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VOL. XXIV NO. 14, November 1-15, 2014
Short 'N' Snappy

Much ado over a rainy day

Years ago, when The Man from Madras Musings was a Cherubic Child of Calcutta, his father had done the rounds seeking admission for him (by which MMM means MMM and not his father) at various schools in the latter city. A missionary institution with a vast campus, named after the Apostle of Madras, was willing to give him a seat. But what made MMM’s pater pull his son out at the last minute was a signboard in the campus. Addressed to parents, it advised them to take a certain pathway “for the safety of their child.” This some wag had turned to face in the direction of a deep and reed-infested pond. MMM’s father, no doubt knowing his Hamlet and of what happened to Ophelia therein, withdrew his ward at once, who then went on to be the leading curse of another school but in a smaller and more concrete-covered campus.

This incident came back rather vividly to MMM’s mind recently when it poured cats and dogs in our usually rain-short city. Undounted by the rain, MMM decided to honour his commitment to attend an event that was being held at a college deep in the southern fringes of the metro that we know so well. Arriving by noon at the place, MMM was asked by the security to drive on. MMM obeyed and drove on until he came to a fork. A signboard bearing the legend “No Entry” very clearly declared the road on the left to be out of bounds and, so, deducing from this that the road on the right was the only way, MMM went ahead.

Sailed may have been the mot juste, for what lay on the right was a vast sheet of water. But you know how it is, what with working for the Chief and walking hand-in-hand in life with the One who is also known as She Who Must Be Obeyed, MMM never questions instructions. In that he is more or less like any member of the Light Brigade. And so he went ahead. It was only after driving on for some time that MMM realised that the waters were rising and the wheels of his car were making squelching noises, thereby indicating that they were negotiating what may well have been a tank bed.

Lord Ullin’s Daughter was the poem that came to MMM’s mind (The waters wild went over his child etc) and he decided to reverse, not wanting to be discovered the next day like the Scottish peer’s daughter with one hand stretched for aid. The reversing through water was an adventure by itself but MMM will not bore you with the details. Many prayers and much effort later, MMM and car reached dry land. MMM made it to the event late what with all these water sports en route. In contrast to MMM’s rather bedraggled appearance, everyone else there was shipshape.

It was then that MMM discovered that everyone else had happily driven through the road on the left, disregarding the No Entry sign. Like Robert Frost, they had taken the road less travelled and been successful, while MMM, conformist that he is, had nearly come to a watery end. In Chennai, or for that matter anywhere in India, it pays to overlook road signs and traffic signals.

On rains & drains

The Rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain is a well-known song. In Chennai, rains are somewhat of a rarity but when they do come, they stay on the plain too, rarely making it to the drain. To the mind of The Man from Madras Musings, there are some areas in the city where gondolas need to be pressed into service as soon as it rains.

One such is this thoroughfare in Royapettah that connects to a rather important office. This road gets locked, sorry, blocked on most days for reasons of security and, so, drainage work is next to impossible. As a consequence, it is always ill-prepared for the rains and floods that almost immediately follow. This time it was no different.

The day after the rains, MMM happened to be driving by when traffic came to a halt. MMM’s car remained stationary for over fifteen minutes at the entrance to this road and he got a ringside view of how the Chennai Water Supply and Sewerage Board (or is it the Corporation) handles such situations. The police obliged by putting up the usual metal barricades of which they appear to have plentiful supply. A huge tanker lorry then pushed its way through the traffic, liberally spraying everyone around with the stagnant water. A short while later, the vehicle was brought to position after much shouting, yelling, cursing and swearing, of which we are as amply blessed as we are with metal barricades.

Four raincoated men now got out, their gumboots making for an impressive display as they waded about. MMM felt proud to see them. Chennai was becoming like Singapore, he thought, with its drain workers being so well dressed. But it went steadily downhill from there onwards.

Locating the blocked manhole proved a challenge and involved asking an evidently lower level worker (less fully clad) to grope for it. When discovered, it was opened with much effort. A tree trunk was shoved in as a marker and then a hose was reeled out from the tanker to pump out the water. Either the pressure was too high or the hose was of a sound vintage, for it immediately broke into three (or possibly four) pieces. The groping routine was repeated to locate the pieces, which then had to be tied together with rags. In the meanwhile, the water pressure was so high that it spouted up in a powerful jet, drenching everyone, that is those who had been spared by the tanker when it made its entry.

Fixing the hose after it was reassembled was a difficult task, as the water would keep pushing it away. And even when it was put into position, it kept breaking up. By then the traffic had begun to move. Last seen, MMM noticed one of the men sitting on the hose to contain the pressure while others were trying to fit the other pieces to it.

As is always the case, there were plenty of passers-by who did their bit, namely shouting advice, giving a running commentary of sorts, and generally passing the time of the day. What MMM was not prepared for was a foreigner taking pictures on his ipad. MMM looks forward to the day when he will be able to see how the story ended, probably in a video on Youtube.


Now, who could be living here (below), The Man from Madras Musings wonders.


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In this issue

The sad state of our roads
Madras Landmarks - 50 years ago
Welcome sensitising of temple restorers
The early days of the I.A.S.
Madras beginnings of Hindi Prachar
Trying to save Jerdon's Courser
Advertising goes outdoors
Answering the need of the hour?
Studying during those 'Quit India' days

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Readers Write
Quizzin' With Ram'nan
Dates for Your Diary


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