Mauled by malls
The Man from Madras Musings has often wondered as to what is it that attracts people to malls. Could it be the air-conditioning? Or is it the joy of window-shopping? Or do they go in for serious purchasing? This to MMM will be one of those great unresolved mysteries to be filed along with the Big Bang, Jack the Ripper and the Man in the Iron Mask. But of this MMM is quite certain, he and malls are poles apart and there is no love lost between them.
Last week MMM drove to a mall and if the journey there was not bad enough, the parking ordeal could go down in song and dance. There are malls with subterranean parking lots and there are malls with high-rise parking lots, but there are no malls with sufficient parking slots. The one that MMM went to was of the high-rise variety. And it was constructed in such a fashion that you accessed each of the levels through a narrow winding ramp, rather like the keeps of yore where witches kept damsels with long golden tresses. To be rescued by knights.
And so MMM drove in, his heart ready for any fate. A series of cars was ahead and he was tailed closely by a long line of cars as well. Each hooted merrily to the other, to those in front to hurry along and to those behind to warn them that despite the best efforts the car in question was sliding backwards and would soon connect bumper to bumper. Given the narrow flute like construction of the tower which housed the ramp, the horns were all amplified many times over and gave you the impression of being in a kind of hi-fi hell.
At each of the levels, just as you though you could relax your grip on the hand-brake and giving the foot on the clutch a rest, there were ushers whose only job was to ask you to proceed upwards. “Rise higher” appeared to be their motto and you would not be far wrong in assuming that MMM had gone to attend a motivational congregation. As the cars kept ascending level after level, all tooting and blaring, it appeared to MMM that if he went any higher a satellite or a space-ship would be waiting to take the car into outer space, to be brought back as and when MMM finished his errand at the mall. But a final level was reached where there was a narrow slot into which MMM was urged, through word and gesture to navigate his car. This prompted an angry honk from the car behind, whose owner no doubt had earmarked the slot for himself. The anger prompted the man to relax his grip on the hand-brake and so he slid a tad behind only to immediately set off a volley of protests symbolised by more forceful tooting/honking etc. MMM did not wait to see how it all ended. No doubt all cars remained in a state of suspended (but honking) animation till someone removed his or her car from one of the slots and then resumed battle.
It had been a long while since any of the sweet young things that write articles on heritage for newspapers have called up the Man from Madras Musings and tested his avuncular (for they always call him uncle) patience with their lack of knowledge of this city of ours. Just as MMM was beginning to wonder if this breed was dying out and needed to be added to endangered/heritage lists, along came a call. There was no “uncle” at the other end and MMM was “sir”d right through. The caller wanted to know from MMM as to what he considered were the five heritage spots of the city and so MMM went on to list them, beginning from Fort St George. In passing, MMM said that this had housed the Assembly till recently. Whereupon there was a titter at the other end followed by the comment that “recently” was a relative term and no doubt MMM meant several years ago for has not the Assembly been for long at this huge grey-coloured heritage building that stood opposite P Orr & Sons? This momentarily took MMM’s breath away and the caller, no doubt under the impression that MMM could not place this building also added most helpfully that it had recently been renovated most wonderfully and inaugurated by the Prime Minister! No doubt most of MMM’s regulars don’t believe a word of this and are thinking that MMM is making it up because of deadline pressures and the Chief has thrown up his hands asking MMM to write any thing to fill the space. But MMM would like to assure all his readers that he is prepared to stand by what he has written, even under oath.
That was not all. MMM and caller parted after this, she no doubt to type her piece and MMM to muse on the ways of the world. But that evening there was a call once again. “Sir,” she said. “My editor does not like the five heritage spots that you said were your favourites. Can you give me five other favourite spots of yours?” MMM did not deign to reply. It was the end of what never promised to become a beautiful relationship.
The Man from Madras Musings has been what can be called a passive viewer of all that has happened in the name of cricket in the past few weeks. MMM is not referring to what happened behind the scenes but what took place in front of the camera and at the stadium and all he can say is that it can only be classified as a teenage mutant of what was once cricket. Take for instance the season in which it is conducted. A midsummer night’s nightmare would perhaps sum it all up best. To MMM, the bright lights, the totally unsuitable attire (whatever happened to pure white cottons) made of 100% polyester, the baying crowds and the decibel levels only resembled a Roman gladiatorial arena where you tested who could withstand it the best. And it was no surprise that in Chennai’s humid April, even the mightiest took ill in the middle of the game. As far as MMM was concerned, the cheerleaders were the only ones wearing the correct attire (if you could see it). MMM also wonders as to what the carbon footprint (yes, MMM is quite up-to-date on technology) of this jamboree was if you taken into account the to-ing and fro-ing all over the country, the usage of electricity and the plastic wastes churned up. Not to overlook the electronic media overload as well.
In the midst of all this chaos, it was no wonder that a top-ranking player made the malaprop of a lifetime. Speaking of his love for Chennai he said that he liked to ride a bike at night in the city and whenever he stopped at red-light AREAS, people came up to him and spoke to him in Tamil. MMM was puzzled and intrigued. For one, MMM would like to know where these coloured districts are and secondly he would assume that the lingua franca was spoken at such places. You would hardly expect conversations to be in French.