Click here for more...

(ARCHIVE) Vol. XVIII No. 9, august 16-31, 2008
Short 'N' Snappy

Security - and the citizen

Each year it is the same. Come Independence Day and security is tightened in all cities. Mind you, The Man from Madras Musings is not complaining. If this is the price we have to pay, so be it. But that does not appear to be the attitude of several others and MMM is quite puzzled about it. The way he looks at it is that it is far better to be alive and in one piece than cavil with an additional frisk or a bag search.

The other day, MMM (you guessed it) was off on yet another of his travels by air and he found that carry-on bags were scanned twice in Chennai airport, once while going through routine security and the other just before boarding the aircraft. All this naturally slowed down the boarding process, but not one passenger complained. It was, after all, in the interest of everyone. This, however, did not include a woman from the West who moaned and groaned over the security and tended to argue at every stage, thereby delaying the process further. MMM, in his hot-headed days of youth, would have willingly entered into an argument with her, pointing out that handling of security by personnel in places like Heathrow and cities in the USA is far worse. But, now that he is balder and wiser, he refrained. It was finally left to a security woman to handle the situation with aplomb. She simply walked the lady into one of the booths meant for women and at the end of five minutes, the passenger walked out a much subdued woman. In her wake came the security woman carting loads of aerosol cans which any air-traveller knows are not allowed in carry-on baggage. And that was that.

Talking about banned items, MMM does not know if any of you have read the list, but they do create a ripple or two of mirth, a much-needed emotion in airports. First come bows and arrows which, as you well know, are found in every suitcase. Close on their heels come knuckle-dusters, axes, knives, spears and swords. In short, quite an armoury. If that is not enough, then atomisers, spray guns and hypodermic syringes follow. And the list only grows. MMM is of the view that the day is not far off when passengers will be expected to travel empty-handed but, hopefully with their clothes on.

Spellcheck for Police?

The other day The Man from Madras Musings found a neatly folded sheet of paper in his letter box. On unfolding it, he found that it was from the Police. The friendly neighbour­hood force had sent the note explaining the newly ordained one-way system on parts of Mount Road, Cenotaph Road and their environs. The missive was well-worded, barring some of the howlers that had crept into street names. Thus, MMM was advised to follow the map for “traffic changes on Cenatoph and Chamiers Roads”. The map showed all kinds of new streets that MMM had never heard of, despite his having lived in the area for quite some time. Chittaranjgan Road and St Marsy’s Road were of course new, but “Arch Bishop Madias” Avenue would have had an ecclesiastical college screaming blue murder. As for “Turn Bulls” Point, MMM has decided that it should be renamed Bovine Delight or Cow’s Joy. The detailed instructions on the reverse had more joys to offer (to MMM and not cows) but, for the sake of brevity, MMM is willing to skip all that or else this column may be renamed Long and Loquacious.

The long and short of it all was that MMM and his ilk would have to plan leaving their homes well ahead of rush hour to avoid traffic jams. The idea of the Police informing residents is commendable, but MMM wishes they had taken care to mind their ps and qs. After all, there are many in the city today who have come from outside and depend on English communication and a clear and correctly worded pamphlet would have worked wonders.

The Police may have scored with the pamphlet, but the size of road signs informing road-users of the new traffic arrangements is woefully inadequate. The signboards are very small and are invariably hidden by buses as they lumber past. And the type used for the words on these signs is such that road-users would be well advised to carry telescopes with them or there is no way they can read what is written. The roads are now divided into lanes in such a fashion that in case you miss your turning, you need to travel a long distance before you can turn back. So invest in a telescope, is MMM’s advice.

Talking about turning round, MMM wonders how many of the regular readers of this column have noticed that the number of U turns on Mount Road is steadily decreasing. MMM is of the view that soon only two U turns will remain. One near St Thomas’ Mount, and the other at the Munro Statue.

TV & I’pendence Day

As The Man from Madras Musings is typing this, he can hear the television bawling from one of the adjoining rooms in his house. The programmes for Independence Day and the long weekend are being announced. And they are like this:

1. Early Morning – Song sequences from films
2. Mid Morning – Interview with film stars
3. Noon – Film show
4. Afternoon – Film show
5. Evening – Quiz with film stars
6. Night – More films

MMM wonders what this cinematic overload has to do with Independence. But that is the way of the world. Fortunately there are still some avenues open to those who wish to spend the day pondering over the great struggle. For such people, the Roja Muthiah Library’s Exhibition on Madras and the Freedom Movement may be the ideal place. The exhibition will be inaugurated on the 15th and will carry on till the 24th. On display, MMM understands, will be newspaper cuttings, photographs, gramo­phone discs, books and letters. But the piece-de-resistance will certainly be the screening of the documentary film made on Gandhi by A.K. Chettiar during the Mahatma’s lifetime. Here’s the hope that the RMRL’s exhibition will turn people’s thoughts towards observing Independence Day in a fitting manner.

The Madurai way

The Man from Madras Musings has just returned from Madurai. While in Madurai MMM was delighted to see that the four Mada Streets surrounding the temple have been declared pedestrian zones, with all vehicular traffic banned. What’s more, the streets have all been paved with interlocking bricks, making them visually appealing, easy to clean and, more importantly, easier to open for drains and other routine maintenance work.

As far as MMM could see, the ban on vehicular traffic has only increased the number of shoppers in the area who stroll from place to place in comfort. MMM hopes and prays that a similar decision will soon be taken regarding the four Mada Streets of Mylapore. These roads have become nightmares and some urgent action is called for.

The colonial view

It was with great excitement that The Man from Madras Musings went to see the exhibition of early photographs of Madras city, taken by Wiele and Klein, which were to be displayed at the Taj Conne­mara. However, MMM was disappointed with what he found.

MMM learns that about 70 pictures were chosen for the exhibition by a German curator and they included pictures of Wiele and Klein’s studio, Madras landmarks and street scenes and scenic vistas in South India – all dating from 1890s to around 1920. What was on display, however, had very little on Madras. It was more of a colonial perspective showing people (largely sadhus and fakirs) in various garbs and a few hill stations and a couple of wrongly captioned pictures on Mahabalipuram.

MMM was reminded of a story retold by R.K. Laxman, the renowned cartoonist, of how he once entertained the great cartoonist David Low and his wife for lunch at the Taj Mahal Hotel, Bombay. Coming out, R.K. Laxman, wanting to correct the impression that most foreigners then had of India, launched into a speech which began with “Mr Low, you must be thinking India is a land of snake charmers and the rope trick...” when who should come along but a snake charmer who, on seeing the Lows, immediately squatted on the ground and began his act. Well, this exhibition could have fitted in perfectly with that scenario.

 - MMM

In this issue

A Heritage Act, please
'Stays' don't prevent...
The Metro experience
Less waterways width...
Escalators for Chennai...
Other stories in this issue...

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan
Dates for your Diary


Back to current issue...