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(ARCHIVE) Vol. Vol. XVIII No. 12, october 1-15, 2008
Short 'N' Snappy

A bit of plastic philosophy

“Incredible amount of plastic waste” was the verdict from the CEO of a multinational company that has now dropped anchor in Madras that is Chennai. He made this pronouncement to The Man from Madras Musings (yes, MMM does also get to move in high places at times) during a dinner. The CEO remarked that when he drove to office every day, this was the first thing that struck him. Plastic bags, banners, bottles and other non-biodegradable items that liberally litter our city. Before MMM could respond, a women on the other side of the table (also an expatriate) joined the conversation. She was of the view that this habit of throwing out plastic without any concern for the environment was a strong Indian tradition. She had given considerable thought before coming to this conclusion, she said, and was of the view that this habit originated during the times when most food items in India were wrapped either in leaves, paper or in clay utensils. Throwing away the wrappers and containers in those days was not environment unfriendly. But now that Indians have graduated to plastics, they continue the same practice of disposing these the same way they did leaves, paper or clay.

MMM was not so sure. He could not help thinking of what an Indian seer, now mostly resident in the US, once said. The sage had reflected on the Indian habit of keeping their own homes clean but not giving a damn about the streets or the world at large and then said that it all, perhaps, stemmed from the great philosophical truth that all Indian thought springs from: “I am the Supreme”. Now when “I” am the Supreme, said the knowledgeable one, it naturally follows that the rest of the world does not matter and this is what Indians practise when it comes to garbage disposal. MMM agrees in toto with what the omniscient one said.

Draining the fluids

The Man from Madras Musings hopes that none of his regulars is having his dinner or lunch or breakfast while reading this, but this being the bitter truth, it has to be told no matter how unpalatable it may seem. The philosophy that MMM expounded in the first section of this column also applies to bodily fluids. You just have to walk around Chennai (if you still can manage that near-impossible feat) and see for yourself.

If anyone has a cold, he/she thinks nothing of tweaking his/her nose and going “hnnnh..hnnnh” till temporary relief is achieved. The same applies to those who chew paan, supari, betel-leaf, tobacco and all other variants. Painting the town red appears to be their motto and they do it to the accompaniment of all kinds of gargling noises. Those that drive about in cars have perfected this to a fine art. Even while careening at high speeds, they think nothing about suddenly opening the door, bending low and ensuring that they deposit their red juices on the roads. Then there are those who spit for no reason. But spit they must at the rate of at least one expectoration per two spoken words. And as for those who hear nature calling, what is the nearest compound wall or tree for?

The great dig

The Man from Madras Musings has often heard from the Chief about how the first Great Trigonometric Survey of India began in Madras. In keeping with that tradition, MMM would like to say that the greatest digging works in the country are presently in progress in the heart of Abhiramapuram, plumb-spang in the centre of C.P. Ramaswami Iyer Road no less. What the diggers are hoping to find is not clear, but MMM does not believe that it has anything to do with the drains or cables or gas pipes or whatever those that claim to work on the dig are presently… er… claiming.

MMM is of the view that it has to be buried treasure – either gold or oil. For how else can one explain the fact that the dig has been in progress for almost a year? A large eye-shaped gash has been opened up in the middle of the road and wooden stockades have been erected all around it. What was (or at least claimed to be) a four-lane road now has two half lanes on either side of the excavation. The CMDA or the Corporation or whoever is involved in this journey to the earth’s core has put up a notice on the stockade which states “Road Works in Progress. Take Diversion”.

In MMM’s view, an exclamation mark after “Progress” would be appropriate.

MMM also wonders about the purpose of putting up such a notice on the very edge of the great crater. Anybody in his senses would take a diversion on reaching the spot in any case. It would have been far better to put up these notices at the beginning and the end of the road so that motorists can plan well in advance and use alternative routes. As for the Police who man the road, they do not appear to have noticed the road work at all and simply keep egging the cars and buses on.

The phrase “Take Diversion” appears to have been interpreted literally by some, for they just hang around the place and keep gazing at the pit, no doubt hoping to see oil spring out. That it diverts them is highly commendable, but these hangers-on only add to the chaos. The vehicle users divert themselves by venting their spleen on just about everyone in the vicinity. Garbage too is diverted – into the pit rather than the bins that have been provided. The pit, after all, is a large one and can contain much more than any bin. In short, a good time is had by all. If this is not diversion, then MMM would like to know what is.

The only way to negotiate this stretch is by mounting the long-suffering footpath, which, unused to the continuous battering of heavy tyres, has simply caved in. What amazes MMM is that regular users of the road who know all about the dig continue using the same route and continue cursing the road, the diggers, the others on the road, the unnamed agency that is sponsoring the activity and, no doubt, God, Fate and all other such intangibles.

Monsoon resolution

The Chennai Corporation has announced that in view of the forthcoming monsoons, all road cutting and digging works will be stopped at once. Almost as if on cue, a large swathe of road bordering the Buckingham Canal has been dug and there is plenty of action expected on this stretch with the onset of rains. The Man from Madras Musings is not complaining, for it is on such bungling on a large scale that material for this column depends. If everything was to be hunky-dory, MMM would be on the dole.

Let’s go national!

The Man from Madras Musings has just finished browsing the World Wide Web for national news on the heritage front. Bengaluru that was Bangalore is abuzz with how its lakes are dying out and a Lake Development Authority set up some years ago has done nothing beyond guzzle funds. Pune that was Poona laments the degradation of the rivers Mula and Mutha and laments that those appointed to clean them made moolah. Mumbai that was Bombay is screaming itself hoarse on how a heritage bungalow purchased by a superstar is threatened with all kinds of development. Delhi that was Delhi is once again debating the viability of maintaining the Lutyens bungalows. MMM is of the view that this is the right time to make Madras Musings a national paper. We could call it India Broodings.



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The 'hub and spokes'...
The Parsis of Madras
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