IMG_0310The Man from Madras Musings expresses his apologies upfront for putting up this photograph of a broken urinal. But what with all the Swachh Bharat talk in the air, MMM feels that the plight of this particular urinal has to be highlighted. (Chief – please do not reject. By publishing this you will be doing the nation a favour.)

The featured urinal is part of the modern series that is placed at random spots across the city. These are very simple and, if MMM may say so, rather elegant structures – two partitions with swinging doors, and a urinal inside each cubicle. The doors feature a chubby child in the act of relieving itself, rather reminiscent of the Manneken Pis statue in Brussels. It is MMM’s view that the Corporation has featured this image to make us all feel that Chennai is truly world class. It is also MMM’s opinion that the picture is the closest that we will ever get to being an international city, at least as far as hygiene and civic sense is concerned.

But to get back to the photo. The toilet was installed next to the MRTS station that is close to a city district named after a business baron who was also into education and was given a knighthood and the Indian title of king. The station actually stands on the Buckingham Canal! MMM is not certain if the premises have toilets, but that would have never made any difference to the commuting public who happily relieved themselves in the canal. The area near the station is (but naturally) a garbage dump.

This is where the Corporation placed its urinals. For two days all went well. Some commuters actually used them while the rest continued their patronage of the canal. The neighbourhood, however, then took matters in hand. Probably considering a toilet in its vicinity to be infra dig to its social status and preferring the garbage dump, it is continuing to throw all the refuse and litter in the area around the toilet. That naturally prevented the few who wanted to use it from even accessing it. They joined the others who continued using the canal anyway.

It was then that a few like MMM feebly protested to those who littered the place and suggested that they could probably put their rubbish into the bins that the Corporation had placed not much further away. This was not received well. One local tough said that the spot had been a dump from before the time the MRTS even made its appearance. As for the toilet, it was a mere Johnny Come Lately. So where was the question of shifting the rubbish? Complaints to the Corporation’s local office helped to an extent – the garbage was cleared twice a day thereby keeping the toilet accessible.

That was until a local corporate technology giant found this an ideal spot to park its buses. These vehicles completely hid the toilet from view. Not that it mattered any more, for, by then, everyone was using the canal anyway. Matters remained thus till a couple of days ago, when MMM while driving by noticed that the buses had gone, but the garbage was back. And what else should MMM see but that one of the urinal pans was broken. Someone had obviously worked hard at it, for it is only with considerable force could the porcelain be broken this way. From here, as MMM envisages it, it is all steadily downhill. The pans will fall off, the doors will be stolen, and then the shell will remain, to be put to other use. It may even become a shelter for squatters.

But why worry? We have the canal anyway.