A slice of Naga in Chennai

Sneha Kanchan

Chennai, March 4: Thursday afternoons can be lazy for restaurants with the mid-week lull hitting them. But not for Ramayon Keishing’s North East Kitchen. The restaurant, a blink-and-miss restaurant tucked in a nondescript lane in Egmore, is abuzz with activity. With customers flocking in, the kitchen hustles to dish out the next plate of authentic north eastern flavours.

North East Kitchen in Egmore is one of the few restaurants in the city that has authentic north eastern dishes on its menu. Picture Credits: Sneha Kanchan

“I didn’t want to complicate the name. The name reflects why I started the restaurant 4 years ago,” said 50-year-old Keishing, a Manipuri Naga. Having embraced Chennai as his home for 25 years, he said he wanted to bring down a piece of his home for Chennaiites to taste. The restaurant specializes in north eastern cuisine, with specific emphasis on dishes from Manipur and Nagaland. It also serves Japanese and Korean dishes.  

Keishing came to Chennai with a post graduate degree in commerce from the Delhi University and a will to study for the civil services exam. After dropping that plan, he worked at an NGO for about 7 years and later at Hyundai before wanting to start something of his own. The Korean and Japanese connect goes back to his 10-year stint with Hyundai as the gathering department’s general manager in the outskirts of Chennai. “My colleagues would make me try dishes from their countries and I really loved them. I knew the flavours but I didn’t know how to cook those dishes. That’s when Youtube and Google helped me,” he said. From ramen to sushi to dishes accompanied with radish and cabbage kimchi, the menu boasts an interesting miscellany of Japanese and Korean dishes today.

Hailing from Sorathen, an obscure village in Manipur just a few kilometers from the Myanmar border, he wanted the dishes from that area and the traditional values attached to them to be the heroes of his menu. For instance, the menu has a traditional Naga dish called Sarao- a preparation using the neck portion of the cow or pork which is served at meetings when significant deals are being brokered and signed between two tribes or villages.

Another dish that he’s planning to include in the menu was Yala Ain, which again, has a strong traditional Naga connect. Different parts of meat, he said, were saved for different family members. The belly, beef or pork, which is one of the best parts, is reserved for the sister. “Mainly because she gets married and leaves the house. Whenever she is in the house, the best part is reserved for her. I want to include preparations like that in the menu,” said Keishing.

The prices of the dishes are slightly on the higher end with a bowl of Korean vegetable Ramyun noodles costing Rs. 330. Keishing has an explanation for that. “A lot of ingredients that go into these recipes are imported from Korea and Japan as they aren’t readily available. The sausages, fish oil, sesame oil, wasabi, some types of noodles like Ramyun are all imported,” he said.

North East Kitchen has built itself a solid fan base. Most of his customers have been his promoters, he said.   

Nilo, a history post-graduate student from Loyola College who has been in Chennai since the past two years, mentioned how he came to the joint whenever he missed home food.  He, who’ll be going back home in April, said the restaurant was a good find in Chennai. “There is Naga Reju in Choolaimedu that serves cheap food and bigger quantities but there are certain dishes that this place cooks better than that one,” said Nilo.

 Washi, a native of Nagaland who is currently studying in Chennai, quipped about the high price. “The food is authentic which is why we keep coming back. The beef fried rice and the beef with bamboo shoot is very close to what we get at home,” she said.

Keishing runs the place as a family business with his family chipping in in whatever ways they can. His sister, a school teacher in the same area, helps him with the orders after her work hours. His wife helps with the cooking sometimes. He has also brought down five more people from his village to help him out, some of whom study at nearby colleges and help him part-time. 

He laments the ignorance of some people tagging natives from the north east as ‘Chinese’ or ‘Korean.’ An ardent south Indian food enthusiast who loves eating idli and sambhar at Saravana Bhanvan and Krishan Bhavan, Keishing hopes that someday that his food joint will bridge the gap someday. 60% of his customer base, he said, were locals. “My main aim is get our food to mainland India and capture the heart of Chennai,” he added.

What we had

Vegetable Rumyun Noodles and Pork Fried Rice. The side dishes – groundnuts fried with sugar, Banana stem (ironba), radish kimchi, spinach, green squash with beans (chow chow), sprouts salad and clear vegetable soup (kung soi)

Gurudakshina: A pricey bestowal?

Vidushi Sagar

Chennai, March 8: Her eyes skim over the ten pairs of feet. They dance in sacred synchronization. The Ghungroos chime in a fast paced rhythm, to the steady beat of the Taadam (wooden stick) that Radhika Shurajit hits on the ground. A Bharatanatyam guru, she talks about the unfair modern practices around Gurudakshina.

Gurudakshina is a practice that dates back to the Gurukula system, in which the Guru would be voluntary given a ‘Dakshina’ or fees cum offering for the teaching and guiding they did. Today, this ritual still exists in the classical performing arts, which have now been commercialized.

Increasing amounts of people are becoming interested in learning classical art forms. However, the demand of expensive presents from students becomes a hindrance to many learners from the lower and middle stratas of society.

In Bharatanatyam, Gurudakshina comes to light whenever an Arangetram is performed. An Arangetram is a ‘coming-out’ performance, which marks the start of a professional career for a dancer. It is often an extravagant affair, costing the student anywhere between 3 to 5 lakh in current times.

Radhika Shurajit, a Bharatanatyam guru with over 30 years of experience, says that Gurudakshina is a way of maintaining some of the rituals around the artform. It is voluntary and depends on what the shishya (student) wants to give to her Guru. “However, it definitely creates pressure,” she adds.

Radhika is the first and senior most disciple of the Dhananjayans, a revered dancing duo consisting of Vannadil Pudiyaveettil and Shanta Dhananjaya. She has also been taught by Padma BhushanKalanidhi Narayan. Her wide, kohl-lined eyes twinkle as she recalls her own experience with her Gurus.

“I was blessed to have met the Dhananjayans. I belonged to a middle income group family and my gurus exempted me from any fees or Gurudakshina,” she says.                                                                                                                                 

But, she has had many students who came to learn from her after facing problems with their previous Gurus.

“I have a student, Deeptika* whose Guru refused to attend her Arangetram minutes before it was to start, until a diamond bracelet was gifted to him,” she says.

“Another student of mine, Lakshmi*, has a Guru who demands gold from her every year under the guise of Gurudakshina. Even at own her wedding, he demanded jewellery from her. I remember it being very problematic for her at that time as she was already under financial stress,” she states.

Shukti Yadav is a student who came to Chennai from Delhi for six months to practice for her Arangetram. She has had a similar experience with Gurudakshina.

She refused to name her guru but says that those six months were financially very difficult for her family.

“My guru never missed an opportunity to demand things from me. He demanded jewellery, clothes and hefty amounts of cash, before the Arangetram. He did so not just for himself, but for his wife as well,” she recalls.

Apart from that, her guru had also been in charge of arranging her arangetram. According to her, every day he’d come up with new costs and never let her family look into the details despite the fact that they were paying the money, she adds.

 “He’d get offended whenever we touched the topic,” she says.

 Radhika confirms Shukti’s experience with many she has seen firsthand.

According to her, Gurus are set into arrangements with the musicians and organizers. They ask for a higher amount of money from the student than what is actually being paid for the program.

“Whenever one of my students perform an Arangetram, I arrange everything but I also make sure they know where their money is being spent, while also keeping them in touch with everyone involved,” she says.

Shanmuga Sundaram is a professional dancer, teacher and choreographer. He is a disciple of Smt. K. J. Sarasa, and whose school he now runs after her demise. He talks about having many colleagues who have faced similar problems.

“Some of these Gurus forget that Gurudakshina is essentially a voluntary practice. They never miss an opportunity to rope in money through a pure practice meant to form a bond between the shishya and guru,” he says.

He, however, feels lucky to have been on the other side of the spectrum for his teacher turned out to be too generous. “She would not take money from poorer students, and even arranged arangetrams for them,” he recollects.

According to Ms. Shutje, despite people who shame the practice by such measures, there are people who uphold it.
“True artists are a dying breed, but they are not dead yet,” she smiles.

Rainwater Harvesting system still a long way to go

Sravani Nellore

Chennai, Mar 7: Only about 50% of the buildings in the city have rain water harvesting systems in the city, says Sekhar Raghavan, director of Rain Centre, an organisation that is working on alternatives for storing water.

Abhishek Karanam, an IT employee staying in Nungambakkam, was one of many residents who didn’t receive water for two days last month. “We were supplied bore water initially, but it was too salty to use for anything. Later, we purchased water from private water tankers,” he said. When asked about the rainwater harvesting system, he was clueless.

According to the Tamil Nadu Combined Development and Building Rules that was released last month during the Budget, every building has to set up a RHW system. The rule was made keeping in view the impending water crisis in the city.

But, this is not the first time such a rule has come out. Sekhar says, “As per 2002 law, RHWs were mandatory in every building in the State. By 2004, almost every household in Chennai had a sump to collect the water. But the structures, that resembled bore wells, were poorly designed. Its intake was low, and it overflowed and clogged often. Seeing this, the people switched to borewells. The bore wells are dug deep into the ground, where, rainwater that would have seeped in through cracks, is drawn. The water is usually very salty and is not recommended by us.”

Photo Credit: DTNEXT

As the older RHW systems didn’t last longer than three years, Sekhar’s team filed an audit to the government, recommending an improvised structure, called recharge wells. The State government has asked the citizens to incorporate the changes suggested by Sekhar’s report.

Rajasekharan, an official at the Chennai Metro Water Supply and Sewage Board, said that there is a lack of knowledge about the benefits of the RWHs. He says, “Chennai doesn’t have many options to fall back on. The water table(the height of groundwater) in many areas is dipping day by day. All the water that the city gets, comes from the rains. It is sensible that we store the rainwater to escape the crisis, but the people here hesitate to install it. Every owner spends lakhs on having a parking slot and a garden, but installing a RHW is considered a waste.”

 “In coastal areas like Chennai, if the rainwater is not collected, the water goes directly into the sea and gets wasted. We cannot afford to waste water in this way. It is the responsibility of the government to check on the implementation of the law. When it was not done in 15 years, what can be expected now?, he asked.

Water Crisis shows gap between rich and poor

Sonam Choki

Chennai,  March 7: People queuing up for hours before a water tanker and a tap are common in slums whereas a hotels using a lot of water for their swimming pools, laundry, and guest room is seen in Chennai.

According to a report in Times of India, states that three-star hotels use 199 litres and four-star hotels use 292 litres of water on each guest night.

On the other hand it is difficult for slum dwellers to get drinking water once in three days. The Urur Olcott fishing slum at Besant Nagar is one of the slums with poor water supply. They get drinking water from the corporation three or four times a week which is very less for them. As they are facing inadequate water supply, they have to buy water which costs around Rs. 35 per jerry cane.

Raja Kannu one of the slum dwellers said “We earn very less and on top of that half of the earning goes for water which makes our living more difficult”.

“If there is money, there is water. No money means no water” said Pallani Swami, a slum dweller at Saidapet.

The water shortage also adds to the problem of sanitation, where people have to defecate in open area. The toilets inside the community are poorly maintained with no suitable water supply inside toilets. Whenever, they visit toilets they have to carry water along. The Corporation has failed to provide a functional sewage connection because of this sewage from homes collects on the beaches which adversely affect the groundwater.

S. Jaswinder a slum dweller at Saidapet said “The past four days, we didn’t have water and when we did get it is very little.” The water lorry comes on alternate days or after two days. We are able to fill only few buckets of water.

Sometimes we literally have to fight to fill a few buckets of water, he added.

Poor slum dwellers of Saidapet cannot have their own water pumps but they have built a community tank, which they use for their water needs whenever they face a crisis. However, the maintenance and cleaning of the tank is poor.

We don’t get clean water and boiling water everyday consumes wood or gas, or we have to pay extra electricity bills. A lot of people avoid the critical step of cleansing the water and put their families at serious health risks, said Kannu at Besant Nagar.

While hotels, industries and well-off families use a lot of water for leisure purpose for poor people, it’s difficult to get drinking water. The water crisis is most common among the poor at present but if the water is not used properly the situation may become worst.

Swimming pool at Residential area, Thiruvanmiyur| Sonam Choki

According to a report in Indian Express “The city records a 55 per cent deficit in rainfall last monsoon season, reservoirs are running dangerously low and ground water resources are under immense strain. Studies indicate that ground water levels across the city have reduced further by an average of 1-1.5 metres below the ground level since July.

Similarly, the report in Times of India states that the water levels in Thiruvanmiyur have dipped to 6.22 metres.

IT wing in parties gearing up for the Lok Sabha elections

Vivanesh Parthiban

Chennai, March 8: With over 300 million users on Facebook, Twitter and other social media in India, IT wing or the social media wing in all parties play an important role in the election arena today. Social media is now like a war ground for many parties approaching the Lok Sabha elections 2019 after social media had a huge impact on the Lok Sabha election in 2014.

The three main function of an IT wing in a party are:

1. Making registration forms accessible for all the people in the region they are allocated

2. Combining the Voter ID and party ID so that they can reach the real voter base that votes for a party

3. Social media propaganda for a party and publishing all events that take place daily in the party.

“BJP is the first party to make use of the cyber space to attract a huge vote bank” says CPI (M) spokesperson Sindhan.” IT wing as a term looks more aggressive than a social media wing of a party because only some parties in Tamil Nadu recruit people for these operations”, he said. “# Go Back Modi and other tags against BJP shows all the parties have now an equal presence in cyber space”, he added.

NTK (Naam Tamilar party) social media wing head Packiarajan said,” we don’t recruit people for our social media wing rather younger party member out of interest maintain the party website. He said,” we are not paid for this work and we work in different sectors for livelihood, even some Diaspora members from different parts of the world in the party help us to maintain the websites 24*7.” He also added that” There is a competition between the IT wing of every party that who is covering a huge section of the social media”.” For every constituency we have around five persons who look after the Facebook handle of our party in the area”, he said. The constant problem which they face is spreading of fake news on behalf of the party by other unofficial twitter and Facebook handle.

Senior IT wing member Sathya in the MNM Kamal Hassan party said,” every month around 30,000 members register to our party via social media and application based registration”. He said,” we are the first to introduce a Whistle blower app in Tamil Nadu called ’Maiam whistle’ where people can give complaints about  the civic issue or the corruption issues. He added that we have an app called Maiam Connect which connect party members booth from every booth. With a pride he said,” our party leader Kamal Hassan is the person who is the most active political leader on twitter and he has huge intellectual following.

Aspire Swaminathan who worked as a IT Wing head in the AIADMK in 2016 legislature election said,” we have now software that uses artificial intelligence and data analytics that can gauge voters pulse , this moves the election fight to the virtual space but every party has to equip them with the necessary technology to compete in this race.”

Radha Krishnan, Journalist in Frontline said,” the online polls and data analytics are new tools when BJP used it in 2014 but now every party has a organized social media cell to counter other parties”. He also added that party winning votes in an online poll nowadays only shows the strength of their IT wings. He gave an example where in an online poll held by him in twitter MNM came next to DMK shows there is a huge difference between the result in real world and the virtual. This also confirms bots being used by different parties IT cell in these online polls.

One-fourth of the electorate is less than 30 years old and about 45 per cent of the electorate is less than 40 years old. The trend of these youngsters attending public meetings of political parties has totally declined. Their entire decision-making process is based on what they are seeing and listening in social media so IT wing in parties has a huge role in coming elections. The recent hacking of BJP national website shows how the parties are waging a war in cyber space ahead of election. The tragic thing is election commission doesn’t have a effective rule to monitor these social media wing of parties.

Are co-working spaces the future for the urban employee?

Anushka Deepak

Upcoming co-working spaces in Chennai | Credits: The Hacker Street

CHENNAI, March 8: With the start-up culture booming in urban India, the culture of co-working spaces is growing. The country’s modern workforce is challenging the archaic and impersonal office setup.

Getting into a space, searching for your workplace and bumping into strangers asking each other addresses is an experience no professional setup can offer. A gym where you can share your pumping fitness passion with the people you see every day but don’t know on a personal level and cafe to just relax and share your ideas and thoughts to enhance your knowledge is all that a co-working space enables you to get, all under one roof.

Rising above the cramped cubicles, today’s professionals are getting inclined towards flexibility and fluidity in the workplace.Small-medium co-working space providers understand the need for mergers with larger companies to enhance their services as compared to the increasing demand.

When small businesses realise that the bigger game changers are about to compete with them, they prefer a merged office space for expansion. Earlier, when the food tech industry realised that Uber cab service is coming up with their own online food delivery service, Food Panda decided to collaborate with Ola cabs and create a bigger market for themselves.

In Chennai, every company has an established setup if they’re standing in the market for long enough, but nowadays even the bigger ones are shifting into co-working spaces to join hands with the smaller firms doing well for themselves. With these space providers trying to grow their market, more IT company areas will be their main target areas.

Workafella: a co-working space provider at Perungudi | Credits: Workafella

‘Workafella’ is one such co-working space provider in Chennai that has 9,000 seats in three cities so far. “Chennai, Hyderabad, and Bengaluru are the hub of start-ups as of now. Our co-working company has become a leading co-working space provider in the South, and hosts workplaces envisioned for great ideas and inspired collaborations,” said Founder and Managing Director GurbinderRattha.

The provider opened its first branch at TTK Road in 2016. Looking at its success, a second branch sprang up in the bustling IT area on Old Mahabalipuram Road, Perungudi. To find a niche, Gurbinder claims Workafella was the first to offer a 24/7 office space with no hidden costs.

Inspiring productivity

An ideal workspace should not be warm and cozy like home, but should be functional and efficient so as to create a working environment. This doesn’t mean that it should be a place where there will be no relaxation for oneself. “Customizing your workspace according to your taste and mood can be done without altering the entire theme. Combine comfort and seriousness to build a productive workspace, where your creative juices can flourish and that is exactly what we aim on doing,” said Rattha. “And there are many takers. Within two months of launch in Hyderabad, the space was filled to capacity, and the company had to set up other two other co-working spaces.”

Gurbinder explains that nuanced spaces were created for each city, keeping in mind the local culture, food habits, and social norms. An example of a region-specific requirement is a terrace space for musicians and DJs to perform in the Bengaluru co-working spots. The spaces that Workafella doesn’t own are taken over on long-term leases and completely transformed to appeal to that particular city’s young professionals.

Future of Work

It is expected that investments of $400 million per year for the next five years will be poured in the co-working space.

At the inaugural day of the eighth TechSparks on 22nd September 2017, Director WeWork India Karan Virwani said in his talk on ‘Future of the Workspace’ that it is this factor that they are banking on for the success of co-working spaces in the world. “Contrary to what people think that with the advent of robots and AI human interactions will become rare, we believe that the future of the workspace is bright,” he said.

Karan Virwani’s WeWork India changing the work space game | Credits: WeWork India

Just like owning a car is no more important, traditional workspaces are also on a way out. As per the data provided by CRE MATRIX, leasing of co-working spaces in 2017 had gone up at an excellent pace, and the trend is bound to continue.

Expert researchers are of the opinion, that co-working culture could be a positive step in the future, which has less to do with the number of labour hours and more to do with hospitality and productivity.


Soheib Ahsan

        Chennai, March 7: The plastic ban in Tamil Nadu went into full swing in January. Grocery stores stopped supplying plastic bags and began offering cloth bags to their customers while also suggesting they bring bags of their own. The ban is still ongoing which could lead to an impression that it is going strong.

       The plastic ban was on full throttle when it stated. Civic bodies in the State started by confiscating hundreds of tons of plastic packets from fruit, vegetable and flower vendors. But in March, vendors have gone back to using plastic packets with little to no worry of it being confiscated.

       Arpartiban (30) is a fruit vendor on MGR Film City Road. He often keeps 1 kg of apples and oranges in plastic packets for his customers. “The plastic ban is a problem for us but we are lucky because this is an election year. The authorities implement any new law strictly for a short time but then they get occupied with election work and leave it”, he said.

        Acquiring plastic packets has not been a difficult task for them since they have contacts for their supply. “Since I need these regularly, I know people who I can call and get these from. The only issue is that since the ban they raise their prices as they have the risk of getting caught”, said Chandrasekhar (47), a vegetable vendor on 3rd Cross Street in Kasturba Nagar.

        Most vendors remain confident that the ban will not be enforced again anytime soon and therefore keep their plastic packets on top of their selling carts in plain view. There are others who still fear that the ban may resume while they are unprepared. Such vendors hide their stock of plastic packets by tucking it under the cart’s platform, above the wheels.

        Shashikumar (74) is a street food vendor on 1st Avenue in Indira Nagar. “If they take the packets away I can get more but I am afraid that they could also give me another penalty that would cause a problem for my livelihood”. He said.

       The ban continues to remain in a standby mode which is a boon for the vendors and continues to be a bane for the environment. On the other hand the ban has and if resumed will spell trouble for simple street vendors who struggle to make ends meet. Only time will tell if this gap can be bridged to protect the livelihood of these vendors.

TASMAC faces protests from women

Police inspects the demolished TASMAC in Senthil Nagar on Thursday |Saptaparno Ghosh

Swapnajit Kundu

Chennai, March 7 :​The residents of Senthil Nagar, an area situated between Avadi and Ambattur railway stations on Friday protested against the construction of a Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (TASMAC) outlet within their locality, demolished the under construction shop, and threatened against any such activity in the future. The protest comes seven days after a woman named Kavitha in Anna Nagar locality of Tirupur district protested against the TASMAC business in the area, according to the Tamil Indian Express. Co-incidentally, the protest in Senthil Nagar was also headed by a group of women. 

Rangan, the society secretary of a housing complex in Senthil Nagar said, “We are residents here for the last 40 years. The owner who bought the land (for the new wine shop) said he will use it only for some personal use. We already have three TASMAC shops in our locality. Another one will only increase the problem. We have written to the concerned authorities about this.”

Safety of women

One of the main reasons why the residents are wary of the wine shop is the safety of women and children in the locality.According to them,it will be difficult for the women to walk around freely, with people drinking openly on the road outside the TASMAC. Even the police is unable to take any step against the wine shops because TASMAC itself is a government authorised chain. And the wine shops will lead to an increase in illegal parking spaces, congesting the traffic of the locality. It is also baffling for them why the wine shops are being set up so near the residential areas when there are a lot of free space in the nearby BajanaiKoil street.

The Women takes charge

According to Savitha, who is believed to have ledthe protest, the wine shops are having an adverse effect on the behaviour of people in the locality. “The more there are wine shops, the more there will be drunkards roaming around in the street. Many people here drink right from the morning,destroying their family life and hampering professional activities. Also, the safety of women is something we are very much concerned about. There have been cases of drunkards harassing women. It is time to put an end to all these.” 

Gayatri, a 64 year old woman and resident of the Senthil Nagar echoed the same concern. “Wine has destroyed many families here. And it also puts the safety of women and girls in jeopardy. Almost daily, we see someone sleeping in front of the house. We have to throw water to wake them up,” she said. When asked about whether the men in their households are comfortable with women leading the protest, Gayatri said, “If a problem arises, everyone comes forward to solve it irrespective of their gender. Women are facing the most problem with these wine shops, so it is only natural that we will come forward.” 

The local Station House Officer (SHO), Ajith Kumar assured the local residents that he will look at the matter. “But these TASMACs are government projects. So there is very little I can do,” he added. 

The MLA of Senthil Nagar,PandiaRajan also came to the protest to give assurance to the women residents that their issues will be tackled and resolved soon. 

Cycle rickshaws struggle as cabs and autos becomes popular

Survival of the fittest? Cycle rickshaws struggles for existence amid popularity of autos and cabs | Sruthi V

Sruthi V

Chennai, Mar 7: His lunch was dependent on the flower seller who transported the flower basket to the market. The flower seller had a smaller load and hence did not want to spend on a rickshaw. Prabhakaran, 44, who is a cycle rickshaw driver for the past 17 years, was devastated.

“People these days are dependent on autos and cabs as most of them are time-bound. This has made our lives difficult as we are not hired for any other jobs due to our age,” said Prabhakaran.

The three cycle rickshaws frequented the streets of Chennai Fort, Sowcarpet and Mint Street. The cycle rickshaws can accommodate three members at a time. Each ride costs around Rs 30 to Rs 50.  There were seven rickshaws but now there are only three. They ride from 9am to 8pm.

Prabhakaran said, “Before the arrival of these autos and cabs, people were dependent on us. There were days when I shelled nearly Rs.1000 a day. Now we could hardly make money for a meal.”

“My entire livelihood is dependent on this. I owned a rickshaw, but someone stole it. Hence I am riding a rented vehicle now.”

Prabhakaran, a cycle rickshaw driver

 “I am diagnosed with epilepsy and hence doctors have advised me to stop riding it. But this is my only source of income as I have to pay the rent for my house as well as the rickshaw,” he added.

The rent of the cycle rickshaw is Rs 50 a day. During the renewal of the Fitness Certificate (FC) of the vehicle, the rider has to pay a portion of the amount or else the vehicle would be given on rent to someone else.

“My entire livelihood is dependent on this. I owned a rickshaw, but someone stole it. Hence I am riding a rented vehicle now,” said Prabhakaran.

“North Indians are our frequent riders. They ride on our rickshaws even when there are several autos decked in front of them. They play a major role in our existence,” Prabhakaran said with a smile.

Prabhakaran treats his vehicle as his extended family as it helps him earn his bread and also provides him shelter. As his health deteriorates, he finds it difficult to pedal all day. But he denies quitting his job as he has been doing it for the past 17 years.

According to the Times of India report, few people prefer this mode of transport in other parts of the city. Many people feel cycle rickshaws should be banned as it is an inhumane practice as the drivers are often aged m en. Several cities in India have also called for a ban on then. Several cities in India have also called for a ban on these vehicles as they are slow and often cause traffic congestion. However, other people feel that cycle rickshaws should be encouraged as they are eco-friendly and consume no fuel. 


Tanya Khandelwal

Chennai, March 7: There is an urgent need to look at the state of women’s safety across India, especially in its metro cities, ahead of International Women’s Day. Simply marking a date and turning a blind eye to the rising incidence of crimes against women would only anchor the problem deeper in society.

According to data on the rate of crimes against women across cities released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) in 2016, Chennai ranks 18th on a list of 19 cities, which gives it the tag of a relatively safe city as compared to other Indian cities. Being an IT hub, the city also has a female migrant population who move here for work or education, making them vulnerable outsiders.

However, there has been a spurt in the cases of crimes like rape, stalking and harassment over time with more and more number of cases being reported.Cases of marital discord ending in murders and instances of acid attacks also get reported.


Recently, a 60-year-old woman, a resident of Satyamoorthy Nagar here, was raped by three teenagers who broke into her house in the early hours of the day, threatening her against disclosing the incident to anyone.

Another case that received a lot of coverage and instilled fear among people was the murder of a city-based actress whose husband murdered her. Police found her chopped body parts in a dump yard in Perungudi.

Cases of young girls being drugged and raped, hacking of women by harassers in full public view and similar incidents has surfaced.


Sanjana Karaya (23), a flight attendant at Indigo, who hails from Bombay but moved to Chennai for her job, said, “There are instances when walking on the streets is unnerving because of stares and verbal harassment. Men here especially think that North Indian girls are ‘easy’, something that is just stupid.” She added that despite a relatively safe workspace, she has felt uneasy going around the city without her local friends due to the constant moral policing pertaining to her westernised way of dressing.

Similarly, Aarushi Vohra (23), a student at Madras School of Economics here, said that she comes from Delhi where the issue of women’s safety is extremely precarious; however the cultural difference makes it difficult for her to live in Chennai due to a more conservative social environment. “We can’t go out at night alone without being judged or followed, and that is made worse by the language barrier that exists,” she said.

“Since I’m an army kid, I’ve had to move around a lot and I think Chennai is by far the safest of the metro cities I’ve lived in, Delhi being the worst. Yes, the society is more conservative here, but I’ve had very few problems on the personal safety front in this city,” said Sneha Vakkala(24), a resident of R.A. Puram.

Most women agreed that Chennai is safer than many other cities, but the fact that they talked about their own sense of safety in relative rather than absolute terms points to the deeply entrenched problem, where complete always remains at arm’s length for women.