How is it at your place? At The Man from Madras Musings’ water is still available on tap. And judging by the way it is, it appears that MMM, his good lady and the rest of the brood will be able to tide over the next few months. But not so the residents of a particular locality which, though upmarket, has the (mis)fortune of being along a road to power. By that MMM means it is a thoroughfare that falls in the route of the Assembly/Secretariat, no matter where that is, and the same route is used by the Numero Uno, no matter who that is.

Consequently MMM learns, no digging of any kind is allowed on that particular road, except for the continual digging that happens at the periphery to erect cutouts and banners. No road work, no inspection of drains and no cable laying of any kind is permitted, year after year, for several years now. None of this really mattered to anyone – drains still functioned after a fashion, the road was as good as any, and as for cables, overhead lines did the trick. But when water stopped, everyone was up in arms. Representations were made and arms twisted but getting permission for a proper dig was impossible. They may as well have been asking for digging up the Fort.

Eventually, after considerable cajoling and what have you, someone relented somewhere. Digging can happen, pronounced a panjandrum, but between 2.00 and 4.00 a.m. only. Within those two hours, the road had to be broken, the errant pipe detected, corrected and closed. This was easier said than done. On the appointed night, or in the wee hours of that morning, the residents were to be found in large numbers, but of the diggers there were none. The supervisor pleaded helplessness. Eventually, two of them appeared. They wove an unsteady route to the spot where the dig was to commence and gave a cursory scratch or two. Someone in the crowd was unwise enough to remark that this way the work would never get done. That was that. The stars took umbrage and downed tools. By the time they were cajoled into working again, the deadline had passed.

Permission was once again applied for and the work continued in slow stages, with the vestiges of the dig being carefully obliterated each morning so that royal progress could remain triumphant and unimpeded. The line was finally detected. It was lowered in depth and closed. Next morning, residents of a neighbouring colony rejoiced. Water had come to them after years. No more dealing with tankers they declared. But, this was not the set of residents who had petitioned for the repair in the first place. They remained as dry as a State with prohibition. On petitioning for water once again, they were told that their water pipe could not be detected. And no, there are no drawings or markings for identification. What did they think this place was? New York?

Dogged pursuit, however, paid off. The earth was opened yet again. This time the police did not help in cordoning off the area. Society ladies manned the road and diverted traffic at 3.00 am while the errant pipe was detected and corrected. All was well that ended well. But MMM cannot help reflecting that it is no wonder that everyone in Chennai looks increasingly haggard these days.