New footpath on Westcott Road, pic courtesy Balakesari Komattil

“Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth,” states the Good Book and it never spoke a truer phrase than that, at least going by the way our local administration functions. It was just around a couple of months ago that our State Government announced that it has begun plans for the second phase of Chennai Metro Rail Limited. Several private properties were notified about takeover in part, and it must be admitted that the numbers of these in the second phase are far fewer than the ones in the first phase.

The property in which The Man from Madras Musings has his office was one such, the space acquired being a small portion near the entrance. MMM is quite aware that the access to his office building will be restricted, there will be plenty of dust to contend with, apart from vibrations from drilling and lots of noise. He is also aware that the footpath just outside his office will vanish, albeit temporarily. MMM knows that all this will mean putting up with major inconveniences in the next few years but he is happy to make that sacrifice in the interest of the city. And that was why when some of MMM’s neighbours approached him with the suggestion that a letter of protest be drafted, he advised them to desist. MMM learns that a Metro Station will be constructed just outside his office and he is very happy about it. Having become a user of the Metro’s first phase, especially on the route to and from the airport, MMM is all for it and looks forward to the day when he can board the Metro from his doorstep.

MMM however, is concerned as to where the TNEB, now rejoicing in the name of TANGEDCO, will store its bobbins, cables and worn-out transformers, all of which found this particular sidewalk a convenient space to rest in. Scores of those urinating in public may also be hard pressed but MMM guesses that these are men who can manage anywhere.

When an army of workmen descended on the sidewalk a fortnight ago and began tearing it up with drills, spades and pickaxes, MMM assumed that this was the advance army of the Metro. It therefore surprised him no end when truckloads of pre-cast concrete blocks and paving stones began to be unloaded on the site. MMM decided it was time to make enquiries. He walked across and asked one of the workmen who in turn directed him to a man of supervisory aspect. This official, after having looked at MMM with suspicion, asked if he, MMM was a journalist. When MMM said yes, albeit part time, the man unbent a little. The work was one he said, for laying a new footpath all along the road. The cost he said, ran into lakhs and was an indication of how the State Government cared for its people, something not readily appreciated by journalists.

But what happens to the lovely new footpath once Metro Rail comes along and begins its digging asked MMM. Oh that, said the man, completely unconcerned. That is another department and had nothing to do with him.