Maddened by Meenambakkam
The Man from Madras Musings is not sure if our airport falls within Meenambakkam or Tirusulam. In case it is the latter the title can always be changed to Tried by Tirusulam. But the fact remains that the approach to our airport is the closest that our country can come up to the maze at Hampton Court. MMM is aware that major construction, expansion and renovation is on, but all that does not necessarily mean confusion, which is what the place has degenerated into.
Take the car park for instance. All the signboards declare loud and clear as to where the international and domestic arrivals and departure sections are but as to the car park it appears to be a well kept secret. It was only on reaching a kind of road that led to nowhere that MMM realised that it was important to find out where the car park was. If he drove on any further he ran the risk of going directly into one of the departure terminals, either international or domestic and no matter where the flights were going, if MMM had attempted that he would have been scooped up and sent to yet another destination, namely Puzhal. So MMM paused and decided to make enquiries as to where the car park was and this MMM did at considerable risk to his aural faculties for all the vehicles behind MMM’s began tooting their horns in a sort of wild chorus.
A security guard then appeared from nowhere and asked as to what MMM wanted. On coming to know that MMM was looking for the car park he looked pityingly and asked if MMM could not see the signboard. And sure enough there it was, almost the size of a postage stamp, as though it was ashamed to be announcing a mere car park when others were about flights. Feeling extraordinarily like Alice in Wonderland, for he could have sworn that the board and the gate leading to the car park had not been there earlier, MMM drove in and was stopped by a surly female who demanded Rs 60 as parking fees. Having paid up, MMM made bold to ask the woman as to where he could park and she by an airy wave of the hand indicated that all the earth was MMM’s. So MMM drove on and found not a single empty slot. Driving between the concourses was no easy task for passengers had left trolleys anywhere it pleased them and if it was not trolleys, cars had been parked on the carriageway by those who had not found slots and were too impatient to look for one. MMM at one point had to get off and move a trolley out of the way when a security guard manifested out of the blue and admonished MMM for trying to leave a trolley midway! No amount of explanation could convince the man that MMM was trying to make space by moving the trolley to a side. Finally a slot was found and MMM then went off to receive his guests.
Hop, Skip and Jump
Of the walk from the park to terminal building, all MMM can say is that this was a test of physical fitness. Your eyesight had to be good for you to watch out for potholes and unexpected barricades. Your hearing had to be excellent for being able to detect when a VIP car or two was silently going to charge up the carriageway. You also needed fantastic reflexes to jump out of the way and as for your knee they had to be at their optimum performance levels to enable you to cross over concrete medians that were at least a foot high. And needless to add the walk was a long, long walk and so your stamina had to be good. The return journey with guests and luggage was more or less the same but MMM had forgotten to mark a trail with pebbles from the car park to the terminal building which was what if you recollect Hansel and Gretel had done. And so on return MMM got hopelessly lost and could not find the car park. His guests were getting impatient and the luggage, which MMM was sure contained some hygroscopic material, was gaining weight by the minute. Finally MMM had no option but to make them stand at a spot and begin hunting for the car park, all the while marking the position of his guests with the corner of his eye. After a longish search MMM found the car park exactly where it was, only it wasn’t there a few minutes earlier. MMM is quite sure they do it with mirrors.
Next came the challenge of driving out and then hitting the road home. The lady at the turnstile said MMM had to turn left which is what he did. And blow him if he did not join a queue of cars making their way into the car park once again! After having extricated himself and the car with great difficulty MMM turned right this time and there was a small board in the distance that said “Exit”. The big challenge was in identifying the shortest route to be taken to the exit rather like one of those puzzles that they gave you on a sheet of paper that had a grid which separated a rabbit from a carrot or a wolf from a lamb. After many backings and forwardings, MMM managed to reach the signboard and then from there it was a mere bagatelle. But someone ought to inform the authorities about proper signage at the airport. It is all very well to plan expansions but it does not have to mean chaos in day-to-day running.
The Old Reliable
There are days when the Man from Madras Musings, tiring of the high decibel private news and entertainment channels, turns to the old national network on television. After the hurly-burly of the former, there is something reassuringly solid about the national telecaster. It also takes MMM back by many years, for MMM is after all a product of a generation to whom television meant a single channel service that had programmes only for a few hours each evening and then at 9.00 pm a hand would appear on screen bearing amidst snow (and we had quite a bit of it at least on screen) rather like the strange device Excelsior a placard bearing the legend “All regional networks to delink” or words to that effect whereupon MMM and pretty much the whole neighbourhood called it a day. Of programmes there were not many, and to MMM and his kind everything was entertaining, from something on fertilizers to a quaint ceremony of reading out letters from viewers (MMM supposes they now send emails or SMS). The big hits were of course the “song and dance sequences from films” and the weekend movies, one in Hindi and the other in the regional language.
MMM can see that his readers and above all the Chief, who reads all MMM’s stuff is getting impatient as to where all this is leading. But what MMM wanted to say was that the other day he tuned in to the national network and found things pretty much the same. The same tacky sets, the tables covered with rexine and the obligatory vase with plastic flowers. MMM is not sure but even the flowers looked a trifle wilted. The programmes were conducted by tired looking presenters and at one stage there was considerable lack of synchronisation between lip movement and sound and MMM, never alert while watching television was none too sure whether he was seeing the previous programme with the sound of the subsequent one or the other way round. This was followed by a programme on yoga. This had a guru seated cross-legged and surrounded by a host of disciples, all intent on twisting themselves into knots. All of them with the regulation deadpan expression. The guru’s commentary took the cake. At one stage he wanted everyone to put a finger into their ear. “Now wiggle the finger as though you are removing wax” said the guru. The next exercise he announced had something to with the nose and the digestive system at which MMM wisely switched over to a private channel where a whole host of bold and beautiful people were doing pilates.
Note: For those who came in late, the Chief is S Muthiah, Editor of Madras Musings