Want to read by the lake? Join Chennai’s new silent reading community

Apr18,2024


A Lake Reads reading session by the Chitlapakkam lake

A Lake Reads reading session by the Chitlapakkam lake
| Photo Credit: Akhila Easwaran

When you catch sight of the hustle and bustle around Chitlapakkam lake on Saturday morning, it becomes evident that the weekends are for anything but sleeping in. There are large groups of people going on brisk walks, runners warming up, and many others sitting and chatting. Even the cormorants here seem busy, bobbing around the white and pink water lilies.

A group of readers seated right in the middle of it all, on the steps of the amphitheatre by the lake, remains engrossed in their books. This is the second meeting of Lake Reads, the city’s newest silent reading chapter. Silent reading communities in Chennai, and the world over encourage readers to bring in books of their choice, and read quietly as a group.

Walkers check out the books kept at the amphitheatre by Chitlapakkam lake

Walkers check out the books kept at the amphitheatre by Chitlapakkam lake
| Photo Credit:
Akhila Easwaran

After having regularly made the trek to Besant Nagar beach to be part of Bessy Reads’ busy Sunday mornings, Arvind Balasubramanian, a Chitlapakkam resident says he was inspired to start a similar initiative in his locality. “There were so many readers from Tambaram, Chitlapakkam, Chromepet and Pallavaram who wanted to be a part of a reading chapter like this, and I thought that there was no better place to start than here,” he says, pointing to the lake and its sylvan surroundings. “This lake, is our beach,“ he laughs.

The chapter schedules its meetings every Saturday, from 6am to 9am. People are free to join and leave at any time.

At its first meet up on April 6, around 18 residents showed up to quietly delve into their books.

A reader sits with her book at the amphitheatre by the Chitlapakkam lake for a silent reading session by Lake Reads

A reader sits with her book at the amphitheatre by the Chitlapakkam lake for a silent reading session by Lake Reads
| Photo Credit:
Akhila Easwaran

Apart from the allure of this sense of community coupled with the lack of pressure to socialise, Nithya Nagarajan, a Tambaram resident who made her way to the second session of Lake Reads says she loves the idea of setting aside time to do nothing else but read.

“I like having this one hour on a Saturday morning to unwind with my book, and get some fresh air. There is so much happening through the week, and I have hardly find the time to catch up with reading otherwise,” she says, as she settles down on the steps with a copy of the Korean bestseller I want to die but I want to eat Tteokbokki by Baek Sehee, translated by Anton Hur.

Recalling how she was not able to make it to the other reading chapters in Chennai given the distance, Vasilakshmi Rajamani, a West Tambaram resident says she hopes for this reading community to give her a much-needed push to read regularly. “I want to also talk to people about books, after the reading sessions. I started off by collecting novels, but am enjoying self-help books now,” she says.

Curious residents take a detour from the walking track and peer at the books, which include issues of the Tamil magazine Thumbi, and a few Stephen King favourites arranged neatly on the stage at the amphitheatre as the group continues to read.

A reader sits with her book at the amphitheatre by the Chitlapakkam lake for a silent reading session by Lake Reads

A reader sits with her book at the amphitheatre by the Chitlapakkam lake for a silent reading session by Lake Reads
| Photo Credit:
Akhila Easwaran

For the residents of Chitlapakkam and other surrounding areas, the lake has been a nucleus, and an important part of their community with many having worked with the Government on the restoration of the water body. Residents like Sunil Jayaraman, a volunteer with Chitlapakkam Rising, an active resident group, are buoyed by the blossoming of initiatives like Lake Reads which is bringing more residents together. Along with a few other volunteers, Sunil is busy picking up trash from the banks of the lake, most likely thrown by some careless tourists. Gowri Raman, a retired Tamil teacher who comes in to read greets him and Arvind, both of whom were her students in the past.

“We have always stressed on the importance of green public spaces, and it is heartening to see how these community spaces are being used,” he says. The amphitheatre was built keeping in mind art and music initiatives which the residents hope will also kick off in the future.

Lake Reads is on instagram @lakereads_chitlapakkam. They meet every Saturday from 6am to 9am. Entry is free.

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