The Man from Madras Musings who used to run, run and run to places, has over the years slowed down to walk, walk and walk. But in the last month or so, he has been pretty much grounded – a knee is not what it used to be. And so he has had plenty of time to look out of his verandah and see life go by. And sometimes he wishes he did not see what he saw.

Most significant among the sights of this kind is a shuffling gent with a massive paunch and a high-society dog – the kind that has a passport of its own, traces its pedigree to an ancient clan somewhere in the Swiss Alps, and goes to a spa for its nails and hair, not to forget the weekly massage and shampoo as well. The gent, incidentally, is known to hold forth on how organised things are abroad, how clean the roads are, and how broad the pavements are. He is, in short, of the view that things could be a lot better in ‘namma’ Chennai.

What would you imagine such a man to be? A pillar of society? The kind that writes letters to newspapers beginning with the lines “Dear Sir, Are you aware” or “Apropos the article on” etc? In short, a man with a social conscience. And you would not be far wrong. Yet, it is this same person who, while walking his dog, allows the animal to defecate in some of the most strategic spots – a broad bit of surviving pavement where newspaper vendors gather each morning, a tree under which pedestrians rest a while for some respite from the relentless sun, and a sharp corner while turning which people cannot notice the mess on the ground and are likely to step or, even worse, skid on it. And having allowed his dog to do its bit for natural manure, he and the pet move on, the latter sniffing at car tyres, and the former arching his nose and sniffing in disgust at the stench from a nearby garbage dump. In his view the garbage cleaners are not doing their job properly. Let MMM assure you that this pet owner is not alone in this kind of behaviour.

What amazes MMM is that this is the kind of person who travels abroad frequently. If not for anything else, he must have been there to procure his pet. While there, he must have observed that pet-owners carry a cleaning kit when they take the animal for a walk. This comprises a brush, a trowel and a plastic bag. After the dog completes its business, they shovel everything into the bag which is then dropped into the nearest garbage bin. Why can’t the so-called educated elite adopt the same practice here? Is public cleanliness and civic sense only for the lower classes and the conservancy worker?