What we could teach Obama
Our city is just recover-ing from the excitement of the US elections. In the view of The Man from Madras Musings, those who never vote in local elections were following the campaign trails of Obama and Romney. They also devoured every word that was spoken on the subject in our own media. TV channels organised debates, analysis and big fights even as anchors weighed in knowledgeably on States that swung and those that did not. Those who wouldn’t know of Nanganallur suddenly spoke with authority on Nebraska. They just stopped short of voting. MMM would not be surprised if special prayers were organised at shrines.
But at the end of it all, MMM was left with a sense of disappointment. Not that he is a rabid Romney-ite. It was just that the US election results did not have the kind of reaction that our results would have in our own city. It was like climbing up a stairway only to find that the last step was not there.
Imagine if this had been fought between our contenders and one had won. Would the victor have simply made a speech and, above all (horror of horrors), shaken hands with the opponent? Obama, in MMM’s view, lacks finesse. Why was no victory procession held? Why was the traffic not blocked on arterial roads even as convoys of cars, trucks and buses laden with the faithful not make it to a chosen venue where the chosen one publicly thanked everyone for having the necessary faith? And what about jeeps, SUVs and motorbikes careening down side-streets with thugs shouting the usual screams of victory amidst bursting of crackers and distribution of sweets? And surely Obama ought to know that victory is not complete without plastering city walls with posters thanking the public for voting him. He also should have had cut-outs and digital hoardings put up at important traffic junctions, positioned in such a fashion that the lights were made completely invisible. Where were the banners and pennants? And above all, where was the promise to hold commissions of enquiry against those who dared oppose him? Surely this man is a mere babe in the woods when it comes to politics. We could have taught him all this and much more.
Mind you, the man begins his second term under a severe handicap. He continues to remain in office and so he cannot blame the previous administration for all the problems that he faces. But never mind, he can always blame the opposition for scuttling his pet schemes. And there is the other drawback. He cannot stand for a third term. Some foolish law made by a man called Washington who probably did not have children and so did not recognise the potential of a good office when offered one. But then four years is a long term in office and hopefully he will make good use of it. Politicians from across the world are looking to the Oval Office for inspiration.
MMM, however, feels that Obama is making the correct noises. He has in his victory speech said that USA is one family and will rise as a nation. That is something most of the dynastic politicians out here would understand at once.
Echo from Jericho?
Was that not the town that was built around natural waterbodies and so had most of its houses on stilts? Well, our own Chennai has gone a step further and has for years built in the middle of lakes and rivers. The Man from Madras Musings requests you to just cast your eyes around. The MRTS and the elevated road from Maduravoyal to the port are both on riverbeds. A number of housing colonies have sprung up on lakes, not all of them illegal, mind you – Nungambakkam and T’Nagar were, after all, constructed by draining water-bodies. But then they were probably planned well, unlike the ones that have come up later. And evidence of the poor execution is manifest in the way these areas flood when it rains. In summer, what is left of the lake (if something is indeed left of it) lies at the bottom of the colony. During the monsoon, the colony lies at the bottom of the lake.
Such repeated floodings, though of great joy and cheer to the ancient Egyptians, do not bring smiles to the Chennaiites (somehow Madrasi was a lot easier on the eye and the tongue) who have chosen to build on lakebeds. And such distressed people are exactly what opposition-run television channels are on the look-out for during the monsoons to buttress their claims that those in power are doing nothing to mitigate the problem. And so when Nilam was blowing Chennai cross-eyed and when there was nothing to do beyond watching television, MMM did nothing else but see these interviews.
The camera pans to what seems a vast inland sea. Bobbing in the middle is a couple of marooned houses. The announcer then states that we are at some Nagar or Puram (which in MMM’s view must have been an Eri or Kulam), which is bearing the brunt of the floods. The poor in particular, states the announcer, have never had it so bad. And then he also adds for good measure that those in power are behaving like Nero or the lady who asked everyone to eat cake. The announcer then proceeds to interview a few of the distressed.
What struck MMM most was that all these people looked remarkably well-fed. Rotund would be the mot juste. And bejewelled would be a bon mot as well. Clad in rich raiment would be a third. In fact given the watery circumstances, MMM could not help remember the Bard who, if you recollect, penned the immortal phrase – accoutred as he was, he plunged in. But leaving that aside, almost all these people were clearly coached on the same script. They repeated the same thing, almost with the same punctuation all except one woman. She deviated from the script to say that she was contemplating suicide as no Government official was coming to her place to see the waterlogging.
One naïve anchorperson (who MMM is fairly sure is now looking for a job) asked the suicide-prone as to whether she realised that her house had been built on an erstwhile lake. To that there was no answer.
How long does it take to register a document in the mofussil offices of the Government? If electricity is in full flow then it takes an hour or two. If not, a day. Not so bad you tell yourself – and so did The Man from Madras Musings. But how long does it take for you to get a printout of the document from the same office?
Six months. Evidently, power supply being what it is and printing being a slow process, a huge backlog has been built up and there is what you could call a printer queue. But MMM is sure some enterprising people have found a way to jump the queue. Even electric power needs money power. And grease lubrication too.