Efforts to beautify ‘garden’ in Mandaveli come unstuck

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The green facility is attached to the compound wall of a school on Sringeri Mutt Road. Jeth Nagar Residents Association has tried to redeem the space without much success. Corporation removed the fence to prevent it from being abused as an “elongated trash can”

The green facility is attached to the compound wall of a school on Sringeri Mutt Road. Jeth Nagar Residents Association has tried to redeem the space without much success. Corporation removed the fence to prevent it from being abused as an “elongated trash can”

Sri Venugopal Vidyalaya sits in a cosy corner where Sringeri Mutt Road and Jeth Nagar First Cross Street lock arms in a gesture of companionship. With the Mandaveli MRTS station overlooking Sringeri Mutt Road, and Warren road beginning to trace its course, there could not be a better spot anywhere else n this region to draw some attention your way.

There also seems to be a ready and inbuilt provision to funnel attention towards this intersection. On Jeth Nagar First Cross Street, a “garden” clings to the school’s compound wall. It cannot evade even the superficial eye — unfortunately so. The school had initiated the greening exercise many summers ago, and today, it seems nothing more than an object lesson in a masterclass on antonyms.

A metal board at the ramshackle garden waxes eloquent about what a beautiful garden can do for one’s sense of aesthetics

A metal board at the ramshackle garden waxes eloquent about what a beautiful garden can do for one’s sense of aesthetics
| Photo Credit: Prince Frederick

Crumbling to the touch, rusty metal plaques speak of situations that are polar opposites of what actually greets the eye. One holds forth on how a garden is a feast to the eye. Not this one, obviously — not by a long chalk. Considering this ramshackle garden is found in the nine-street JERA’s territory, the picture seems rather odd. Jeth Nagar Residents’ Association — more popularly, JERA — is among the most proactive associations in the whole of Chennai, and how does it skate over this parody of a garden and get on with its workaday concerns?

Ravi Nandyala, founder-member and president of JERA explains that the school had raised the garden and had it fenced. Fencing seems to have achieved an undesired effect. As it turned out, it was an invitation to litterbugs. In their eyes, the fenced garden was an elongated trash can. Coupled with vehicles parked on its rim, the fenced garden also provided just the cover for unwelcome elements to engage in unsavoury activities, alcohol consumption being one of them.
Around four years ago, JERA did approach the school, Ravi continues, and offered to clean the space. The space was cleaned three to four times, but it had an elastic connection with squalor, and snapped right back to that state after every clean-up.

Ravi says that what was lacking was an eye that would stay focussed on the garden and its everyday maintenance. JERA wanted to clean it one more time and put a neat garden in place, provided the school would take up its maintenance. Ravi reveals that the institution did not quite warm up to the suggestion, but something had to be done about the goings-on in that space.

The remedial action happened soon. Ravi says that the Greater Chennai Corporation tore down the fence as it was entirely closed without any opening, and the trash inside could not be removed. Urbaser is clearing the space of garbage. Lekha, a coordinator at Sri Venugopal Vidyalaya, confirms that GCC told the school the fence had to be removed and went ahead and did so.

However, the space still does not serve its intended purpose. Ravi reveals that Umamaheshwari V and Sivakumar S, founder-trustees ofKaram Korpom Foundation, which beautifies public spaces through art, are residents of Jeth Nagar and are willing to paint the walls lining the garden, and JERA is prepared to sponsor the project.

Ravi explains the exercise will remain an idea till the school gives permission for it.

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