The Man from Madras Musings is at it again:


Short and Snappy July 16th 2008


The Mambalam Maze


Residents of Mambalam may be up in arms on reading this, but the Man from Madras Musings is not far off the mark when he describes that area as a place that the city planners took over and then forgot. Over the years it has developed into a perfect picture crafted by complete administrative apathy. And standing as a proud representative of this area is its railway station.


MMM recently went to receive some guests who were getting off the train at Mambalam. It was early morning and MMM was looking forward to driving into Ranganathan Street, parking his car there and waiting for the visitors. MMM can see eyebrows being raised on the point of driving into that shoppers’ mecca, but at 5.00 am it is really devoid of people, difficult though it is to imagine such a scenario. Be that as it may, MMM drove up to Panagal Park, with a song on his lips, his hand at the wheel and his foot on the accelerator when having turned left he realised that a huge flyover was where Usman Road used to once be. True, MMM had read all about the flyover, but it had completely slipped his mind and he realised that there was no way that he could access Ranganathan Street. He was sorely tempted to park under one of the pillars and walk across, but one of his guests was elderly and getting that person to walk all the way from the station was impossible. Having searched in vain for some signboard with alternate routes to the station, MMM asked a few auto-rickshaw drivers who initially having pretended to have heard of Mambalam railway station for the first time in their lives, proceeded to explain that it was not all that simple to access any longer. You go down Doraiswami Bridge explained one, and then having come out, make a sharp turn to the right or left, duck down a couple of side streets like a fugitive escaping justice and land up near the station.


MMM did so, only instead of turning right (or was it left), he turned left (or the other way round), went down a narrow alley with a whole host of autos coming from the opposite direction and then realised that he was well and truly lost and on the wrong side of a one way road. This also gave MMM the opportunity of learning of what appeared to be well published news about his own parentage, financial position, looks and sanity from the auto-rickshaw drivers he nearly collided with. Finally he had to request one of the less menacing auto drivers for directions once again. This involved going up to Doraiswami Bridge once again and turning left (or was it right) and then negotiating a couple of side streets before landing up at a temple. Here, a kindly flower-seller showed MMM the way to the station. “But you cannot park your car on this side” added the kindly soul. “For that you need to coming from the opposite direction.” MMM, having drawn a deep breath then asked as to where was the opposite side and if it was the Usman Road entrance that she had in mind. No, she did not. She gave a fresh and more roundabout route which MMM managed to successfully negotiate only to find that the entire parking lot had been cordoned off by the railways who had also put up signboard giving details of the kinds of the punishments they had in their power to dole out if they caught MMM in the act. This had everything short of hell-fire in it. But to MMM, that was nothing compared to going back to Doraiswami Bridge and so he decided to violate the law for once. Surveying his surroundings he found no reason as to why the area was not fit for parking. The only reason that MMM could think of was an attempt by the railways to protect the modesty of those who were using the place for their morning ablutions with complete equanimity.


The train with MMM’s guests was running late and so this story ended on a happy note. But the plight of those who wish to reach Mambalam station in a hurry can only be imagined. Perhaps it is safer to get on and get off at Egmore. Why those in charge of our fates on the roads cannot put up prominent signboards with directions beats MMM.


Welcoming the Chief


The Chief is away, having scooted off for three weeks, a luxury he rarely gives the Man from Madras Musings, Ranjitha Ashok and the rest of the chain gang over whom he lords. He has asked MMM to keep an eye on the paper while he is away. He may not have noticed it, but MMM could discern a doubtful shake of the head even as he said it. And since then MMM has not slept a wink, ever worrying about the paper. Has it been put to bed? Has it been printed? What if the postal department does not deliver it to one and all? MMM’s favourite nightmare is one where he is seated on a throne and the printer and his staff approach in solemn procession to hand him a copy of the latest issue. And when MMM graciously rises to accept it, he finds that is a blank sheet with just the mast-head. MMM wakes up screaming at this point and he wonders as to how the Chief goes through this kind of thing fortnight after fortnight. The Chief must have been a child of blood and iron and of course now he possesses an eye like Mars with which he threatens and commands and that makes all the difference. Now MMM being short-sighted cannot boast of such ocular facilities.


Anyway, as the return of the Chief draws nigh, MMM wonders if he ought not to be given the kind of welcome that most leaders receive when they disembark at Chennai airport. Firstly, MMM would like to have posters pasted on the pillars of the flyover under construction near the airport, Kathipara junction and also on all buildings along the way. These will show the Chief in various postures, writing, releasing books, speaking and generally being the life and soul of heritage. Below these pictures will be slogans that would go like this – “Chennai’s Chief returns”, “Welcome home, O human face of heritage”, “Madras salutes its coming Man”, “Saviour of Senate House, we salute thee” etc. Besides these, MMM also plans to have digital signboards (vinyl sheets for the uninitiated), all along the way, carrying similar messages. . After all, the police has said such signboards would be permitted for three days before and after any event.


A couple of cut-outs will be placed along the way, preferably blocking off a traffic signal or two. On the appointed day, a huge group of supporters, rounded up from Madras Musings’ mailing list, will throng the airport. The main objective of this group would be to shout slogans, block the carriageway and ensure high levels of nuisance to the other passengers at the airport. And when the Chief clears immigration and steps out, crackers of high decibels will be burst, garlands and shawls will be presented to the Chief and he will wave to his supporters. By then, people around would have automatically realised that the Chief is a powerful personality and will clear the way of all traffic. Many more people will also join the cheerleaders and presto, we will have more numbers for the heritage movement. From here, to fighting an election on the heritage plank is but a step and from there a Heritage Act is a mere bagatelle.


But something tells MMM that the Chief will scotch this idea.


Madras Week Ahead


It is that time of the year again. A little bird informs the Man from Madras Musings that this year’s celebration promises to be bigger, better and more event packed than in the previous years. More and more people are joining the small group of volunteers who began the celebrations a few years ago with nothing beyond enthusiasm and hope. MMM prays for the success of Madras Week, this year, next year and all years to come.