Short and Snappy


Inheriting the earth


The good book speaks of the meek inheriting the earth. But the Man from Madras Musings thinks otherwise. At least his views are coloured by what is happening at his doorstep and those of you who last out till this article ends are sure to agree.


Regulars readers of this column will by now know that MMM lives in a house that faces the main road where pretty much all the action that happens in Madras that is Chennai is well represented. Political meetings, birthday felicitations for leaders, police patrols, religious processions, weddings- you name it and they all happen there. After the malls, MMM’s road is the most happening place in Chennai. And the footpath in front of MMM’s door is usually the epicentre. As a consequence, MMM and his family have a fulltime job guarding this space from all encroachments. It is a task that is fraught with tension and anxiety and MMM can be pardoned for the view that guarding Siachen or Kargyll is nothing in comparison. Vegetable and fruit vendors have attempted to make the place their own and deigned to move only after considerable persuasion. The friendly neighbourhood ‘tire punchar’ (or at least so his signboard claims) has had his eye on the place for long. MMM who suspects the man of strewing nails in his (MMM’s) vehicle’s wake whenever business is dull is no admirer of his (the punchar’s) and so matters have rested there. By far the toughest to dislodge was a biriyani seller who moved in every night and ran an open air bar as well. Fortunately the police swung into action and moved him closer to their own booth and there he remains happily ensconced. And so the place remained unoccupied. But not for long.


There came a day when a huge cavern was dug further down the road in the name of drainage works or road repair or cable laying or whatever else that necessitates the digging of roads. The spot where the dig was in progress possessed no footpath and so MMM’s footpath was made the storehouse for all good necessary for the work. Huge bobbins of cables moved in and shortly afterwards came a family of six (more likely twenty) who were responsible for the job. Plastic were put up on poles all along the footpath and this became home. When MMM and others protested, they were fobbed off with a terse “is this your dad’s property or what?” and that was that. MMM’s garden taps became the source of water supply and MMM just could not bring himself to ask the interlopers the question in season –namely if the water tap was their dad’s. Cradles for babies were hung from MMM’s trees and cooking was done all the while outside the compound walls. These naturally blackened in the coal fire, but this was nothing compared to what happened to MMM’s neighbour whose wall doubled as the toilet.


Work proceeded in desultory fashion and the family at the gate doubled and trebled in number. On some days they were ‘at home’ to friends and entertainments were lavish as evinced by the debris that lay strewn in MMM’s garden each morning. Their permission had to be sought to drive cars through the gate and MMM soon began to sympathise with people like Ang San Soo Chi and others of her kind who were under house arrest.


Then one day they vanished. The footpath became empty and not a trace was left of their stay sans the paving that they had dug up in order to put up their tents. MMM rejoiced at their departure. But then he ought to have known. They were back within a month. Something was wrong with the drain/road/cable they had laid said the head of the family of drain/road/cable layers. And they were back for a prolonged stay to inspect, infer and improve on their work.


Get me to the theatre on time


The other day the Man from Madras Musings was driving down a busy thoroughfare. He was preoccupied and it was a good thing too, for what with rapid hair-loss brought on by the stress of writing this column, he will soon have nothing but thoughts to cover his head. Anyway, there he was driving down on a busy week day when it was around 10.30 am or so. In short it was a regular working day and MMM was driving along when he noticed a large crowd standing around a theatre. MMM was surprised to see that a theatre was drawing such large crowds on a working day. He enquired and was enlightened that it was the premiere show of a film and all those assembled were fans of the star who was acting in it. The traffic having by then more or less halted, MMM was able to get a ringside view of what happens on these occasions. Camphor was lit and waved in front of the star’s cut-out. Then a large-sized pumpkin was brought and waved around the same cut-out and thrown with force on the road where it smashed and lay in wait for unsuspecting two-wheelers to skid on. A series of deafening explosions followed, for this was courtesy stringed fire-crackers. The theatre being cheek by jowl with a hospital apparently did not matter. Songs from earlier films of the star were played on a public address system and then a mini riot of sorts took place as everyone jostled for tickets. The traffic then cleared and MMM moved on.


MMM became even more preoccupied and through his mind ran a series of questions. Why were these young men wasting their time at a cinema on a working day? Where does all the talk of the productivity of South Indians come from if so many of them are willing to waste their time? Are they all unemployed? If so where do they get the money to buy the fire-crackers and tickets? Who funds this premiere tamasha? And what of the loss incurred in terms of time and fuel by the motorists who had to stand around and watch the fun without any choice?


Dating the city’s parks


The Man from Madras Musings has taken to walking in the city’s parks with a vengeance and while visiting them he notices that not one save the new ones has any memorial tablet or foundation stone recording the date of establishment of the park. MMM would in particular like to know when some of the better known ones such as Nageswara Rao, Panagal, Dr Natesan, Napier (May Day), Robinson and Loane Square Parks were created. What is heartening however is that most of these parks are now well maintained and are a treat to the eyes.


Joke of Madras Week – cleaning the Cooum


Even as Madras Week was being celebrated and the Man from Madras Musings is willing to wager a considerable sum on the fact that certain areas would not have celebrated had it not been for the gimlet eye of the chief, the Government announced yet another package to clean the Cooum. A newspaper reported that the water was far more polluted than what was feared earlier. MMM wonders as to what happened to all the money that was spent earlier on clean-up efforts? Considering that a drain by any other name would smell as foul, can we say that all the cash went down the Cooum?