Can you believe that an area with such a name really exists in this, our city? The Man from Madras Musings would have also been incredulous had he not had the opportunity to visit the place a couple of times previously. But then, Madras has no dearth of funny names. How else can you account for a place called the Belly Area? It has a housing colony in it that rejoices in the name of Belly Court. Or for that matter have you heard of BRA Road and SOB Street? We also have ROB Street that leads to a bank!
MMM has puzzled for long as to how Baby Nagar acquired its name. Having no success in his researches, he finally decided that it must be because reaching it from any part of the city, unless you are already in Baby Nagar, in which case you don’t count, takes so long that it feels like nine months. It could also be because pregnant women, if driven at great speed across its rutted and pitted roads, could be induced into labour. But be that as it may, some developer of land decided that the colony that he was laying out would be known as Baby Nagar and that was it. MMM is sure that if this person was asked ‘why Baby Nagar’, he would most likely reply with a ‘Why not’. Perhaps he was also fond of infants.
Whatever the reason, MMM is certain that it is a very embarrassing address to give out. Imagine being in a social gathering and the conversation turns to places where people stay. The majority give out names such as Mylapore, Triplicane, Purasawalkam, etc, then pipes up a lone voice that says Baby Nagar. There is a dead silence followed by hurried and loud conversation even as the person who said Baby Nagar slinks out into the grim outside world and from there moves on to Baby Nagar. There is also the other question, do residents of Baby Nagar refer to themselves as Infants? And is their municipal councillor Peter Pan?
These and other questions of similar pith and moment jostled MMM’s brain as he drove to Baby Nagar one evening. For those who do not know, it is close to Velachery, another locality that lots of people in the older parts of Chennai know about but have never visited. MMM has, and let him tell you that there is nothing to be afraid of. The natives are friendly and you can spend the night there in case you so feel like it. MMM had, however, no such intention; his visit to Baby Nagar was mainly to attend a concert in which his favourite singer was performing. The event was scheduled for 6.30 pm and MMM set off a couple of hours earlier, but at the time when the curtains would no doubt have been rising, he was still a good two kilometres away. In short, MMM would arrive late, rather like a full-term baby that decides to stay on some extra time in its mother’s womb.
Reaching Baby Nagar, MMM’s mind came up with another possible reason for the area’s name. Its entire layout reflected the infantile capabilities of our city planners. This is a new area and you would expect it to have broad roads, sidewalks, proper street lighting, underground ducting and street signs. Not one of these was in existence. For good measure, you also had huge gaps in what must have once been a pavement, giving you direct access to the drains -below. Now these are all supposed to be problems associated with old localities, planned at a time when the horse carriage abounded. What prevented the planners from laying out localities such as Baby Nagar in a better way? There is, however, no doubt that the place lends itself to adventure sports.