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(ARCHIVE) Vol. XX No. 19, January 16-31, 2011
Short 'N' Snappy

Singapore for south! We’re Chennai

The Man from Madras Musings knows well that there are some who believe that this is a negative periodical, mostly lamenting about things past and criticising the Government for every step that it takes, be it city beautification, road-widening, traffic smoothening or modernisation. After all, Madras Musings is wedded to the concept of sensitising the powers-that-be and the general public on the importance of heritage when it comes to the city’s development while the Government, it would appear, considers heritage to be a nuisance that the city is best without. Madras Musings (and MMM) is all for Singara Chennai, but it is against the mass-Singaporisation of the city which the Government is dead keen on. In between comes the general public which appears to have no view either way. But here again, MMM sympathises with the general public. It is MMM’s considered view that in trying to get Chennai to ape Singapore, the Government has not read the public’s mind. In fact, it is foisting an alien culture on the city.

Let’s face it. The Government wants a city devoid of posters and graffiti on walls. It has even passed legislation to that effect. But then it goes and spends a fortune on getting artists to lavish their art on the walls of public buildings. Of course, MMM feels that the quality of the art is highly debatable, but that is neither here nor there. What is there in the legislation, and if such be it, where can our political parties, religious institutions/devotees, mourners, celebrants, magazines, workers’ unions etc. put up posters announcing their latest antics? That may not be necessary in Singapore, but here in Chennai it is our birthright to deface walls and we shall have it.

Next, we have these wholly useless things called footpaths locally – but, in reality, pavemnts – on the sides of important roads. Government has on several occasions done its best to have these removed so that vehicles can move along smoothly but, no doubt owing to bureaucracy, these footpaths have not been fully eradicated. And where they survive, Government has persisted in ensuring that these are paved repeatedly. To what purpose the general public has been unable to fathom. Paving these sidewalks, as the Americans call them, means that it is only with great difficulty that flag-poles for political parties can be erected at these spots. The same goes for scaffolding that supports cut-outs, digital banners and silhouettes made of light-bulbs during religious festivals, political meetings etc. Often those in charge of these events have to take the trouble of hiring a specialist who cracks open the paving on the pavements so that these structures can be grouted properly in terra firma. The only elements who like paved sidewalks are those who put up makeshift eateries each night. These smooth stones are convenient spots for customers to sit on, eat, throw away the leftovers, and wash their hands. Oh, when will the Government realise that sidewalks are not meant for people to walk on? That may be good for Singapore, but this is Chennai.

Next, we have this strange regulation that rubbish is to be thrown into specially marked bins placed at various strategic locations. How can we do that when it has always been our practice to toss the rubbish just outside our homes? After all, does not our philosophy say “I am the Supreme”, thereby implying that the rest of the world can go fly a kite? The same also applies to building regulations. They are meant for my neighbour and not for me. Ditto for traffic rules.

Thank God that our Government has not yet passed strictures on spitting in public. That would mean laying hands on one of our fundamental rights. There are some who have thought that by placing ceramic tiles with the pictures of Gods on them, we can be made to desist from not only spitting but also ... We can only smile at such innocence. True, we spare the tiles – and the Gods but we carry on spitting all around them.

And, so, when we can happily be Bhayangara Chennai, why get on with the trouble of Singara Chennai? MMM, in resting his case, truly sympathises with the Government.

In camera

The Man from Madras Musings wonders as to what happened to all the cameras that were installed at various traffic junctions with much fanfare. It will be remembered that they were meant to take snapshots of vehicles that were violating traffic signals so as to buttress any fine or case that the police would like to slap on the offenders. But after a couple of weeks during which every lane-jumper and jaywalker was careful, everyone has gone back to his or her natural state of jumping lanes and jaywalking.

It is MMM’s view that most of the cameras have ceased to function. After all, no camera can take the strain. In other countries they would possibly be taking a snapshot once in a few hours and, perhaps, at some junctions, once in a few days. Here in Chennai, with practically everyone jumping signals, violating stop lines, and crisscrossing lanes, these cameras must have been clicking away non-stop. And that is not the kind of peak load that any camera can withstand. The result? Burnout, breakdowns and going bust.

However, a friend of MMM differs. He is of the view that, when developed, it must have revealed that most of the violators and offenders were Government vehicles and, so, the cameras must have been given a quiet burial. That, MMM agrees, is certainly a plausible theory.

Moribund meters

Another initiative that appears to be quickly on the way out is the series of automated parking meters installed with much fanfare on North Mada Street in Mylapore. The Man from Madras Musings has been watching over these meters and has frequently shared his various experiences in this column. Last seen, several of these meters had gone out-of-order and, in keeping with the ancient nature of the locality, a group of enterprising men have begun collecting parking fees from visitors. When MMM drove in he was met with a cheerful greeting and the man who extended his palm for the parking fee informed MMM, with the kind of glee that is usually reserved for announcing the birth of a child after a long wait, that the meters were not working. What about a receipt, asked MMM. The man looked pityingly at MMM. How can that be possible, he asked, when the machines are not in working order? Faced with such cast-iron logic, MMM paid up and left.

Hot dog!

Seen at an eatery recently:



In this issue

Scant attention paid to heritage by Metro
Traditional markets making way for malls
AFS helped to protect wartime Madras
The decisive third battle
Breathing the air of Broadway
Other stories

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