagar is also decent and cheaper than my previous accommodation in Gandhi Nagar. I am slowly settling down in this new routine and wondering, what’s next?

The writer, Somya Sethuraman, is a part of the Transparent Chennai team and works as a Researcher for the Development Metrics team of IFMR, Chennai.