Short and Snappy dated 1st March 2009


Losing out on rings


The Man from Madras Musings is upset. He has just seen the latest budget announcements of the Madras Corporation and finds that he stands to lose out on a gold ring. True, the announcement states that gold rings will be given only to babies with Tamil names. But in this era of populism MMM is sure that it will be extended to all residents of the city with such names and guess who will not be among those receiving such rings – MMM no less. Now if only he had been Madras Managarin Manidan, he would have been eligible. MMM is seriously considering appealing to the Chief, but something tells him that the Chief will not agree. Here again, the Chief does not have to worry, for his name fits the bill. So in case you are asked to take a ring Chief, can you wangle one more?


Unveiling the obvious


The Man from Madras Musings is not certain if any of his faithful have been down Cathedral Road recently and seen the neatly executed sculpture of two men interlocked in a Kalari combat. But those among the flock who have been there will be aware that the statues made their appearance rather suddenly, just as deities appear below trees in our city, a week or so before Pongal and have been there ever since. But that was not enough for the powers that be which decided that they cannot take cognizance of the work of art unless it had been formally unveiled in a ceremony replete with speeches and photographs. So last week the sculpture was duly covered up, a full month after it had been displayed to the public. MMM driving down Mount Road and turning into Cathedral Road found a huge pandal all draped in bright yellow (it was fortunate that MMM was not in a coach and six for horses would have shied at the bright colour and what would the outcome have been – one M in the Botanical Gardens, one M in St George’s and the final M in the American Consulate?) covered with posters and grinning mug shots. Traffic slowed down quite a bit in the area as a consequence. No doubt the wholly unnecessary inauguration went off completely to the satisfaction of the organizers. MMM remembers seeing a cartoon done many years ago by the inimitable RK Laxman. It showed a completed bridge left unused while people struggle to cross using a rickety structure beside it. A politician explains to the Common Man that the new bridge cannot be used as it has not been officially inaugurated by the local leader who is too busy to come down for the event. MMM can see shades of the same farce in what happened with the sculpture. Now in case you had not seen or noticed the statues before the inauguration, you would be politically correct.


Not surprisingly while all this beautification is going on, the average citizen of Chennai appears to care very little about it as evinced by the accompanying photograph which displays the kind of art which Chennai is famous for – spittle spray. It’s a pity that we have only one colour – red. And the work shown here is what embellishes the foot of the Gemini Flyover, a stone’s throw from where this sculpture stands. Spittle art of Chennai


A horde of hoardings


Was it not just some time ago that all outdoor advertising by way of hoardings was banned in this our city and these were removed with much hullabaloo both by way of the actual dismantling and also by way of accolades, praise and applause from those concerned with the city’s beauty such as it is? Well, they are back. No, not in their original avatar but by way of large format vinyl hoardings displaying political leaders in various garbs, headgear, outfits and doing various things such as using a cell phone (most common), writing (less so), waving, grinning and looking pleased as punch (ubiquitous) and bringing solace to the less privileged (a collector’s item this kind of hoarding for it is quite rare). The earlier lot used to be many feet away from the ground and you could at least walk or drive along without their obstructing your path. They, to borrow a contemporary phrase, only competed for eyeballs. But the new variety occupies road space, has supporting wooden poles jutting out at all angles and there is a circular monstrosity that not only juts, obstructs and jars, but also shuts off all space to the extent of its diameter. With this being an election year, the Man from Madras Musings only fears an increase in their number. And February and March being birthday months, these hoardings have broken out like a rash at all conceivable spots. God help us all.


And it is not just the politician who puts up hoardings. Everyone does it these days. Hospitals announce medical camps and executive health schemes, schools put up admission notices, temples announce festivals – it is just the kind of people whom you would expect to have better awareness that do it. MMM recalls an old saying that as the king does, so do the people. Here it should read “The politicals do it. So why not the locals?”


Beautifying the Beach at a snails pace


There is no denying it. And the Man from Madras Musings is willing to stick to his point of view no matter who tries to convince him that we are changing as a people. When it comes to public works of any sort MMM feels, our government thinks that more hands have to be employed on just about anything, as compared to what is strictly necessary. The beautification of the Marina (however much unnecessary it may be) is a case in point. Driving down the beach road the other day, MMM noticed a crane of some sort lifting one of those concrete ornamental pillars which are to dot the footpath at regular intervals. These are around three feet in height and require some effort in being moved as they are quite heavy. MMM has seen similar operations in other countries where these would be done by just one man or perhaps two, one to operate the crane and the other a helper of some sort who would position the pillar. Needless to add, such work would be done at night. But this being Chennai, matters are handled differently. It was peak rush hour and the traffic had halted. The crane operator was doing the work in the main (or was it the crane which was doing it?), but there were two people who were holding on to the pillar no doubt to prevent it from falling off the crane. There was a third man whose only job was to whistle and there are was a fourth who gave a roar each time the pillar swung past the groove into which it had to be placed. Needless to add, there was a group of hangers on, all PWD men no doubt and sponsored on tax-payer’s money who were giving expert advice. At the end of three minutes or so, when the traffic resumed movement, the pillar was yet to be positioned. MMM had to drive by again a couple of hours later. The crane was still there, having moved perhaps by ten feet or so, positioned near the spot where the next pillar was to sit. Of the five men and the hangers-on, there was nary a sign. No doubt they had gone off for some tea. The pillar alone remained, hanging from the crane, which no doubt due to the weight of the pillar, was listing to one side. Somehow it all appeared highly symbolic, or perhaps MMM takes a lopsided view of things.