The city is decked out in colours, mostly of the red and black kind with a few minor variations. With general elections around the corner every political party is out to make its presence felt. Every wall in the city features political messages. These do not convey anything about achievements. There are lines and lines of encomiums heaped on leaders and then several lines of names of local functionaries who have sponsored the wall painting. It is the considered opinion of the Man from Madras Musings that the name of the poor soul who owns the compound wall ought to be added and a word of thanks to him/her should also be included. For after all, has he/she not gone to the expense of building a compound wall solely for the enjoyment of the parties and their local functionaries? And when the property owner has the honour of bearing the leader’s name on his or her compound wall, should that not be reward enough? But no! How terribly unreasonable are these property owners that they should want to complain and even quote the law according to which permission ought to be taken from them before painting their walls with political messages? And do the parties not send four or five very respectful men of menacing aspect to ascertain if the owner has any objection? He/she had better not is the general message that is conveyed. Most house owners prefer discretion to valour and suffer in silence.
Not MMM. He is of the kind that protests, and protest he did when he found that his compound wall had been daubed in colours, all announcing the soon to be observed birthday of a leader. He caught the party workers and the sign painters in the act and questioned their right to disfigure his compound wall. The spokesman of the group was most apologetic and requested that MMM allow the graffiti to remain for a month by which time the birthday would be over and he, the spokesman would return and repaint the wall (not with another political message) at his (the spokesman’s own) expense. MMM would not listen and matters remained deadlocked till a police car drove up and an officer very smartly stepped out ascertained the problem in a flash. Having obtained the spokesman’s name, address and phone number, he told him that he wanted the graffiti blanked out by next morning or else… MMM thanked the officer and then the crowd dispersed.
The next morning, a group of thugs arrived at MMM’s house. They were led by a ‘student’ leader whose sole education appeared to be in foul language, most of which MMM and other members of his household could not fortunately understand. But the rest of the message was clear. If MMM insisted on their blanking out the graffiti said the leader, the party would be glad to do so, but MMM and his family members had better watch out. Secondly, while MMM could claim absolute rights of ownership over the compound wall, he could not do anything about what they did just outside of it. And they proposed to put up huge vinyl signs blocking off the frontage of the house and also position a few high decibel loudspeakers all facing the residence. What could MMM do they asked? The battle was over with that. Elders in the family advised MMM to remain silent and there the matter ended. The smart police officer whose beat MMM’s road falls on must have noticed the graffiti remaining as it was and must have turned a blind eye to it. And as for MMM, his nerves and ganglions still vibrate each time he thinks of what happened. Whenever he steps out of his house he is literally hit in the eye by the graffiti. But there is very little that can be done about it. Ironically, all this happened on Republic Day! But as far as MMM was concerned, he as a citizen had lost his right to be protected.
And, a few days later came the second cruel twist in the story. The party supremo announced that there would be no birthday celebrations! So to what purpose was all this?
Parks that provide relief
The state government has done an excellent job in restoring the city’s major parks. As a writer on environment put it this is one of the success stories of the administration. But after spending large amounts on beautification, it is rather short-sighted of the powers that be that nobody thought of providing toilets inside parks. As a consequence, you find that the bushes that don’t screen amorous couples invariably conceal men relieving themselves. While the organic brigade may nod its head sagely and state that all this is to the good, the Man from Madras Musings would much prefer the parks to be clear of human refuse.
The Float Festival
The Kapaliswarar Temple tank, which has remained full of water in the past few years, witnessed the float festival a couple of weeks ago. To the Man from Madras Musings, the float festival always brings back happy memories of the time when he as a kid clutched his grandmother’s hand and stood in the queue and then boarded the float which would go around the tank and then come back to the steps when those on board got off and let others get on to the float. The joy of the festival lay in public participation when crowds travelled with the deity on the float. But times have changed and citing reasons of safety, the float was declared off limits to the public this time. People were allowed to stand on the steps and admire the float but were not allowed on it. To MMM it somehow robbed the festival of its usual gaiety. MMM hopes that wiser counsel would prevail next year and he and others will be allowed to tread the water with the Gods.
There was a time when certain services were meant to be only in the night. No, the Man from Madras Musings is not talking about those kinds of services (lets keep MM clean) but of matters like garbage disposal and road laying and repair. But these have all become daytime activities now.
For the past few weeks MMM notices that arterial roads are blocked at peak traffic time by huge garbage disposal vehicles which move at a leisurely pace. They stop at all odd spots and then two men get down, rake the garbage that lies close the bins (we in Chennai never throw our garbage into bins. Rather like a game of darts we aim for the bin, but any where close to the bin is also acceptable), place it in the bin and then heave the bin on to a mechanical device which with much noise hoists the bin into a cavernous jaw like structure into which the garbage falls. The jaw then champs away with evident relish, taking care not to mangle the bin as well (O the joys of modern technology). Having had its fill, it returns the bin, which the men then heave off and place on the road side before waving the vehicle ahead. All this while the traffic behind waits, not so patiently. This is the time to give the rich Madras bhashai an airing and expletives are exchanged much to everyone’s delight.
And as for road laying the less said the better. But MMM who suffers from foot in mouth disease made bold to ask a supervisor who was loitering aimlessly even as a few men relaxed in a shallow pit as to why these jobs could not be taken up at night. “Because sleeping at night is not the privilege of you upper classes alone” came the answer. Obviously the supervisor has not heard of call centres.