The Man from Madras Musings is no nitpicker, but he is not pleased by what he sees. MMM alludes to the street names that are now being painted in the old style on walls. For a brief while, we had large metal signboards with the thoroughfare’s name in luminescent paint on a blue background and those were of a good standard. But what one administration proposes, another disposes and so the blue boards were abandoned after a good start. We are now back to the old ways.

But what is appalling is the lack of quality in these wall signs. MMM notices that whoever is in charge of these things has not bothered to check spellings – and that includes Tamil and English. There have consequently been several amusing errors that have provided plenty of grist to this column’s mill and for that MMM is eternally grateful. These have pleased the Chief and that makes MMM happy. But on a larger level, these signs are a blot on the landscape. The spelling mistakes apart, there is also no control on the lettering style, size and spacing.

The contracts appear to be awarded to just about anyone who can wield a paintbrush or two. Consequently, some of the signs are mere scrawls that a two-year old could do better. There is also no standard as to the way the signs are positioned. Some are high up on walls, while others are at foot level. And then the dimensions of the panel are also left to the painter’s imagination if he/she can claim to have that. Some are square, others rectangular and some are so thin and long that they remind you of what Euclid said of a line being all length and no width.

Lastly, some are just in Tamil. Given that we now have a sizeable expatriate population as also a good representation of people from other parts of India who may not know the lingua franca, this does not look like a great idea.

At the risk of offending the powers-that-be, MMM has to say that he preferred the blue boards. They were at eye level, stood out and, most importantly, shone in the dark. When you get to MMM’s age, the last aspect becomes particularly important. The wall signs on the other hand are subject to plenty of abuse. Road side stalls can obscure them, posters can cover them and, as most often, they can be defaced – the last by that dedicated band of vandals that our city specialises in, which ensures that no public facility survives intact.

Not that the blue boards have fared any better. The administration having changed, these are no longer protected. Some are standing on one leg, others have simply vanished and some of those that survive have become convenient places for posters to be pasted on. There is one particular signboard on a route that MMM frequents, which has become a location for people to dry clothes on. So much for civic amenities.