Lay of the Madras Minstrel
Those of you who look on Madras Musings with a fatherly eye (and a catty wag once told the Man from Madras Musings that grandfatherly would be more appropriate as we in MM talk of matters long gone and of a way of life long past. But let us leave that aside, for as we say in this our city – we are like that only), will not be happy to know that the magazine you love has been on auto pilot in the last two weeks. The Chief is away and as for MMM, he too has been travelling far and wide. He has voluntarily banished himself from that sceptred isle – Chennai to be precise and when he receives a nasty missive from the Chief that the next issue is due and could we have the column asap (the chief is into all kinds of modern expressions) and not forget our honour bound duties while we go gadding about the globe, MMM is at a loss for words. Now that may not be so bad a thing according to MMM’s detractors of whom he has not a few, but then, MMM may be down but not out. And so, from a land far away, as MMM looks at Chennai and wonders what to write about, he delves into the recesses of his mind for topics that have not been covered in the issues of the recent past – bad English (no, that was done), traffic (that can wait, it can be used as a filler anytime imagination really runs dry)… Panic sets in and the traffic situation has almost been taken up, when inspiration strikes. And so…
The Speed Breakers of Chennai
As the country goes in for elections, the greatest exercise in the whole world, democracy is in the air. While editors write columns and columns on it (no, not you Chief, something on the Heritage Act would be more your line), talk shows talk on it and politicians prattle on, not one person has really thought of that one symbol of complete democracy – the Speed Breaker in Chennai. In case you are thinking that the Man from Madras Musings has gone mad, let MMM assure you that he has not. For MMM has his feet on the ground, quite close to the speed breakers in fact. Have you ever reflected on how no two speed breakers in Chennai are alike? Such freedom is given to those who erect these sacred mounds over which we sacrifice our vehicles, that in MMM’s view, it is a perfect example of democracy – freedom, freedom from constraints, from rules, from regulations- in short, sheer bliss.
There are various types of speed breakers. The first is the rumble, which starts off in life as a series of risers running across the road. When you go over it, your vehicle simulates a ship of sorts for it lurches forward and then leans backward alternately before driving clear of all the rumbles. Over time, these rumbles are tarred over repeatedly, thereby almost vanishing from sight. But as you go over them, variations in height remain, the movements become less jerky and you can be pardoned for imagining that a mild earthquake is on. Don’t believe MMM? Try what remains of the rumbles opposite Agurchund Mansions on Mount Road.
The second is the Himalaya. This has one mound but has no luminescent paint. You know you have reached it only when your vehicle’s bumper has hit it or a significant part of your chassis has been scraped off by the peak over which you are negotiating. When newly laid out, this has signboards on both sides and bright bands of paint to warn you of the approaching bump. But the signboard soon makes way for a political party’s flag post and as for the paint, which brand can stand the wear of so many vehicles going over it? Doesn’t our Corporation have better things to do than paint these over repeatedly? The Himalaya is a generic type and the only standard governing it is that no height limits are stipulated. It can be as low as a few inches in height and can rise up to a foot and more. There is an interesting variant to this one. The Corporation, or the Police or whoever it is who paints signs on the roads, have at places painted the pedestrian crossings on top of the speed breaker. MMM wonders if you are expected to lean right or left of centre or remain erect while you walk over this.
The twin- This makes its appearance in twos around schools and colleges. The schools have them to prevent parents from massacring all those around when they rush to school late and try to make up for lost time by driving amuck. It exists around colleges to ensure students don’t drive rashly. Here again there is no standard as to the distance between two speed-breakers. If a school or college has three gates, not all of them have to have it. Also the speed-breakers exist only outside a few privileged institutions and not all.
The citizen’s initiative – This one exists just about anywhere. You can have one just outside your house if you want. You can have two. Three maybe in case you feel it is better. You can also liberally strew these across your entire road. There are so many side roads with these speed-breakers, all most unnecessarily positioned in close proximity.
MMM will not be surprised if we soon have designer speed-breakers. Why not a step speed breaker inspired by the great stepped pyramid of Egypt. And why not a wedge shaped one with its top ending in a sharp point? Cars can reach the top and dangle from there in a state of equilibrium till someone comes and gives the vehicle a friendly push.
Political Parties on best behaviour
Ahhh! The electoral code of conduct is in place. No posters on walls. No graffiti. No cut outs. No banners. All political meetings wind up by 10.00 pm. In short God’s in his heaven and all is right with the world. The Man from Madras Musings may be pardoned for saying that it is his earnest wish that the electoral code of conduct be always in place. No, he does not mean an election every morning, but if only this model behaviour could be adopted by all parties for all time to come, Chennai would be a better place to live in.
Fishing for trouble
As is always his habit before leaving for the great open spaces (also referred to as ‘the foreign’ or ‘the abroads’ in some circles), the Man from Madras Musings went to the Kapali temple in Mylapore. And this time he did so with hands held to his nostrils. The fish in the tank had died in their thousands and the smell was awful. Various reasons have been given for the sudden death. Firecrackers were burst from inside the tank during the float festival causing release of toxins, people have been overfeeding the fish, the plastic waste in the tank, (every devotee assumes it is a religious duty to throw the empty plastic bags into the water after feeding the fish), the heat etc, have all been given out as reasons. MMM notices only one common factor in all but the last reason. The fish can in no way be blamed. It is we, the people, who are the principal causes behind such ecological disasters. When will we wake up and realise that the Gods do not have to be pleased at the expense of the fish or our environment?
Seen in a Chennai newspaper headline: “The incident looks like a wake up call for hoteliers to buckle up” Now is that a buckle down or a buck up?