From Singapore to Singara Chennai

The Man from Madras Musings is pretty sure that there are some who believe that this is a negative periodical, mostly lamenting about things past and criticising the Government for every step that it takes be it city beautification, road-widening, traffic smoothening or modernisation. After all, Madras Musings is wedded to the concept of sensitising the powers-that-be and the general public on the importance of heritage when it comes to the city’s development while the Government it would appear considers heritage to be a nuisance that the city is best without. Madras Musings (and MMM) is all for Singara Chennai but it is against the mass-Singaporisation of the city which the Government is dead keen on. In between comes the general public which appears to have no view in either direction. But here again, MMM sympathises with the general public. It is MMM’s considered view that in trying to get Chennai to ape Singapore, the Government has not read the public’s mind. In fact it is foisting an alien culture on the city.

Let’s face it. The Government wants a city devoid of posters and graffiti on walls. It has even passed legislation to that effect. And then they have spent a fortune on getting artistes to lavish their art on the walls of public buildings. Of course, MMM feels that the quality of the art is highly debatable but then that is neither here nor there and remember that this is an article wholly in sympathy with the Government. But if such be the legislation, where can our political parties, temple/other religious institution devotees/mourners/celebrants/magazines/workers unions put up posters announcing their latest antics? That may not be necessary in Singapore, but here in Chennai it is our birthright to deface walls and we shall have it.

Next we have these wholly useless things called footpaths on the side of important roads. The Government has on several occasions done its best to have these removed so that vehicles can move along smoothly but no doubt owing to bureaucracy, these footpaths have not been fully eradicated. And where they survive, Government has persisted in ensuring that these are paved repeatedly. To what purpose the general public has been unable to fathom. Paving these sidewalks means that it is with great difficulty that flag staffs for political parties can be erected at these spots. The same goes for scaffolding that supports cut-outs, digital banners and silhouettes made of light-bulbs during religious festivals and political meetings etc. Often those in charge of these events have to take the trouble of hiring a specialist who cracks open the paving on the sidewalks so that these structures can have be grouted properly on terra-firma. The only elements that like paved sidewalks are those who put up makeshift eateries each night. These smooth stones are convenient spots for customers to sit on, eat, throw away the leftovers and wash their hands. Oh, when will the Government realise that sidewalks are not meant for people to walk on? That may be good for Singapore, but this is Chennai.

Next we have this strange regulation that rubbish is to be thrown into specially marked bins placed at various strategic locations. How can we do that when it has always been our practice to toss the rubbish just outside our homes? After all does not our philosophy say “I am the Supreme” thereby implying that the rest of the world can go fly a kite? The same also applies to building regulations. Those are meant for my neighbour and not for me. Ditto for traffic rules.

Thank God that our Government has not yet passed strictures on spitting in public. That would mean laying hands on one of our fundamental rights. There are some who have thought that by placing ceramic tiles with the pictures of Gods on them, we can be made to desist from spitting. We can only smile at such innocence. True, we spare the tiles, but we carry on spitting all around them.

And so, when we can happily be Bhayangara Chennai, why get on with the trouble of Singara Chennai? MMM rests his case.

In Camera

The Man from Madras Musings wonders as to what happened to all the cameras that were installed at various traffic junctions with much fanfare. It will be remembered that these were meant to take snapshots of vehicles that were violating traffic signals so as to buttress any fine or case that the police would like to slap on the offender. But after a couple of weeks when every lane-jumper and jaywalker was careful, everyone has gone back to their natural state of jumping lanes and jaywalking. It is MMM’s view that most of the cameras have ceased to function. After all, no camera can take the strain. In other countries they would possibly be taking a snapshot once in a few hours and perhaps in some junctions once in a few days. Here in Chennai, with practically everyone jumping signals, violating stop lines and crisscrossing lanes, these cameras must have been clicking away non-stop. And that is not the kind of peak load that any camera can withstand. The result? Burnout, breakdowns and going bust.

However, a friend of MMM’s differs. He is of the view that when developed, it must have revealed that most of the violators and offenders were Government vehicles and so the cameras must have been given a quiet burial. And that, MMM agrees, is also a plausible theory.

Moribund Mylapore Meters

Another initiative that appears to be quickly on the way out is the series of automated parking meters installed with much fanfare on North Mada Street in Mylapore. The Man from Madras Musings has been watching over these meters and has frequently shared his various experiences in this column. Last seen, several of these meters have gone out-of-order and in keeping with the ancient nature of this locality, a group of enterprising men have begun collecting parking fees from visitors. When MMM drove in he was met with a cheerful greeting and the man who extended his palm for the parking fee informed MMM of the meters not working with the kind of glee that is usually reserved for announcing the birth of children after a long wait. What about a receipt asked MMM. The man looked pityingly at MMM. How can that be possible he asked, when the machines are not in working order? Faced with such cast-iron logic, MMM paid up and left.