The Pregnant Peacock on Avvai Shanmugam Salai

Have you ever seen a heavily pregnant peacock? And by that the Man from Madras Musings does not mean a peahen. Yes sir, and if you want to witness this miracle, all you need to do is to go to Royappettah – to be precise the intersection of Avvai Shanmugam/VP Raman Salai/Lloyds Road and Royapettah High Road/Thiru Vi Ka Salai. There stands a massive sculpture, one of the many that our city administration spends funds on erecting at various important junctions, roundabouts and intersections.

The idea, MMM presumes, is to make sure you don’t fret over the traffic chaos, the non-functioning traffic lights and the ceaseless hooting of horns around you. You see these sculptures, pause mesmerised and forget everything else, until the ceaseless hootings of those around you, and their verbal endearments make you move on. 

There are many such pieces of art around the city for you to feast your eyes on. Somewhere there is a boat, at another place there are some dancers, in yet another are a pair of warriors in combat and by the beach is one of a bull peering into the mouth of an elephant. The last one is not a tribute to dental health but actually a reproduction of an ancient Tamil temple design concept but in the absence of any explanatory plaque around it, most people have come away puzzled. Some have applied to MMM for enlightenment too. 

But this peacock has MMM quite puzzled. It has considerable poundage around its waist; so much so that the stomach seems to touch the ground. Supporting it so that this does not happen are a pair of stout legs, so stout indeed that it is a wonder that the bird, if it were a real one, would move at all. And then it has an uplifted fan of a tail. MMM thinks it could well be a dove or a pigeon but he is not sure. Could it be a tribute to the dodo? 

Whatever it is, it has now been installed at that aforesaid intersection and from there it gazes in a somewhat surfeited fashion at the vehicles that whizz by. For days on end it remained swathed in green sheets, no doubt to protect it from the heat and dust. MMM wonders if someone even makes ceremonial offerings of food to it. It also has a protective shelter above it, something that is denied to statues of even the highest in the land. This then is some special kind of peacock/pigeon. 

Then there came a day when the covers were all off. The peacock was visible to all, in all its glory. That was the day the CM was to declare a road name change in the vicinity. And no doubt the bird had to be at its best during the ceremony. The next day the bird had gone back to being veiled. MMM made enquiries and was told that the Corporation had not yet decided on a formal inauguration of the statue and so was keeping it under wraps.

And why the shelter overhead? That was to prevent other birds from sitting on this bird and defiling it. Clearly this is a bird of exalted status. MMM hopes to be around when it delivers whatever is distending its abdomen – he is quite sure it will be a golden egg. 

More stories of this kind can be read in my book Chennai, A Biography. You can order it here

This article appeared in Madras Musings dated October 1, 2023 and can be read here