Nonplussed at Nolambur
And where is Nolambur you may well ask. For the same question came to the Man from Madras Musings when he was informed that he had to pay a call on someone residing there. All that MMM got to know was that the nearest landmark was the Ambattur Industrial Estate after which MMM had to pretty much try his luck. If he succeeded, Nolambur was the ultimate reward. If not, he would go around in circles for the rest of his life, rather like a Swami who is searching for the meaning of existence, though today Swamis do many other things also.
And so on a hot day (what else can it be?) MMM found himself at the Ambattur Industrial Estate asking for directions to Nolambur. He was informed that taking alternate lefts and rights and never breaking the rhythm would ensure that he reached the place. And sure enough MMM did. It was only after reaching this new settlement that the problems actually began.
This is one of those villages en-route to Poonamallee (or should we say Poovirundavalli?) that had led a peaceful existence for centuries until its inhabitants realised that they were sitting on gold in the form of land. And so the real-estate lobby moved in and having divided the place up, sold it all off in the form of that most admirably coined word for the real estate industry – plots. And before the cows in the meadows near Nolambur could blink, houses had come up and shortly thereafter, flats. In the hurry and scramble for putting up this settlement, these mansions for the gods so to speak, some of the finer points of life were forgotten. Understandably so, when the first priority is a roof over the head, it is not surprising that inconsequential matters such as roads, streets, drainage, garbage tips and street signs were given the go by. And so, the visitor to Nolambur has quite a time in negotiating the place to find his or her destination.
Just as the villages of yore were identified from a distance by the temple spire, Nolambur takes pride in a certain gated community that apparently houses a significant percentage of Chennai’s population. This is the tallest, grandest.. etc edifice in the place and all other spots are identified with this spot as point zero. But the challenge lies in reaching this. You keep seeing it all the time but you just can’t reach it given the maze of streets, unless one of the locals accompanies you. MMM found that most locals could give directions from this Valhalla in the wilderness but none could tell you how to reach there in the first place. MMM eventually did and from there proceeded to his destination.
The roads of Nolambur, if they can be called that, for MMM is quite sure that they are in reality an underground mountain range whose tallest peaks alone stand above the ground, defy description. Rather like Hannibal in the Alps, MMM found himself ascending great heights one moment and then plunging into deep ravines and abysses the next. And in the short flat stretches, some kind soul had taken it upon himself to strew speed-breakers at random. Some were so high that MMM was quite sure that his car would be suspended on top, rather like the thin end of a wedge. It was almost as though the planner who laid out Nolambur had trained in designing roller-coaster rides. In fact, MMM is quite convinced that Nolambur is an amusement park cleverly disguised as a residential township. Leaving aside the roller-coaster roads, there is the maze through which you have to find your way to the gated community If you missed yet another integral amusement park feature – the bump-a-car, you just had to negotiate street corners and you could manage that as well. As for merry-go-rounds, the whole township was one anyway.
Having reached Nolambur, it was time for MMM to leave almost at once and as he wondered about the stamina required for the return journey, MMM looked out of his host’s window and could see a highway in the distance. In fact, what MMM had all along mistaken to be the distant rumble of the Eyjafjallajokul volcano (for at this distance even Iceland appeared close by) was the traffic rushing along the highway. It appeared to be a much saner route back home than the great adventure that MMM had just completed. MMM was informed that there was no direct connection to that highway and the only way it could be reached was by cutting across an open field, full of ruts and potholes and probably mad cows as well. MMM decided to risk it. And sure enough within five minutes he was on the highway, dodging cars and trucks, well on the road home. What is a mere field with ruts, potholes and cows in comparison to our roads?
Last week, the Man from Madras Musinsg attended a social do in the heart of the city. Valet parking was arranged by the thoughtful host and with an admirable efficiency the valet saluted MMM, took his key and gave him a card. The efficiency was not so evident after the party. On his return to the gate, MMM gave his card to the valet manning the keys and waited. And waited for long. There was no sign of the key or the car. MMM realises that in Chennai it is good to be patient but not so the good lady who partners MMM in sickness and in health. She was all for buzzing about and looking for the vehicle. And sure enough the car was found, unlocked and with all contents intact. In the meanwhile the search for the key was reaching epic proportions with MMM’s host and several guest also getting involved. It was finally found, beneath MMM’s car where the valet had dropped it. A round of apologies later MMM, accepting them all at his gracious best rather like a constitutional monarch, left.
But mark the sequel. A couple of days later, MMM was at another do (he keeps going to these places in the hope that he would one day be photographed and featured in page 3) and on alighting from his car, a beaming valet came and shook MMM’s hand. “Don’t you remember me sir?” he asked. “I was the one who lost your key the other day.” And the way he said it made it sound as though he had done MMM a favour. Perhaps he had. Looking back, hunt-the-key had provided more entertainment to all than the party itself. MMM wondered if a repeat performance was likely. If so, he hoped it would be with someone else’s key.
Let there be light
And so the State swelters while the city makes merry. The Man from Madras Musings alludes to the power cuts of three hours and more in the rest of Tamil Nadu, most often at midday when the heat is at its worst. And Chennai appears to be completely immune. And symbolic of this perhaps is the daily illumination of the new ‘green’ Assembly complex in the best Kalyana Mandapam fashion. It is enough to give the rest of the State a complex. An Assembly complex or a power complex? Also perhaps make the rest of the state green with envy.