Student talent takes wings in art contest

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When Shwetha V of PSBB School, K.K. Nagar, took part in Paving Chennai, an art competition jointly organised by this newspaper and Global Art, the Class IX girl chose to sketch neat pavements and lots of greenery. Her work won the first prize in the Class VIII & above category.

Twelve students bagged the first three places in four different categories and received prizes at the award ceremony held at the University of Madras on Saturday. Apart from these students, “Best of Best” entries were also awarded.

Saroj K.M., a Plus-Two student of GRT Mahalakshmi Vidyalaya, who won the first runners-up prize under the same category said, “There are mounds of garbage piled up near our school and it made me sketch garbage-free roads.” The student registered the pathetic state of Chennai roads and pavements through her drawing.

Almost all prize winners depicted a cleaner city and pavements for pedestrians to walk.

Sreenu Priya R. of Chinmaya Vidyalaya, who won the first prize in the under-Class VIII category, drew
“Today’s Chennai” depicting heavy traffic and vehicles nudging for space and “Future Chennai” showing fresh air, sans pollution. Ashika R, Class IV student of Chettinad Vidyashram won the first prize in the under Class IV category and Pranav Shanker U. of Pon Vidyashram bagged first prize in the under Class II category.

Apart from giving an opportunity to unleash their creativity, the competition taught students to keep streets clean.

“We used to complain about the pathetic condition of roads and about the garbage, but after painting and also attending the function, we realized that instead of complaining, we should take care of our own streets and make pavements a better places to walk,” said Sherly Arokya and Afnan Fathima of Everwin Matriculation School.

Regimentation kills creativity: Nataraj

Senior IPS officer Mr R. Nataraj had some radical and refreshing thoughts on “disciplining” children on Saturday.

Addressing a hall filled with parents of schoolchildren at Madras University, he asked them not to restrict their children. "Let them talk, let them scribble and draw on the walls, let them laugh aloud," he said, adding, "That is what will make their creativity flow; and it is that energy that this nation needs the most."

Mr Nataraj, the chairman of the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission, was the guest of honour on Saturday at the prize distribution ceremony for "Paving Chennai", the art competition organized by Green Chronicle.

Recalling his visit to a "regimented" school in the city where children were not allowed to play even after school hours, Mr Nataraj said, "Children in such schools spend all day silently hunched over their textbooks and in the evening, their parents are waiting to whisk them away to tuition classes or to study at home. When will they get to play? When will they get to be children?" he asked.

Lauding DC for its campaign to reclaim the city's pavements, Mr Nataraj said, "I am relieved that these young children have such great vision for Chennai's pavements," referring to the colourful posters of smooth, obstacle-free footpaths that the students had created.

He called on youngsters to help transform Chennai into ‘Singara Chennai’. "Making our city beautiful lies in our own hands; we cannot keep finding fault with the government. Similar to charity beginning at home, even beautifying Chennai can begin at home if each of us take care to separate bio-degradable waste from non-biodegradable waste and keep our surroundings clean; it would go a long way," he said.

Judge laments lack of space on footpaths

Chennai's pavements have seen a bizarre transition — ‘pavement hawkers’ no longer take up footpath space to sell their wares, but they hawk out pavement space itself, joked Justice V. Ramasubramanian, who presided over the prize distribution ceremony for Green Chronicle’s art competition.

Justice V. Ramasubramanian may be solemn and stately at the Madras HC but presenting prizes to little artists at DC’s ‘Paving Chennai’ function, he had the audience in splits with his passionate talk, sprinkled with amusing anecdotes.

"Chennai has no negotiable pavements to speak of, except for those on Kamraj Salai, probably because a lot of VIP's go walking there," he said. "While in most areas, pavements have vanished to make way for roads, there is one place where the road has been converted into one long pavement — Ranganathan street,” he pointed out.

“When you can take up a campaign to restore pavements, spare a thought for the pavement dwellers and the pavement vendors. Thirty per cent of pavement dwellers live in urban areas and metros, and 25.7 per cent are living below the “official” poverty line," said Mr Ramasubramanian, quoting a study by students from an Ahmedabad university. “According to our government, anybody who earns more than Rs20 a day does not fall below poverty line,” he said, moving on to a more serious topic.

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