The Man from Madras Musings has just returned from far off lands and among his first resolutions even as the aircraft touched the Chennai tarmac was to not write anything comparing foreign and local roads. He need not have worried. For all the principal thoroughfares in Chengai (or is it Chingapore) looked truly wonderful. They were tarred afresh and what’s more had gleaming, self-luminescent and reflective what-nots (MMM is not aware of the correct term for these things and so will refer to them henceforth as GSLRWN) pasted all along the borders, the central median and the lane separators. They winked and twinkled to such an extent that MMM assumed they were part of the publicity campaign for a film titled Bling Is King.

Closer inspection of the edges revealed that this was as slap dash an effort as any other that our civic agencies specialise in. They reminded MMM of a Viceroy’s Journal from the past where the potentate is invited to inaugurate a hospital up north and finds on arrival that only the façade is ready, the rest no doubt not being of any consequence once the grandiose opening was done with. The same applied to our roads as well. The first set of rains post the GIM, and the tar began to open up and reveal all the cracks within. Even the GSLRWNs looked a trifle jaded. Several had moved out of alignment, having been pasted when the tar was still wet and so not having had time to set in their proper places. Clearly the bling was not allowed to cling.

It was, however, the liberal usage of yellow paint that was a dead giveaway. MMM had half expected that this colour of the sun would be vetoed for road signs and replaced with that of tender leaves but he presumes that this idea may have been given up out of considerations of visibility. And so yellow and white colours were used to mark the borders of the lanes. This however was done in such a hurry that nobody noticed anything amiss in the wrong usage of the paints. Internationally, as MMM understands them, a yellow line is marked to separate traffic flowing into two diametrically opposite directions and no turning is permitted over a solid yellow line. A solid white line signifies a lane on one side a road, and there may be many such lines indicating many lanes of traffic flowing in one direction. A dotted white line indicates cars can shift between lanes.

None of these have any meaning in Chennai anyway, for cars, or that matter buses, autos, rickshaws, trucks, motorcyclists and bikers, can weave their way in and out among lanes, across lanes and even across opposite directions of traffic. And perhaps this is what sprang to the mind of whoever painted the lines on the roads. The yellow was liberally used to divide lanes going along the same side of the road and the white was used to mark the central median that separates traffic moving in opposite directions. MMM assumes that the global investors were too traumatised by our traffic to notice and had probably shut their eyes in prayer each time they travelled. But if they been brave enough to look around, they would have seen the strange road markings and possibly assumed these to be the reasons behind the chaos.

The one sign incidentally that was never marked, was the zebra crossing. But that does not really matter anyway.