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(ARCHIVE) Vol. XVIII No. 27, may 16-31, 2009
Short 'N' Snappy

So much for foolproof security

Ever since the attacks in Mumbai a few months ago, security has been, as the expression goes, “beefed up” (why not ‘porked up’? Perhaps ‘chickened up’ would not be very appropriate) in most five star hotels in Madras that is Chennai. The most visible aspect is that these homes to hospitality are now behind forbidding gates which swing open rather menacingly when you approach. The Man from Madras Musings has been to a few and taking his role rather seriously (the Chief has complained that MMM is prone to levity) documents what he has experienced.

The moment you enter the hotel compound, the first person who greets you is a man with a floor-level mirror mounted on wheels. He pushes it under your car (presumably this procedure is exempt for Scotsmen in kilts and South Indians in dhoties who come in on roller skates) to examine the possibility of a car bomb in the undercarriage. The other day MMM drove in only to find the man with the mirror standing with his head bowed and deeply gazing at his own reflection rather like Narcissus at the pond, which is where all his troubles began if you recollect. MMM waited patiently for a while, but the man continued admiring himself and MMM can assure you that what there was did not merit a second look; not that MMM is a thing of beauty himself. MMM then ran out of patience and tooted the horn, whereupon the man, coming to himself with a start, lost his grip on the the mirror which being on a slope promptly went by itself under MMM’s car and would have gone on indefinitely had it not been for the handle which hit MMM’s car bumper and stopped. The mirror was then recovered and MMM was given the go-ahead.

The next man whom you encounter is the person who commands you to open the boot of your car. In most cases, MMM notices, this search is most perfunctory and does not involve anything more than a glance at what is inside. How can anyone identify the presence of explosives or arms by a mere look, and that too from a distance, is beyond MMM’s feeble intellect. Are these men clairvoyant?

Then you have the metal detector. Here you have a man standing beside it, who, depending on his mood and on the side of the bed from which he got up, could either wave you through with a smile or in a surly fashion ask you to surrender everything you possess and then walk through. MMM is waiting for the day when clothes will have to be taken off while entering hotels. But what puzzles MMM is that in some of these places, many people keep walking in and out through side entrances with nary a check. And that reminds MMM of another incident.

We live in changing times, but these occur with such rapidity that MMM is often left wondering as to what happened. The other day, MMM and his good lady had gone to a five star hotel to attend a book release and it was only on reaching within a few metres of the hotel that MMM realised that a flyover had been planned there. A barricade put up by the police was the only sign to indicate that MMM could not proceed onwards. Anyone would think that the hotel would put up a signboard giving details of alternative routes to take to access the building. Not having any choice, MMM took a diversion which brought him to the exit of the hotel. There a kindly security guard waved him on further down the road which brought MMM to the staff entrance of the hotel. Not finding anybody there, MMM hesitated. But the good lady, who in another era could have taken a shot at being Lady Macbeth, egged MMM on and so he drove in. Sure enough, MMM found himself in the basement car park. Having found an empty slot, MMM, at the insistence of Lady M, parked his vehicle and with Lady M in tow took the lift and reached the venue.

All through the program­me MMM did not have any peace of mind. What if the hotel security found a car for which they had no parking tag? What if the police was called in? What if the car was towed away? Or even worse, what if the hotel was evacuated and then the car searched and finally MMM was hauled up before the awful majesty of the law? What would the Chief say when he saw the headlines screaming “MMM in the thick of bomb hoax”? Here MMM stole a sideways glance at his good lady who appeared not to have a care or scare and was the life and soul of the party.

At the end of it, MMM and lady left. On reaching the foyer, MMM’s lady suggested that we ask the hotel valet to get our car. MMM shook like a leaf. He had it all worked out. He had thought of taking a service lift, and then having reached the parking lot, stealing out hoping that nobody would notice. But the lady would have nothing of it. Under her stern eye, MMM went up to the least intimidating valet and began explaining. The man did not even bat an eyelid. With a dazzling smile he took the key, went to the basement, got the car out and soon MMM and lady were on their way home. No parking tag, no security check, no looking at the undercarriage with mirrors. And MMM’s lady had an “I told you so” look on her face. So much for foolproof security.

Campaigning traffic

The Gowdia Mutt Road leading to the Roya­pettah Police Station is one way and that is a big joke, for almost everyone violates this rule under the very nose of the police station. Even police cars happily careen down the wrong way. But election campaigning bends most rules more than they ought to. Last week, The Man from Madras Musings witnessed a posse of policemen standing on this road busily blocking the traffic that was travelling in the correct direction. MMM was among the many stopped from proceeding further. All this was to allow a convoy of cars belonging to a certain political party carrying the local hopeful and his cohorts, all of them travelling down the wrong way! Traffic was halted for a long duration during which crackers were lit, the candidate waved, swooped and genuflected even as his companions kept a watchful eye, rather like Mars – threatening and commanding those waiting patiently by. One motorist made bold to protest and was given a few friendly pats by the companions and was also warned by the police, no doubt for creating an ulawful disturbance. Imagine protesting during a peaceful election campaign!

Poll emergencies

During the recent elections, The Man from Madras Musings watched a good many cars go by, so puffed up with self-importance, it was a wonder they did not burst with it.

“Election – Immediate,” was one variety and this ­usually had the ‘G’ mark on it indicating that it had better not be trifled with. Next came one with a party flag fluttering from its bonnet. This too did not follow traffic rules but was distinguished by a set of faces grinning and hands showing off signs of victory, muscle strength, etc. It must be admitted that grinning does not come too easily to this group. The third variety had ‘Press’ on it and from the way they drove around, MMM inferred that they were hard-pressed for time, which possibly explained the legend.

MMM thought he had seen it all till last week he saw one that simply said ‘Urgent’. Now, what could have been the nature of the urgent call?!



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