Short and Snappy dated 15th November 2008
On Violating VCs
‘Vice Chancellor’ read the large plaque on the car that narrowly missed colliding with the Man from Madras Musings’ car and many others that had lined up in an orderly fashion (or as orderly as you can get in Chennai traffic) waiting for the red light to change to green. As to which university was headed by this personage in his chariot of fire MMM could not fathom. But the VC’s chauffeur it was obvious considered himself and his vehicle to be above law. Just in case some near sighted humble mortals on the road did not see the large plaque, there was also a red revolving light on top of the car. The only elements that the vehicle lacked were the outriders and the wailing siren. The policeman on duty at the signal sprang to life and attention and jumped about like one possessed. These days when the presence of a mere “G” on the number plate is enough to clear all roads, can you imagine the impact plaques and red lights have? Being unable to get the traffic signal to switch to green, the policeman dashed to the middle of the road and ordered all the vehicles proceeding in the opposite direction to stop. He then waved the VC’s car through, all the while saluting like an automaton. To MMM, the policeman’s multi-tasking brought to mind the tales of all powerful Gods with many hands that his grandmother (MMM’s and not the policeman’s) had told him when he was a mere kid (and a very attractive one at that, at least as per MMM’s mother). If only all our policemen were as efficient and reacted as quickly, Chennai would be a better place altogether. As for the VC, MMMs doubts if His Highness noticed all that happened in his wake, but the aftershocks were felt for long. For one, several vehicles tried to jump the signal by tailing the VC’s car. Those who were coming in the opposite direction, were irritated at having to stop and so made up for lost time by racing ahead. The signal decided to help things along by changing just then and therefore those who had raced ahead had to stop while those who were waiting had to race ahead. Only they could not. Chaos reigned and as for the policeman, he had gone back to looking like a statue erected in his honour by his admirers.
MMM driving along, wondered if VCs were entitled to red lights and plaques declaring their official status. And would a vehicle belonging to someone in charge of a university violate traffic laws with such impunity?
… and Verbose VCs
It has been a fortnight of interaction with VCs as far as the Man from Madras Musings is concerned. MMM was invited to attend a meeting where a Vice Chancellor of a University was to deliver a speech on what ailed Indian education. The VC came on time, he was introduced in lyrical passages filled with panegyrics and the topic of his speech was announced in a clear stentorian voice. The VC then stood up to speak. The first five minutes were spent in thanking the organisers. Then ten minutes were spent in the praise of a prominent attendee. Ten more minutes were spent on the greatness of music as a soothing element, though what brought on this train of thought was beyond MMM. There followed five minutes in praise of ragging and five more minutes in defence of the reservation policy and the VC then took his seat, much to the amazement of the audience. What about the topic asked someone in a hushed whisper. To which a wag replied that the subject matter had manifested itself physically and therefore nothing more need be said.
The digs that the Man from Madras Musings had written about last fortnight continue unabated and the complete absence of the rains has no doubt encouraged those in charge to order further excavations. Going about some of the roads that could be directly transported to Mohenjodaro or Harappa with no questions asked, MMM wondered as to why such road-works in Chennai had to be long drawn and only use manual labour and not some of those high-powered mobile equipments that can be seen doing the same work abroad. On enquiry it transpires that there is a powerful lobby that controls road work and these contractors wield enough influence to ensure that such repairs are always done using manual labour and most inefficiently at that. Rather surprising that an administration that is always claiming that Chennai is being made international in class and stature should be turning a blind eye to the most obvious example of backwardness.
Thorapakkam is considered to be a newly developed part of the city and the Man from Madras Musings went there with high expectations. Would there be six-lane roads MMM wondered. What about road signs, plenty of greenery, footpaths and medians? Perhaps even proper residential and office blocks? MMM was in for a big disappointment. The roads were more like narrow streets. There were hardly any footpaths and the roads themselves were pitted and full of potholes. There were no road signs anywhere and it was only by asking every launderer and neighbourhood shop on the way that MMM managed to reach his destination. As for greenery, the only sign of that colour was on MMM’s face what with his feeling mildly seasick after being rocked about in his car as it drove over every bump and dived into every rut. MMM is surprised that our civic authorities who all the while claim that the older parts of the city are beyond improvement owing to many years of faulty planning are replicating the same methods of development in the newer areas also.
The tomato takes off
The Chief should not get offended on reading this and the Man from Madras Musings wishes to assure him that this is not a veiled attempt to ask for a raise, though that will be most welcome under the circumstances. MMM refers to the skyrocketing prices of vegetables, particularly the tomato which like Abou Ben Adam appears to lead all the rest. MMM notices that stepping out with a bulging wallet for vegetable shopping only ends in an emaciated purse and a near empty shopping bag with a few purchases that can only be seen with a magnifying glass. MMM wonders if the Government, which floats bonds for oil and infrastructure should also introduce a tomato bond. And what about getting the currency on to a Vegetable Standard rather like the Gold Standard of yore? The legend on the rupee notes could then read “I promise to give the bearer a bag of vegetables of equal value”.
Now that the monsoons have come, rained and gone and have been pronounced a complete success, though the Man from Madras Musings does not believe the last pronouncement, they have left in their wake a flourishing brood of mosquitoes which are feeding on the citizenry. The administration has not yet woken up to them and as yet no fogging machines are in sight. As for getting the stagnant waters in the rivers to flow, that would be a really tall order. But what with the frequent power cuts, especially in the evenings, MMM really is Man Mauled by Mosquitoes.