CHENNAI: Only a month has gone by since the Cooum river breached its banks, flowing majestically, reminding the city that polluted it about what it could be. But now, as the rains have stopped and the water release to the river having ceased, it has gone back to being at its stinking worst. It is on the banks of this river that artist Pa Madhavan is trying to initiate a dialogue about it.
“It has only been a month, but the memory about the floods is fast fading out of public memory. By elections, everyone will forget about it,” he said when asked why he took up the initiative. Behind him is a star hotel, standing in stark contrast to the river in front of him. On a fast, he only has a bottle of water to drink and a bag, and a book by Steven Hawkings and one on Gandhi.
Madhavan, along with several other artists and activists, had earlier organised Cooum Walk last july to map out and document the river through photos.
The co-founder of Goa Centre for Alternative Photography, Madhavan has been taking pictures of subtle changes around the spot where he has been sitting since 6 am on Thursday. “It has been quite a learning experience; other than those coming to relieve themselves, few locals from the other side who came by, sat and chatted with me and even offered food,” he told Express.
The place he has taken refuge along Ethiraj Salai is fenced and barren, with plastic waste strewn among little greenery where people often relieve themselves.
“It is better to initiate a conversation over a fast. Gandhi, if he had to start a protest, would resort to fast and his silence would initiate action or at least a dialogue about the issue,” Madhavan said, explaining why he decided to have just water.
He is planning to sit there till Saturday joined by friends and wellwishers, artists and ordinary public, all of whom have been invited to be part of the discussion in the coming days. Rahul Bhattacharya, one of his friends who dropped by, commented that water is becoming the focal point of all conflicts these days, noting with appreciation Madhavan’s effort to get people talking about the Cooum in whatever medium possible.