All of you fellow travellers in the Madras Musings time machine will surely be aware of the national poet from our city. By that The Man from Madras Musings refers to the turbaned and mousta­chi­oed figure who has left behind a treasure trove by way of his works, all written within a very short life span filled with tribulations and privations. There are many ways in which our city has honoured this genius (sadly, all of them after his death) and one of these is the naming of various housing colonies after him. At last count there were at least six.
MMM happened to travel to one of these last week and it was an experience that he is unlikely to forget. Firstly, no doubt in keeping with the fact that the poet was persona non grata in our city and had to seek shelter elsewhere for several years, this particular colony bore no signboard announcing its name. MMM had been given a route plan in an email which said that to reach Bharati Nagar he had to drive straight down LB Road (if driving straight down is at all possible on that thoroughfare) and continue till he reached a point where it took a natural turn to its right and, hey presto, there was Bharati Nagar, on his left.
Only, it wasn’t if you get MMM’s meaning. There was a narrow lane which appeared at least like sandy wastes that another national poet from the eastern end of our country once sang of. MMM had to stop his car and make enquiries and this naturally set off a cacophony of blaring horns, all the vehicles at the rear wanting to get ahead. Some drivers wholeheartedly cursed MMM as they passed, but MMM, hardly Chennai-ite that he is, respected them not and let them pass him by like the idle wind.
There was a considerable number of loiterers in the area and this being around 10.00 am, it was clear that they were waiting for the local Tasmac to open up, whereupon their day no doubt became brisk and active, converting all of them into active, contributing men (and some women). Not one had heard of Bharati Nagar, which was perhaps a good thing as far as the poet was concerned. Finally, in desperation MMM had to call the person he had to meet and ask for directions. It transpired, of course, that the narrow lane itself was Bharati Nagar and all MMM had to do was drive further down. As to why the locals did not know of its name is a bit of a mystery. But MMM perhaps ought to give them the benefit of doubt. After all, they could have guided him to the local bar quite well if only he had wanted to go there.
As for Bharati Nagar, it was in many ways a tribute to the poet. His works, it is often said, lift you to the very heights of joy and then can also bring you to the depths of despair, the latter especially when he portrayed social ills. The roads of Bharati Nagar were exactly the same way, full of dales and hills, the kind that once inspired Tennyson (or was it Wordsworth?) to sing of daffodils. If MMM had a queasy stomach he could have easily been seasick the way his vehicle kept lurching forward and back as it negotiated the area. Besides pitching, there was considerable rolling as well, given that the roads were built for pedestrians but had to make do for cars (two lane) at that. At the end of it, MMM and car emerged at their destination, shaken and stirred. Wonder what the national poet would have made of this experience. Given his world class dreams for our country, he would have perhaps shaken his head despondently.