We’ve been working on finding a physical space that we can open for Chai Kadai. We still haven’t actually started browsing through the bricks and concrete available in the city. We just began with slowly reorganizing our house.
When trying to set up a space, whether it is the entrance of your house or a space for some kind of congregation, there is a fair amount of vision that is spent on it. You want the space to say something to the people who use it. As we went on reading and trying to understand how we interact with different spaces, we had this idea of extending our canvas to encompass this entire city.
A long time back, Chennai had two beautiful rivers and a canal running through it, and beaches that extended as homes for fishing villages and caravan travellers. Now, it is a city obsessed with construction, with the most purely constructed traffic signals and flyovers, with slums hidden behind high-rise buildings that stand on illegal land, hundreds of people being displaced from one corner to the other, and all the rivers clogged up with the sewage and shit of the entire city.
In Toronto, the Garrison Creek was a short stream that ran for about seven kilometres, which has over the years been built over and slowly disappeared. In the 1880s, the stream was diverted into underground sewers in the city and the original course was filled with soil. By 1920, the stream was entirely diverted into the sewer system!
The Toronto Public Space Committee is a grassroots organization run completely by volunteers. Founded in 2001, they are dedicated to protecting the shared common spaces in the city from commercial influence and privatization. They say, we are citizens first, and consumers second. In 2005, TPSC launched the Human River campaign — the idea being, to celebrate Garrison Creek by creating community events. Each year, they explore the creek’s past, re-envision its future and discuss its stormwater issues, all the time trying to reclaim it as a community. Using art shows, film screenings, workshops, and an annual story telling parade, they bring together people from different sides of Toronto to celebrate, understand, and help this creek.
It is high time, that in all cities people got together to reclaim the public spaces, water bodies, and ecological hot spots (especially because they are vanishing rapidly). It is a sense of community and public ownership over beaches, streets, alleyways, highways, and rivers that will solve our problems. The Human River Campaign needs replicas all over the world. We need today more than ever cities that are built on a vision of equality, sustainability, and a sense of community.
Going back to reorganizing the house, the books that were lying around everywhere have been categorized and shelved in our library. Staring at this nice, clean and accessible array of books everyday, we thought we should share some of our favourites with you, at least once in a while. From now on, every Monday and Friday, we’ll introduce you to a new book. If you have any favourites, just send us an email [firstname.lastname@example.org] as usual.