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As a tribute to Toronto urbanist Jane Jacob, three outfits join up and present photo walks and bicycle tours in Pondicherry next month

CATCH an art show, take a cycle tour and get a guided walk around the Pondy neighbourhood next month, as the city celebrates the life and work of Jane Jacob, the late Toronto-based urbanist. Vidhya Mohankumar, the owner at Urban Design (an NGO that works to promote liveable and sustainable cities through community engagement) and the organisers of Jane’s Walk in Pondicherry, says, “Jane’s Walk hopes to knit people together into strong and resourceful communities, and cultivates a broad understanding of how cities develop, function and thrive.” The event invites residents of Pondicherry to sign up for a photo walk in the interesting Muslim Quarter, an arty bicycle tour, and the community-building ‘Meet Your Neighbours’ walk. The aim of the event is to provide participants with an opportunity to see their city and neighbourhood through new eyes—engage in conversa tions about its history, the changes they see today, and the future they envision for the places they live and work in.

Knowing Jane
Pondicherry-colonial-streetWell known for her book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jacob was an influential writer who suggested radical ideas in terms of urban planning. Jane’s Walk was started in Toronto in 2007, a year after Jacob died, and has since become a global event. According to  Devangi Ramakrishnan, the trustee at Urban Design, over 100 cities participate in Jane’s Walk now and get people to explore their cities and connect with neighbours. The annual series of free, volunteer-led urban walks has grown from 27 to over 600 walks—from Calgary to Calcutta and London to Ljubljana. Well into its seventh year, Jane’s Walk is taking place internationally on May 2, 3 and 4 across Canada and in cities around the world. This year, for the Jane’s Walk Festival in India, a series of commemorativ walks are being planned in Bangalore and Chennai, too.

Plan ahead
Walk for a cause
Rajbhavan Neighbourhood Association (RNA) is offering the ‘Meet Your Neighbours’ walk, lead by Ramakrishnan  and Ashok Panda, co-convener of Intach Pondicherry. Panda, along with the residents, will share insights on the evolution of the neighbourhood over the years they’ve lived there, while Ramakrishnan will engage residents and business owners in discussions on what makes a city liveable. Together, they plan to hopefully generate specific intervention ideas for street and public space improvement in the Rajbhavan area.

The other section
‘Walk the Muslim Quarter’ is a photo walk that will capture street scenes on camera. The walk will focus on key concepts from Jacob’sMuslim-Quarter-Photo-by-Int book such as ‘sidewalk ballet’ and ‘eyes upon the street’. Participants will be given themes at the start of the walk and encouraged to
capture them through their photographs. “We will also stop to meet some community voices who will share their memories of the Pondicherry that was, and their aspirations for its future,’’ says Ramakrishnan, promising a chai break during the walk.

Bicycle diaries
Art in the City, the bicycle tour, is being organised by My Vintage Bicyclette (MVB) and Sita Cultural Center (SCC). According to Fleur from SCC, the tour will start from the centre at 7.30 am and will cross City Centre, Vaithikuppam, Kuruchikuppam, Beach Road, and the French Quarter. “The tour will focus on old and new kinds of arts. So it will go from ancient traditions of kolam to advertisements, paintings, and foreign artists coming to Pondicherry to take over public walls to express their art: graffiti, stencils, painting,”sharesFleur Soumer from SCC.For refreshments,
there will be a tea break at SCC.

All the walks are free and last 90 minutes. Art in the City is tomorrow, at 7.30 am, from Sita Cultural Center. Meet Your Neighbours is at 4.30 pm, from La Closerie. Walk the Muslim Quarter is on Sunday, at 7. 30 am, from Porte de Goudelour. Details: janeswalk.org/india/pondicherry

-Mrinalini Sundar

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