As Covid-19 lockdown restrictions are being eased across Chennai over the past few months, the Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL) has begun operations in the city. According to CMRL, a total of 19,21,962 passengers have commuted via metro between September and November.
For commuters, however, the one question that still remains is the safety while commuting in a metro train. To address these concerns, CMRL launched a Covid-19 awareness cultural programme in association with Parai (a folk art form of Tamil Nadu) group Nimirvu Kalaiyagam. So far, the group has performed at five of the city’s metro stations.
Press Release 05.11.2020
— Chennai Metro Rail (@cmrlofficial) November 5, 2020
“We were approached by CMRL to bring out an awareness programme on how safe it is to travel via metro during the pandemic when compared to other forms of public transportation and the measures being taken by CMRL to ensure the safety of commuters”, Muthamizh Bharathi, organiser and trainer at Nimirvu Kalaiyagam told Indianexpress.com. “We also tell people about the importance of wearing a mask and adhering to social distancing norms through our performances”, he said.
Nimirvu Kalaiyagam has been teaching Parai to people in Chennai, Kovai, Erode, Tiruppur, Tiruchirapalli, Karaikudi and Pollachi since 2012. The group has people from all age groups coming together to learn this art form.
While Nimirvu Kalaiyagam had performed at the Chennai Metro earlier during the Chennai Metro Vizha, this is the first time that the group has been performing an awareness programme at the station. “This is also the first awareness program that we have been performing after the lockdown was lifted”, Muthamizh added.
“Initially, when the lockdown began, all events were suspended and most of our members went back home. Now, with restrictions being eased and events being conducted, we have begun performing across the city in marriages and receptions”, he said.
Muthamizh said that the group had tried to perform online as well but lag in music, distortion in noise and other technical issues dampened their enthusiasm to take on more online programmes.
While the Nimirvu Kalaiyagam has always been dressed in their signature black shirt and blue jeans attire, the mask is a new addition. “While dancing, we do feel breathless. However, when we see the audience encouraging our performances, it gives us the strength to shoulder through the programme”, said the trainer.
Muthamizh added that the support from the audience during the awareness programmes has been overwhelming. “Earlier, there were performances in various pockets of Chennai. However, in recent times, there have been no programmes. So when such an initiative is being taken by CMRL, people look it up, spread the word and come and watch our performances. Some of them have even expressed an interest in enrolling for Parai classes, while a few good samaritans provide us with refreshments once the programme is over”, he said.
Amid the pandemic, the cultural group has been imparting classes to students online, except for Karaikudi, Pollachi and Tiruppur where offline classes have been continuing.
Nimirvu Kalaiyagam will be performing Covid awareness programmes at various metro stations in Chennai till January 3.x
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