Last fortnight’s piece by The Man from Madras Musings on the great thespian’s statue going walkabout resulted in some feedback, the burden of which was that MMM ought not to have rejoiced at its shifting. MMM reserved his judgement on that, but then having all along been a fan of Simply Great (SG), the actor, MMM decided to pay a courtesy call on him in his new home. After all, having enjoyed the breezes of the beach for so long, SG may be feeling rather claustrophobic in his new location by the Adyar, which river, as though in welcome, has been rather extra smelly of late.
And so MMM went to meet SG. The tall gates leading to the memorial were locked and there was no way MMM could have entered, he having never been lissom enough to leaps and bound. Not wanting to be impaled on the spear-shaped grilles, MMM just hung around for a while hoping that some security guard or the other would turn up to let him in. This did not happen. As MMM left, the guard to the neighbouring property sauntered up and advised him to be sure to visit on October 1 next year that being SG’s birthday when, so the guard said, there was sure to be a commemoration of some sort. What of the rest of the year MMM wondered. Well, SG, like so many other Tamil greats, is fated to remain behind locked doors. Which seems a great pity for SG was a man who loved the public and would have been happy if they were allowed to saunter in at will.
On the same vein, MMM could not help reflecting that Chennai as a city is dotted with several memorials of this kind. There is one to the constitution maker, which is not far away from that of SG. This is also locked up on most days. The ones to the father of the nation, his sambandhi who was Governor General and then held a series of other public offices each less important than the previous one, and that of a beloved Chief Minister who put us on the industrial map are all next to each other. These, though open to visitors, hardly see any footfalls and remain for most of the year empty structures. So is that of a leader of the backward classes. This edifice, incidentally, was put up after quite a bit of jingoism on the part of his followers. But they too appear to have forgotten all about it once the building was put up.
All of this is rather sad, at least in MMM’s view. This is a city that is rapidly losing whatever it once possessed by way of commons. Where then are people supposed to go? The beach, once a happy place to congregate in, is now out of bounds for any group that is greater than four in strength, chiefly because there is a fear that the bull people will return. And talking about the bull peoples, MMM wonders as to what happened to them all. Where are those experts on indigenous vs imported cows, and the same breeds of bull on whom whole pages were written in print and social media?
Anyway, to come back to the memorials, it is high time the Government decided to put these places to some use. Yes, MMM is aware that in foreign countries too memorials are what they are meant to be – places honouring the dead. But there they appear to attract several tourists, which is not the case here, especially with gates barred and watchmen chasing people away on all days except birthdays of the dear departed.