A friend who is known for his gravity of mien was unusually feisty the other day. The Man from Madras Musings was intrigued, for this friend of his is a sensitive plant who is afflicted by the demolition of heritage buildings, electoral graffiti and posters on walls, public meetings with loudspeakers blaring noise far in excess of acceptable decibel levels, traffic lights not working, vehicles coasting merrily down the wrong side of a road with the police looking benignly on, politicians travelling in a convoy of cars or conducting rallies thereby holding up traffic for hours – in short this was a man pretty much unhappy with life in general in Chennai and yet here he was literally dancing around and strewing roses from his hat.
MMM having ascertained that this was not a man who had imbibed rather too well went up to him and asked him the reason for his happiness. Plenty was the answer. The election season apparently affects him this way and this time around, what with there being a month between the polling and the announcement of results, MMM’s friend was making a holiday out of it. Before you run away with the idea that the friend was a politician, let MMM disabuse you of that notion. He is definitely of the toiling classes which therefore means he can neither a babu nor a leader be. But better clarity emerged when MMM’s friend, having paused to take a breath between pirouettes, shot off a series of questions at MMM.
“How many VIPs visited Chennai during elections?” asked the friend. “Oh plenty” was MMM’s answer. “And how many traffic jams did we have assuming that each VIP causes at least three?” asked the friend. This stumped MMM and after some thought he had to admit that there had been none.
“How many digital hoardings do you see in the city, all of them singing the praises of some leader or the other?” asked the friend. On reflection MMM concluded that there were none. Ditto for posters and graffiti. As for street-side meetings, a deathly silence prevails where the party faithful once bellowed. And before the friend asked him, MMM also said that traffic was moving very smoothly these days with the law-enforcers going about their duty with will and whim.
“Have you thought of why all these things are happening?” asked the friend. MMM, ever the optimist, suggested that this could be because of greater awareness, a growing sympathy for the problems of the common man and a promise of better things to come. “Pshaw!” was the scornful reply. “All this is because we are presently under the rule of an election commission. This state of happiness will last till the results are announced and then you will have posters and graffiti thanking the electorate, victory processions, digital hoardings announcing arrivals, departures and the doings of VIPs and chaos on the roads”.
“So do you mean we should always be under the rule of an election commission?” asked MMM. “Not exactly,” came the reply. “But let me put it this way. A rule by EC is one of the joys of democracy and so why not enjoy it while it lasts?” All that MMM could do was to add amen.
Garbage van is coming along
The Man from Madras Musings has come to dread the arrival of the garbage-clearing vehicle. While he is all for civic conservancy and fully appreciates the work being done by those whose thankless task it is to clear up what we discard and do not want anything to do with thereafter, it is the modality of the clearance that MMM is finding fault with. For one, the vehicle is brought around the streets only at peak traffic times. And it is always driven on the wrong side of the road, by which MMM, to make it clearer, means that the vehicle is driving up the side on which the traffic is coming down. Two heraldic characters hang out from either side of the rear waving off the traffic and by sheer force of might ensure that right of way is given to the garbage truck. Not that anyone in their right senses would want to stand in the way of these vehicles especially when they are full laden. If this is not bad enough, the vehicle then stops for a considerable period of time during which dogs and cows are shooed away and the traffic bin is hitched on to the vehicle. A mechanism lifts the bin on to the vehicle and tilts it, whereupon the garbage falls in and is swallowed up by a pair of jaws which in order to give verisimilitude to a digestive process, makes a curiously chomping and chewing kind of noise. MMM also notices that if the collection is particularly heavy then the mechanism also lets out a burp of satisfaction at the end of the mastication.
All this while, the traffic on both sides of the road has ground to a halt. Those who can make do with the narrow free space between larger vehicles try their best to weave their way through and this adds to the chaos. When the vehicle has had its fill it needs to move on and finds that all exits are blocked. Then a whole lot of good Samaritans spring into the act, sometimes assisted by the policeman on duty. Traffic is cleared after a good deal of swearing and shouting but not before the garbage truck has in the process of to-ing and fro-ing managed to drop a good bit of what it had collected earlier.
What puzzles MMM is the necessity to collect garbage and clean the streets in peak hour. Can this not be done at night? And if there is indeed a system of clearing garbage several times a day, why should it not be done at least in adherence to traffic laws?