Saving Heritage, the FM Way

What does the Man from Madras Musings do when stuck in a traffic jam? He has of late become addicted to the FM radio channels. The sheer inanity of what goes on by way of entertainment in most of them keeps MMM entertained. Passers-by may wonder as to why the man in the car is laughing uproariously to himself and certify him as non-compos but MMM would like to assure them all that it is entirely because of the radio.

But the other day MMM was pleasantly surprised to know that there was going to be a panel discussion on the necessity of saving heritage buildings. Was this a sign that these channels were growing up? On the panel were three people, a man of civil servant-like demeanour, the second a lady of artistic achievements and the third a ghostly voice over the telephone about whom nothing much could be gleaned. Perhaps a modest man with much to be modest about.

MMM tuned in just as the programme was about to begin. The anchorperson spoke in “Tanglish” and much of what she said in the mother tongue would have had classical scholars in that language screaming in agony. But that is neither here nor there. For the benefit of MM’s readers and the Chief’s well-being, MMM will provide here a gist in the Queen’s language, of what went on.

“Welcome, welcome, welcome, welcome,” chirped the anchor. “How are you all today on this fine morning? We have here a panel discussion on whether heritage buildings ought to be saved. But before we go ahead, we have two advertisements and a song for you.”

Five minutes later, we were back on air. “As you all may already know, today is a fine day and we have here a panel to discuss the necessity of saving heritage buildings. On board we have here Mr So & So, Miss Such & Such and Mr Other who has joined us over the telephone. How are you all today?”

So & So: “”

Such & Such : “Um..Um”

Other: “Cackle cackle”

Anchor: “Thank you, thank you and on that happy note, two adverts and a song”

We came back again after a while.

Anchor: “Welcome back friends. Here in the studio we have these lovely people all assembled to discuss the necessity of saving heritage buildings. My first question is to Mr So & So. Sir, is there a necessity to save heritage buildings?”

So & So : “Yes, you see…”

Anchor: “Thank you sir, thank you. But as we have a song coming up ..

And so it went on. The discussion never got beyond a stage where the participants did anything other than clearing their throats. But we did have several adverts and songs. Towards the end, there was a small scuffle between So & So, who probably having retired from service, had suddenly woken up the wrong ways of the Government, and the hollow voice over the phone, which probably hated all Government officers. Miss Such & Such, if she contributed must have done so in mime. The argument of course did not last longer than 30 seconds at the most, because the anchor was on her feet announcing that we would have two more advertisements and a song after which we, having agreed that heritage buildings needed to be saved, could proceed to the next programme which was a call-in feature where people could request their favourite film songs. MMM tuned out at this point.


Now you may wonder as to what that is. That is the Man from Madras Musings simply highlighting the plight of streets that have been named after great men only to have the names reduced to mere initials. And so street names = SNs in case you still did not get it. Take TT Krishnamachari, sorry, TT Krishnama Road. How many of today’s generation would know who TT Krishnamachari or Krishnama (bet even his mother did not call him that) was. And there is also UG Road which to the uninitiated is not Under Graduate Road but Utthamar Gandhi Salai. In all other cities he is called Mahatma Gandhi but then we had to be different. And in case you were wondering, Utthamar is not Tamil either. But leaving all those aside, have you come across ROB Street? The Man from Madras Musings has always wondered as to who or what it meant and had even idly speculated as to whether it commemorated a heist on the State Bank of India which stands close by. It stands for Ratul Omrah Bahadur Street. There is also MK Amman Street. In case you thought it commemorated a woman of that name, with perhaps some political leanings, let MMM assure you that it is named after the historic Mundaga Kanni Amman temple that stands on this thoroughfare. Talking of temples, here is one that nobody would have expected – Bangaru Ammal Koil Street. This narrow cul-de-sac in Mylapore is named after the wife of Bucchi Babu Naidu, the famed cricketer. It had coasted along for many years as Bangaru Ammal Street and one day decided to sprout a suffix- Koil. As to where that temple is, that is what MMM would like to know. Even the late Bangaru must be wondering about it.

It was probably thinking about all this that according to legend, Balasubramania Mudaliar, the founder of the short-lived Sunday Observer newspaper and active Justice Party supporter, refused to have a street named after him. Legend has it that he feared that it would be named Sunday Observer Balasubramaniam Road which in time would become SOB Street. The story may well be apocryphal but it does ring true.

In the meanwhile, let us be prepared soon for a whole slew of new initials, thanks to the renaming spree that our city is soon to embark upon.


Each time the Man from Madras Musings wonders as to how end this column, something, as Mr Micawber would be happy to note, always turns up. MMM had expressed interest in a product recently and got an email from the sales person thanking him for the enquiry. It then went on to say – “We would defiantly able to offer you the required item”. MMM is quaking in his shoes.