And so the highest in the land arrived and gave a speech in the outskirts (and mercifully not in the middle of the city thereby causing traffic jams) of Chennai that was Madras. The Man from Madras Musings notes that he, the Numero Uno that is, reiterated his Government’s decision to rename Central Station after the iconic matinee idol turned politician who remained Chief Minister of our State for ten long years.
The general public has remained largely indifferent to the announcement – apart from the usual unproductive handwringing on social media that is. A friend declared to MMM that this was all political opportunism. Who says Anna or Kamaraj airport, asked she. People will just refer to it as Central Station, she opined. MMM does not agree. This was the same attitude when in 1996 Madras, a word of doubtful parentage became Chennai, a clearly Telugu word that suddenly was presented as Tamil. Today it is an accepted name across the State with just a few diehards like the Chief sticking to Madras. And so MGR Station it will eventually become. That has resulted in the second son of the archrival of MGR demanding that Egmore be named after his father. That too will come to pass. It all depends on electoral alliances and mathematics.
But all of this brought to mind an incident that happened several years ago when MMM, then a mere mmm, travelled by the old metre-gauge first class coach to Trichy, along with his parents and grandmother. The last named was the relict of a senior railway officer and had believed ever since that anything that went about on wheels over a track, together with all appurtenances including stations and staff, was her personal property.
First class cubicles of the metre gauge trains were rooms unto themselves. Four berths were arranged all around a central space. A bathroom complete with shower was attached and each cubicle had separate doors for independent access to the platform. We had barely boarded and deposited all our luggage, Grandmother’s being considerable, when a policeman came in and said that the neighbouring cubicle was to be occupied by the Chief Minister (yes, in those days CMs were like us people and travelled by train). We were requested not to get off the train at Trichy until he had left.
Grandmother fretted and fumed at this. In her time she had made trains wait, she declared. Who was this politician who dared dictate terms to us? Was this what we fought independence for? Grandmother viewed all Dravidian parties with suspicion and branded them as Communists, which term in her opinion defined all that was evil in politics.
Anyway, everyone went off to sleep and early next morning the train arrived at Trichy. Glancing out of the coach we perceived several of the party faithful waiting with garlands. Slogans rent the air. Grandmother had a vantage point, for seated on her berth she could see all the happenings. A short while later, MGR leapt off the train in the manner in which he would get off a horse in his films. The sloganeering became louder. Garlands were pressed into his hands. The great leader hated anyone putting them around his neck as they could dislodge his cap and wig. Grandmother glowered at the going on.
Suddenly MGR turned around. It is MMM’s theory that Grandmother’s eyes, like laser beams, were boring holes into MGR’s neck and so he looked back to investigate. He saw Grandmother and came bounding across – it was said he knew how to milk a situation involving any old woman. He beamed at her. He held her hand through the railings and pressed it to his forehead. The cheers were now deafening. He was then gone.
“What a handsome man,” declared Grandmother. “And a complexion like gold. It is a reflection of his innate goodness. And what charming manners.” A fan was born. MMM thinks his Grandmom will approve of the name change.
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What an anecdote – the Matinee idol turned Politician sure knew how to win over women, even if they were not his fans initially ! As for renaming the Central station, it is doubtful if people would refer to it by its rechristened sobriquet, except for the diehard fans of the Matinee Idol turned Politician or his party faithful or those who are forced by threats or coercion. In short, Central it shall be, with no disrespect to the one after whom it is proposed to be renamed. Are three initials as a prefix to the station, not easier to manage, than the new name bestowed upon main station of the neighbouring Bangalore, sorry – Bengaluru (Northies refer to it incorrectly as Bangaluru which is neither here nor there), which is after a valiant Chieftain of a kingdom, along with honorific and reverential prefixes. That said, those in that city still refer to the main station by invoking the name of a movie hall even till today and so much for renaming, as some habits die hard. Atleast the personalities after whom transport hubs are being named in Madras differ, rather than being uniformly named after a heroic Maharaj in Western India’s biggest city.
On a separate note, despite the affection from MMM for the Prime Minister being undisguised and as warm as the Arctic, it may still need to be pointed that the highest in the land is the First Citizen who is the President of India though many in Tamilnadu blame everything, including sunshine or rain or anything in between, on Modi by habit and tons of prejudice.
what a great story!
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