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(ARCHIVE) Vol. Vol. XVIII No. 19, january 16-31, 2009
Short 'N' Snappy

Catching up with Police parables

Our police, on whom may there be peace, having more or less given up methods of physically controlling the traffic, have begun targeting our minds instead. The Man from Madras Musings has been on his rounds and has noticed words of wisdom being flashed at him from various traffic ­signals. The old chestnut is of course the one word – ­RELAX – which shines forth like a beacon from the red light. You are expected to do that when the motorcyclist behind you, thinking he can make it across the signal and then realising it is too late, crashes into your bumper. You are also expected to relax when the autorickshaw driver behind you gives you a look of contempt for not jumping the signal and carrying on regardless of the lights, thereby enabling him to follow suit. And you are also expected to relax when the policeman at the signal impatiently signals you to keep moving even if the lights have turned red, for you have not noticed behind you the important government car with a more important red light flashing from its hood and a most impatient driver, that you have been blocking from its onward journey. Many years ago, MMM, when a cherubic child, had learnt the following nursery rhyme:

Stop says the red light,
Go says the green,
Change says the amber light,
Twinkling in between.

(There was some gobble­deygook following this about how we must all obey them, even the king, but this is a democracy where everyone is above such laws and so let us leave those lines aside.)

For Government cars this should read

Go says the red light,
Race says the green,
Charge says the amber light,
And ram what is in between.

MMM can see the Chief armed with red pencil and muttering under his breath about people who write yards on yarns and never come to the point, so let us get back to the parables. At the Connemara signal there is a message which says that if we only ran our cars at a constant speed of 30 kmph we could save as much as 20% fuel. MMM would certainly love to do this. But what about the others on the road whose sole purpose in life appears to be to prevent MMM from reaching that magic figure of 30 kmph? How does MMM achieve such a high speed when there are potholes and also boulders from medians that have deviated from the mode and are meanly waiting to crash into vehicles? And what about the general traffic indiscipline and the politician who does not think twice before organising a rally and putting everyone on an eternal wait? And what about the non-coordinated traffic lights which make you stop at every junction? MMM thinks 30 kmph is meant only for those who travel in government cars with red lights. For it is only they who can keep cruising along at a constant speed. But the problem is that these vehicles travel at much higher speeds. As for MMM, he rarely reaches 20 kmph and so there he will remain – a lowly life.

At the Anna Nagar crossing, MMM notices, you have a series of messages flashed at you. Each one is worded in English that is meant to amuse, entertain and, therefore, uplift. Unfortunately, just as MMM was beginning to note down each howler as it flashed across the lights, the policeman signalled MMM to move on, for could he not see another red light flashing behind? And so those of you who are hanging on to MMM’s every word must now wait till he passes by that signal once again. Or, better still, you can go there and check the messages out yourself. Nothing like experiencing a joke in the first person.

It was but a short while ago that the police installed timers on traffic lights which would inform those pawing on the accelerator as to how many more seconds they would have to wait before the lights changed. These lights in MMM’s view served more to relax than anything else, as people had a clear idea on the time left. Of late, these timers have ceased to work at most locations barring the VIP routes and nobody except the company that supplied the timers and (hopefully) collected the money is happy. Why don’t the police get these working again? But, then, inaugurations with fanfare make it to the headlines. Routine maintenance (or lack of it) never does.

Holy man’s holiday

In these days of economic recession and gloom and doom, The Man from Madras Musings often worries about his choice of profession and as to what the future holds for it. Did he choose wisely, asks MMM of himself, and the answer is sometimes a ‘yes’ and at other times a resounding ‘no’. On looking around, MMM takes the view that he made as good a choice as any. But there are days when this equanimity is shaken.

Take, for instance, the other day when MMM found himself at a mofussil airport. Security was tight and even the air let in to the building was being frisked or so it appeared, for the heat was intense. Everyone was asked if he/she was really he/she and several proofs of identity were demanded and each scrutinised with the greatest suspicion. That was till His Holiness (HH) appeared. He was followed by a huge throng and all of them were let in, no doubt their badges identifying them to be HH’s faithful flock being proof enough. HH blessed a seat with his posterior and immediately all of his devotees sat around, with the white-skinned among them kneeling forward so as not to miss a single word that fell from the august lips. An informal séance of sorts was conducted while some minions checked in HH and his entourage. Those who could not be accommodated in the near vicinity were allowed to gaze down from a verandah overhead.

MMM, given his vulgar and rather shameless curiosity, hung around to hear what was being said, but HH spoke in low tones and was heard only by the blessed. Time hangs heavy in mofussil airports and the arrival of HH was good entertainment value for the security guards, the stevedores, the bored shop assistants and others. When security check was announced, we sinners formed a queue but were ordered to stand aside while HH went in and, no doubt, duly blessed those on duty. His entourage, too, received preferred treatment while those who had come to see him off shouted chants and cheered. This time MMM was too quick and managed to find himself a seat just behind HH in the departure lounge. The faithful objected with many looks and grimaces but then nothing could be done and, so, MMM was tolerated. In such close proximity MMM managed to hang on to every word. The benediction largely dealt with HH’s proposed tour of the Americas. The visa difficulties were discussed in full and one of the devotees promised to arrange matters through the fifth cousin of the niece of his wife who could manage an interview. He was duly blessed and the chagrin on the faces of the others had to be seen to be believed. Then came the final pronouncement before boarding was announced. HH was clear as to his choice of airline. Only Virgin Atlantic would do, he said. There we parted, for HH travelled business class while MMM slummed it at the rear along with the devotees who could obviously not share HH’s air space.

And now, MMM knows what he missed. His grandmother had always advised MMM to be pure and holy and MMM, who was anything but that, missed a golden opportunity. Grandma knew best.


In this issue

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Improve Central Station...
If Bogota can do it...
The freedom struggle...
Historic residences...
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