The old order changeth…
These are days when heritage buildings are vanishing like dew on a summer morning. If they don’t catch fire and then get demolished, they simply get demolished. And those that survive are not doing very well either as the Man from Madras Musings noted from what is happening to a particular structure.
The building that MMM speaks of was put up by a legend. And the edifice matched his stature. With three wings that stand around a common area, it was and is a landmark of the city. Over the years, it has become home to several offices, with the legends descendants putting the structure to commercial use as opposed to the original purpose for which it was built, that line of business long having gone. Maintenance was always good and it was a pleasure to see airy and well-ventilated offices with good parking facilities to boot.
All that was in the past. With real estate skyrocketing, it was but a question of time before the descendants began quarrelling over the division of spoils, their vision not being anywhere near that of the founder of their fortunes which enabled him to build a business from scratch. Consequently, a division of the property was inevitable. The owner of each wing began operating independent of the other two. One put up a new storey to his wing, probably without any thought about its impact on the structure or the pressure it would bring to bear on common areas and amenities. Another one doubled the number of tenants. A third demolished a part of the staircase (a classic period piece), to put up an elevator shaft, wholly uncalled for in a place where everyone was able to manage with the steps. The common area has since become a garbage dump with nobody being certain as to who owns it, each wanting it for him/herself. When MMM visited the place last week, he was shocked to see the building rapidly going to seed. What had withstood the vagaries of nature was not proof to plain greed. And that is the way the cookie crumbles.
The Dance of Royalty
Our political class is not exactly known for its patronage of arts, or at least the classical arts. And when they do evince interest, they are careful to let it be known that they prefer the regional variety, most likely with an eye on votes. And therefore conceive of the Man from Madras Musings’ astonishment when down TTK Road he noticed a rash of posters, kiosks, (temporary) hoardings and what have you, all announcing a dance of a North Indian variety, to be performed by a lady with a distinctly East Indian name. Members of Parliament, local leaders, actors and others were to be a part of the event, or so MMM was given to believe, at least from the plethora of what was on the walls. As the date for the event drew closer, the posters and other publicity material grew in number and the encomiums became more flowery. One of these even welcomed “Her Highness”. There were photos galore of the performer and even larger ones of those who probably funded the publicity material. Realising full well that D(ance) Day, would have a score of VIPs dancing attention on her, which meant a mammoth traffic jam, MMM stayed clear of the venue, preferring to read a good book. But all the while a question stayed at the back of his mind, as to why all this tamasha over a name from far-away lands.
The next day, MMM was driving down the same road and noticed that several of the hoardings, what with their temporary nature, had begun to bend over, adopting terpsichorean poses. That meant some of the finer print was easier on the eye. And it was from one of these that MMM learnt that Her Highness was related in some way to the holder of one of the most powerful portfolios in the Union Cabinet. All was clear, as was the road. MMM drove on. Now who said that Kolkata is the cultural capital?
Those coming from abroad have often marveled at our traffic. Some have compared it to an adventure ride, others have called it a functioning anarchy and yet others have forecast doom just around the corner. But then we all live on hope and doom has not yet struck, though it is imminent.
But what strikes the Man from Madras Musings is that road rage has come to stay and when vehicles pass each other, the drivers exchange abuse and not greetings. And the expressions thus uttered or should MMM say hurled, often have to do with the animal kingdom. People are referred to as dogs, or pigs and in case they do not move, as buffaloes. MMM however feels that all these are inappropriate comparisons, for he is yet to see an animal on our roads whose behaviour is not exemplary.
Take the cow for instance. Have you ever seen it blocking a road? It invariably rests only on medians or at the periphery. Ditto the buffalo. As for the dog, MMM has to admit that it frequently crosses the road, but when it does, nobody can accuse it of jaywalking. It looks to its left, its right and then left again before it goes to the other side, a practice that the two-legged variety rarely adopts. And when these four-legged creatures, having crossed midway realise that the oncoming traffic is too much for them, they immediately retrace their steps, something that our four-wheelers are reluctant to do. As for pigs, MMM would think they were doing us all a favour by scavenging what we indiscriminately throw everywhere and then wonder as to how that happened and what could be done with it. And have you ever seen any animal bark, low, snort, moo or roar at the traffic? Never, even those equipped with horns (what an awful pun). Do they ever cover their ears with muffs or stick plugs into them while on the roads? No. Are they intolerant of anyone else on the road? Not at all. Very well then, MMM rests his case.