Oh, for those four letters!
The Man from Madras Musings learns that heritage buildings in our city are a pretty depressed lot. And why not, for they have much to cavil about. But the latest development (always a wrong word when used in connection with a heritage building for it conjures up visions of multi-storied concrete and glass structures) has to do with the lavish attention, care and speed with which a couple of rounded structures, that have a four-letter palindrome as their prefix, are being ‘restored’ to their original glory.
MMM learns that late at night, when the city falls relatively silent, these structures whisper to each other and one such whispering session had them wishing that even if one-hundredth of the attention, care and speed had been focussed on them, they would have been better off. What has irked the heritage structures is that the two arches have even managed to bend flyover routes to ensure their continuance. That is something that the rest have not managed to do in the case of the Metrorail, which continues to dig deep into their innards.
It is also reliably learnt that all the heritage buildings in the city are willing to change their names by deed, poll or any other legally recognised method to include the same four-letter palindrome as a prefix. Thus we can have **** House, **** Public Hall, **** Insurance Building, **** Palace and so on. If only this could ensure some attention, including site visits by a leader identified with yet another four-letter palindrome, known for conducting all other site visits the e-way!
Apparently, it was left to the **** University building to knock some sense into this wishful session. The **** does not always ensure safety, it said. It cited the case of a **** Centenary Library in its neighbourhood which even now operates with the threat of conversion into a hospital hanging over its head.
The restoration of these four-star arches has strangely enough brought about unanimity between the Government and the Opposition. The leader who is out in the cold and who rejoices under the title of artiste (which did not prevent the demolition of five heritage structures in one fell swoop when artiste was in power) did not indulge in the usual criticisms beyond flaying the original decision to demolish the arches. To which the present incumbent replied sharply that artiste ought to know of administrative processes and if artiste thought that the demolition of arches was decided at the highest levels of power, artiste was indulging in some artistic licence. That has stymied artiste for the nonce, but MMM is strongly of the view that several more such sparring bouts are in the offing.
That said, MMM notes that the decision to save the two arches and “thereby our heritage” has come in for high praise from the party faithful. Posters were put up commending palindrome leader for saving the arches commemorating the earlier palindrome leader. The artiste party abstained from this. But then artiste party was against posters on arterial roads anyway.
Last heard, the arches are being restored at enormous costs. But then how does that matter when our heritage is at stake?
What is also in season is a plethora of posters lamenting the passing away of various citizens of Chennai. It is the considered opinion of The Man from Madras Musings that printing and pasting such posters is a lamentable (pun fully intended) aspect of Chennai culture. Barely has a person gone to yonder blue than his relatives put out posters depicting two tearful eyes and the picture of the dear departed in the middle. Sometimes, to add variety there are also a couple of lit lamps though the significance of those lamps is beyond the simple comprehension of MMM.
These posters are also great levellers. The same design is used no matter whether the one who symbolically kicked the bucket is from the higher echelons of society or from the local slum. Just goes to show how democratic we are. But that is not the end of the story.
Encouraged by what can only be termed as popular demand, the posters are now being churned out for first, second and several more anniversaries as well. What MMM fails to understand is how or why such public displays are deemed to be respectful to those who passed away.
Cost of nature’s call
The Man from Madras Musings was recently away on an overseas visit and his travel itinerary included a land that, till not so long ago, had a rather vast empire on which the sun never set. Now things have changed. They are in vastly reduced circumstances which no doubt prompted the authorities to charge for the use of public toilets.
As MMM walked by, he could not help overhearing a loud lamentation in Tamil that it was preposterous that Rs. 25/50 (the equivalent of 30 Pence) was being charged for what would technically be termed a single in our city. To which the companion of the lamenter said, rather wistfully, that back home in Chennai a person could go about the business for free with a tree or a compound wall thrown in as a part of the complimentary service.
These are difficult times and The Man from Madras Musings cannot write about even matters as simple as table manners before receiving an earful on the poor taste of it all. And so how would it be if MMM joked on matters medical? MMM shudders. But then how can he hide gems such as this message that states that the writer had an “engyoplaty with two stunts in the heart”? Haha, what!