Click here for more...

(ARCHIVE) Vol. XIX No. 22, march 1-15, 2010
Short 'N' Snappy

Clapping and singing

There is much music these days in the life of The Man from Madras Musings. Each morning, as he sets out for his walk, he keeps clapping. And when not doing that, he keeps slapping various parts of his body. And at night, when MMM, his labours done, retires to rest, he hears music, mostly of a high-pitched, shrill variety. Before your worst suspicions are confirmed that MMM, breaking under the iron hand of the Chief, has finally lost sanity, let him assure you that he is sound of body and mind. These are all activities caused by mosquitoes which in MMM’s opinion outnumber the citizens of Chennai by a ratio of 1000:1.

Wherever and whenever residents of Chennai meet, they now discuss, after having exhausted topics such as the heat, humidity and traffic, the mosquito menace. From the most upmarket club to the humblest hovel, the mosquitoes are the topic of conversation. This too is accompanied by much clapping, slapping and trying to avoid the relentless music rendered by the mosquitoes. Come to think of it, why should the mosquitoes not sing? Life for them now is one unending song. Chennai is a fertile breeding ground and they have never had it so good. Plenty of stagnant water, any number of garbage dumps, blocks of flats with poor sanita tion and ventilation and, above all, a Government that in its efforts to welcome foreign investment has also decided to welcome mosquitoes.

There was a time which MMM recalls when fogging machines routinely did the rounds each evening. People complained that the spray reduced visibility, affected breathing and drove mosquitoes inside homes, but there was no denying that the effort did bear fruit. But this year, MMM is yet to see even one fogging machine in his neighbourhood. On the other hand, what MMM has seen is an ancient man in khaki shirt and shorts walking around with what looks like a brass fire-extinguisher. The apparatus is so heavy that the man carrying it practically staggers under its weight. But another reason for the staggering became obvious once MMM saw the fellow’s blood-shot eyes and came within smelling distance of his breath. Still, MMM could not blame him. Anyone saddled with the brass what’s-its-name and having to go nosing about in gutters is likely to take solace in the stuff that cheers. To do the man credit, he visits regularly and sprays whatever there is in the apparatus, but to MMM’s fevered imagination (could it be malaria/chikungunya/dengue/Ross River fever?) it appears that the mosquitoes thrive on whatever is sprayed. They collect in gangs wherever the man sprays and breed like, well, mosquitoes.

But there is a positive side to it all. MMM was invited to speak at a seminar where there were eleven speakers in all, including MMM. The auditorium that was meant to accommodate 1100 people had exactly one hundredth that number by way of audience. However, there were probably eleven million mosquitoes in attendance, causing much clapping. This cheered the speakers no end, for it gave them the illusion, thanks to mosquitoes, that they were being repeatedly applauded.

Hide and seek

Chief, you have often doubted the sanity of The Man from Madras Musings. Oh come Chief, there is no need to be coy about it. Even though you have never said so in so many words, MMM has frequently caught you in the act of looking at MMM steadily over your glasses and then giving a quick shudder. And, what is worse, what MMM has to report may only strengthen your views.

Chief, you are aware that MMM has frequently written about the statue of Swami Sivananda that stood at the intersection of Beach Road and the road named after the good Swami that leads to Mount Road. The statue stood  close to the University wall and, if you recollect, Chief, it vanished one night in 2007, ostensibly to make way for the University’s compound wall. MMM, as Chief will recollect, had been greatly distressed about it and had, much to your distress too, written rather too frequently on the subject, speculating on where the statue was now stored.

Now, Chief, MMM has a story that will make your twenty-or-so knotted and combined locks to part and stand on end like quills on a fretful porpentine, to quote Shake speare. On the night of February 10th, MMM, being of sound mind and good bodily health, was being driven to Central Station and what else should he see at the intersection of Beach Road and Swami Sivananda Salai but the statue itself! It was back to where it belonged and during its enforced retreat it had acquired a metallic grey paint. It otherwise looked well taken care of. For a moment the eyes of MMM met those of the Swami and each beamed at the other. And then they parted.

Now comes the sequel. On February 23rd, MMM, once again being of sound mind and good bodily health, was being driven to Central Station. As MMM is ever mindful of your instructions, Chief, he was also armed with a camera to photograph the reinstated Swami. Consider MMM’s shock, Chief, when he dis cov ered on his arrival at the spot that there was no sign of the statue! And what’s more, there appeared to be no sign of there ever having been one. Enquiries elicited a casual answer that the statue had been reinstated but had to be uprooted once again as it was in the way of the widening of the road. All roads, as you know, Chief, now lead to the new Assembly. But MMM, with his mind ever bordering on the fanciful, thinks that what he had seen on the 10th was not the statue at all, but an astral body. Or else, it could be that the Corporation, or whoever it is who moves statues, has decided to place the statue on that spot only on certain days of the year. If only most other statues could also be moved around like this!


A friend had this story to share with The Man from Madras Musings. Her apartment building is at a location in the throes of the present round of one-way exercises that the police is attempting. If one day the traffic outside her house moves right to left, the very next day it moves left to right. On most days, the traffic keeps moving round and round. It appears to the residents that their building ought to have been built on a flywheel so that it could face the correct direction each morning. On one particular day, MMM’s friend saw two policemen huddled deep inside the carpark in her building. Not feeling particularly well- disposed to the police as a breed consequent to the one-ways, she asked them rather brusquely what they were doing inside when they ought to be on the road directing traffic. Pat came the rather pathetic answer, “All kinds of traffic changes are being made and we are most confused. We decided to play it safe by getting away from it all!” Such is life.



In this issue

One small step towards preserving heritage
Can’t we leave natural heritage alone?
Mall-grazing in Chennai
A legend in his lifetime
Monotonous post-match presentations
Historic Residences of Chennai - 37
Other stories

Our Regulars

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


Back to current issue...