The Perambur Puzzle
The Man from Madras Musings wonders as to how many of this publication’s regulars have occasion to visit this historic suburb of our city. MMM is one of those who has to go there frequently and it would not be too much of an exaggeration to say that he knows the place like the back of his hand. He In the past the Perambur under-bridge was the only way to access the station from the Residential Estate of the Railways. Those were days when a drop of rain would flood the under-bridge and cause complete chaos. Negotiating the narrow and dark passage under the bridge was an art by itself, for it would be full of potholes. There would be occasions when trains would thunder over the bridge even as MMM’s vehicle was stuck underneath and MMM would rather not remember the time when a train with at least one passenger in the toilet passed overhead. But the sheer historicity of the area more than made up for all the difficulty. MMM drove slowly past the pinjrapole, the lovely railway bungalows, the old Madras Electric Supply tower next to the under pass which was home to a cripple, the Calavala Cunnan Chetty School, verdant Gandhi park and then on to Perambur market.
Then along came this bright spark who predicted that all of Perambur’s traffic woes would come to an end if a flyover (or more accurately, a four-leaf clover) was constructed at this junction. And so MMM and many others of his kind put up with all the ensuing mayhem with patience even as Gandhi park was practically decimated, the MES tower was demolished, the cripple vanished and the monstrous clover took shape. In fact, MMM would not be wrong in saying the flyover was constructed under his supervision, given the number of times he was stuck there in the traffic with nothing to do but watch concrete blocks being assembled with cranes.
All things come to an end some day and so did the construction of the clover. And everything looked nice and bright. The trees in Gandhi park had vanished but a verdant lawn had taken their place and that was better than nothing. Signboards at least a kilometre away announced that you were approaching the flyover. MMM drove on only to reach the foot of the flyover and realise that at this crucial spot there were no signboards at all to indicate which one of the many arms of the flyover he was to take to reach his destination. There was no option but to drive on what appeared to be the most likely one and MMM did so. The flyover went round and round and finally MMM found the ramp for the descent and drove down only to find that he had reached the exact spot where he had begun his ascent. And so like the spider in the Robert Bruce story, he had to try again. He took the next likely route and once again came back to where he had started. It began to appear to MMM that the flyover was a disguised maze and the only way to understand its topography would be to fly over it. That being an impractical proposition, MMM had to abandon the principles of a life time and ask for directions.
“You need to access the under-bridge,” said a helpful bystander. MMM was amazed. He had assumed that in all this construction, the under-bridge too had vanished. Apparently, thanks to our expressed policy of complete lack of coordination between various authorities, the under-bridge had survived. It stood its ground bravely against the onslaught of the flyover though rather overshadowed by the concrete clover And it still remained the only access for the route that MMM had to take. A glance at it showed that traffic still struggled through it and while the flyover was completely empty, the traffic bottleneck in the under-bridge had not lessened even one bit.
There it stood, the dear old thing, with that lovely dark passage filled with those divine pot holes. It had rained that day and the under-pass was filled with a rich, dark sludge. There was a traffic jam as usual and just as MMM’s car halted under the bridge, a train thundered overhead. Some things never change in Chennai, come flyover or clover.
A friend was flying in to Chennai from overseas when his wife called him and informed him of cyclone Jal threatening the coast. MMM’s friend took a look at the internet and there it was, a spiral of clouds, covering practically the whole of the Bay of Bengal. He braced himself up for a choppy flight and remained awake throughout the flight, all the while expecting some turbulence. But what he experienced was as smooth as silk. Landing in the city, he called MMM at once and poured out his tale of woe. It was almost as though he felt that MMM, writing as he does for this publication, was responsible for the cyclone not manifesting itself the way it ought to. What he meant was that any self-respecting cyclone ought to have blown like Shakespeare’s winter wind, tossing about a few digital hoardings and uprooting a few trees and what we got instead was something more akin to a gentle breeze. It would appear to MMM that Jal is a shy and sensitive plant.
But the authorities were not taking any chances and on the first sighting of a cloud they decided to announce a holiday for all schools. The children were overjoyed and became ecstatic when the holiday dawned all sunny and bright with not a trace of rain. And so it is an ill wind that blows no one any good. But parents did not share this sentiment and at least one irritated father suggested to MMM that Jal ought to be renamed as either Lull or Dull.
They have begun to hot up once again all over the city, rather like the weather after Jal came, saw and left. With elections likely in the next year, everyone, including his uncle and aunt are out publicising their achievements, real or imagined. The Man from Madras Musings tries to read as many of them as possible, as he believes that laughter is the best medicine. There are some that claim to have eradicated poverty; others say they have done away with the caste system and a third states that it has delivered on the law and order front. Those that have nothing on offer claim that they will ensure a better future. However they do not state if it is for the politician or the general public. But the maximum number of posters was from a party that claimed to be standing on a green plank. And MMM noticed that it had used several thousand sheets of paper to publicise the fact that it was on a tree-planting drive. Wonder what happened to our Corporation’s much touted rule banning posters from certain thoroughfares. MMM supposes that the rule has gone the way of several thousand others – sacrificed at the altar of poor implementation.
The Chief has fully recovered but those who are close to him would have no doubt noticed that in the past few weeks he had been hobbling about, his foot wrapped in bandage, he having injured it while on a visit to the Museum Theatre. The Man from Madras Musings feels that it was entirely apt that the Chief chose to have his accident in a heritage building. It would have simply not been right if it had happened at a mall, would it?