Click here for more...

Click here for more...

(ARCHIVE) Vol. XIX No. 9, august 16-31, 2009
Short 'N' Snappy

History, such as it is

The Man from Madras Musings has written in the past about sweet young things from various television networks, radio channels and newspapers calling him up, addressing him as Uncle and, during the process of their interviewing, revealing their true intention for calling – getting MMM to tell them overthe phone in two minutes what they ought to have been researching for over a few months. There have been friends of MMM who have asked him why he entertains these calls and MMM too has analysedthe matter to the fullest and has come to the rather shamefaced conclusion that he perhaps likes to be called ‘Uncle’. MMM’s good lady, however, objects to this mode of address because she thinks this implies that she is an ‘aunty’. Be that as it may, now that Madras Week and Independence Day are fast approaching (by the time you read this, the latter would have been celebrated), MMM has been receiving a large number of requests which, if in person, are accompanied by a good deal of wringing of hands, fluttering of eyelashes and, sometimes, even making of Bambi eyes.

One of the callers, over the phone, had this bright idea of doing something for her channel that would combine Madras Week and Independence Day. Her first question was whether MMM could let her have a comprehensive list of locations in the city that were associated with the freedom struggle. MMM, having disabusedher of the notion that he would compile such lists, said that he could possibly suggest a few places. He then went on to list the Marina Beach, for, after all, the area near the Gandhi statue was once known as Tilakar Tidal (Tilak Ghat) and was the venue for several fiery speeches. “Oh, sir, I was looking for a historic building,” was the plaintive reply. Where upon MMM suggested Gokhale Hall. “How do you spell that, Uncle? G-O-K-U-L-E?” MMM took a deep breath and gave her the correct spelling and also asked her if she had never heard of Gopalkrishna Gokhale. “Never,” was the bright and confident answer. At least, she was speaking the truth.

Dismissing Gokhale from his mind and blaming it all on boring history textbooks, MMM was about to list some more, when her attention span, governed perhaps by months of telephone interviews, wandered off to the next subject, namely whether MMM could think of any nationalist figure whose descendants still lived in the city. MMM suggested Subramania Bharati. “Who?” was the rather surprising response. MMM asked her if she really had never heard of Bharati. “How do you spell that, Uncle?” MMM who was by now shuddering at the prospect of having to listen to B-H-A-R-T-I or, even worse, B-E-R-T-I-E, asked her if she had been educated abroad. “No, Uncle, I studied here only.” At this point MMM hung up and was not accessible to callers for the few hours he needed to recover. Now, if only Michael Jackson had been a part of our freedom struggle, how much easier would everything have been.

Editor’s Note: A veteran journalist who drew up the syllabus for a new journalism course at a private university had to address these problems. The lack of enthusiasm of the management and the senior faculty for educating would be journalists in the Humanities led him to withdrawing from the present commercialised educational scene.

Mauled at malls

They are big, grand and bear neo-classical facades. And some of them even have cinema theatres built into them. They have the best shops and some of the best labels. There is nothing small about these malls and multiplexes that have broken out all over the city like a rash. But when it comes to parking space, they suddenly turn stingy. They feel that the surrounding roads have to share their burden. After all, they single handedly ensure that real estate prices skyrocket in the vicinity. So why should anyone complain? Except perhaps a few like MMM.

The other day, MMM had to take his family to see a film at one of these multiplex-cum-malls. The distance was not much and MMM suggested that everyone walk to it. But not one of MMM’s family members would agree and so the car it was.

MMM drove and on reaching the mall was greeted with the message “Parking Lot Full” – and that was that. Access to the entry gate of the mall is via a narrow street through which every kind of vehicle passes. You need to drive up to the gate to know that the parking lot is full. This also means you have to compulsorily reverse and that is no easy task as several vehicles, all hoping to find slots in the parking lot, are already queuing up behind, not to mention others for whom the mall is not the destination and who are understandably irritated at being held up.

There was no option. MMM offloaded everyone at the gate and drove back home to park the car and then walked back to the mall/multiplex. The walk was no leisurely one, MMM being in a hurry to catch up with the film. It was also replete with the usual hazards of walking in Chennai. Footpaths overrun with refuse, litter and human and canine excrement, two-wheelers parked anyhow and, if not anything else, the ubiquitous junction box for telephone lines the rear of which doubles up as convenient toilet by day and a watering hole at night. Having endured all these assaults on the senses MMM managed to reach the theatre. Rushing in and sinking breathlessly into his seat MMM was greeted by his good lady who urged him to see the brighter side: “You wanted to walk, and so you did.”

Up and down

The Man from Madras Musings, as part of his roving commission, finds himself in some strange places. One of these was the foot overbridge at Haddow’s Road. Having gone to that shrine of governance, the passport office, MMM had to cross the road and decided that he would be law-abiding for a change and not simply run across but use the bridge. Of course, no one else was using it and MMM, having put this down to the sheer cussedness of the average Chennai-ite, climbed up, all enveloped in the noble glow that comes from exercise and also the sense of doing something right. It was only on climbing up and walking half-way across the bridge that MMM saw what could be one of the many reasons for none using the facility. It was occupied by the local lunatic. Having espied MMM long before MMM espied him, he was well-prepared to lunge at MMM. It was touch and go for a second.

MMM could have always vaulted across the wall and then bungee-jumped into Haddow’s Road with its roaring traffic, but he is no acrobat and so he simply took to his heels, the increased exercise adding to the glow and warmth. Having reached the road double-quick, MMM simply propelled himself into the traffic and, lo and behold! cars and buses screeched to a halt as MMM sprinted across. It reminded MMM of the parting of the waters.


In this issue

Officialdom looks...
Down memory...
Arch Bridges...
Madras Week..
Memories of Kilpauk...
Karpagambal Mess...
Thiruvalluvar's shrine...
New Cricket stadium...
Chennais first ...
Historic Residences..
Other stories

Our Regulars

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


Back to current issue...