Clapping and singing
There is much music these days in the life of the Man from Madras Musings. Each morning as he sets out for his walk, he keeps clapping and when not doing that, he keeps slapping various parts of his body. And at night, when MMM his labours done, retires to rest, he hears music, mostly of a high pitched shrill variety. Before your worst suspicions are confirmed that MMM, breaking under the iron hand of the chief has finally lost sanity, let MMM assure you that he is of sound body and mental health. These are all activities caused by mosquitoes which in MMM’s opinion outnumber the citizens of Chennai by a ratio of 1000:1. Wherever and whenever residents of Chennai meet, they now discuss, after having exhausted topics such as the heat, humidity and traffic, the mosquito menace. From the most upmarket club to the humblest hovel, the mosquitoes are the topic of conversation. This too is accompanied by much clapping, slapping and trying to avoid the relentless music made by the mosquitoes. Come to think of it, why should the mosquitoes not sing? Life for them now is one unending song. Chennai is a fertile breeding ground and they have never had it so good. Plenty of stagnant water, any number of garbage dumps, blocks of flats with poor sanitation and ventilation and above all, a Government that in its efforts to welcome foreign investment has also decided to welcome mosquitoes.
There was a time when MMM recalls fogging machines routinely doing the rounds each evening. People complained that the spray reduced visibility, affected breathing and drove mosquitoes inside homes but there was no denying that the effort did bear fruit. But this year, MMM at least is yet to see even one fogging machine in his neighbourhood. On the other hand, what MMM has seen is an ancient man in khaki shirt and shorts walking around with what looks like a brass fire-extinguisher. The apparatus is so heavy that the man carrying it is practically staggering under its weight and if it were not heavy, the reasons for the staggering became obvious once MMM saw the fellow’s blood-shot eyes and came within smelling distance of his breath. Still MMM could not blame him. Anyone saddled with the brass what’s-its-name and having to go nosing about in gutters is likely to take solace in the stuff that cheers. To do the man credit, he visits regularly and sprays whatever there is in the apparatus, but to MMM’s fevered imagination (could it be malaria/chikungunya/dengue/Ross River fever?) it appears that the mosquitoes thrive on whatever it is that is sprayed. They collect in gangs wherever the man sprays and breed like, well, mosquitoes.
But there is a positive side to it all. MMM was invited to speak at a seminar where there were eleven speakers in all including MMM. The auditorium that was meant to accommodate 1100 people had exactly one hundredth that number by way of audience. However there were probably eleven million mosquitoes in attendance causing much clapping. This cheered the speakers no end, for it gave them the illusion that they were being repeatedly applauded.
The Statue that plays hide and seek
Chief, you have often doubted the sanity of the Man from Madras Musings. Oh come chief, there is no need to be coy about it. Even though you have never said so in so many words, MMM has frequently caught you in the act of looking at MMM steadily over your glasses and then giving a quick shudder. And what is worse, what MMM has to report may only strengthen your views.
Chief, you are aware that MMM has frequently written about the statue of Swami Sivananda that stood at the intersection of Beach Road and the road named after the good Swami that leads to Mount Road. The statue stood close to the University wall and if you recollect Chief, it vanished one night in 2007 ostensibly to make way for the University’s compound wall. MMM you will recollect Chief has been greatly distressed about it and has much to your distress written rather too frequently on the subject, speculating on where the statue is now stored.
And now Chief, MMM has a story that will make your twenty or so knotted and combined locks to part and stand on end like quills on a fretful porpentine to quote Shakespeare. On the night of 10th February, MMM, being of sound mind and good bodily health, was being driven to Central Station and what should he see at the intersection of Beach Road and Swami Sivananda Salai but the statue itself? It was back to where it belonged and during its enforced retreat it had acquired a metallic grey paint. It otherwise looked well taken care of. For a moment the eyes of MMM met those of the Swami and each beamed at the other. And then they parted.
Now comes the sequel. On the 23rd of February, MMM, once again being of sound mind and good bodily health, was being driven to Central Station. As MMM is ever mindful of your instructions O Chief, he was also armed with a camera to photograph the reinstated Swami. Consider MMM’s shock O Chief when he discovered on his arrival at the spot that there was no sign of the statue! And what’s more there never appeared to have been one. Enquiries elicited a mundane answer that the statue had been reinstated but had to be uprooted once again as it was in the way of the widening of the road. All roads as you know Chief now lead to the new Assembly. But MMM, with his mind ever bordering on the fanciful thinks that what he had seen on the 11th was not the statue at all, but an astral body. Or else, it could be that the Corporation, or whoever it is who moves statues, has decided to place the statue on that spot only on certain days of the year. If only most other statues could also be moved around like this.
A friend had this interesting story to share with the Man from Madras Musings. Her apartment building is in the throes of the present round of one-way exercises that the police is attempting. On one day traffic outside her house moves right to left and the very next day it moves left to right. On most days the traffic keeps moving round and round. It appears to the residents that their building out to have been built on a flywheel so that it could face the correct direction each morning. On one particular day, MMM’s friend saw two policemen huddled deep inside the car-park in her building. Not feeling particularly well-disposed to the police as a breed consequent to the one-ways, she asked them rather brusquely as to what they were doing inside when they ought to be on the road directing traffic. Pat came the rather pathetic answer – “All kinds of traffic changes are being made and we are most confused. We decided to play it safe by getting away from it all!” Such is life.
For the uninitiated – Chief = S Muthiah of Madras Musings