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(ARCHIVE) Vol. XX No. 4, june 1-15, 2010
Short 'N' Snappy

Eating out, a la Chennai

Now who would have thought that Chennai would upgrade itself to this extent? The Man from Madras Musings notices that we have moved on from the old Udupi hotels and the Buharis. Now there are so many upmarket places and many of them specialise in completely exotic fare, ranging from Lebanese to Spanish to Mexican. The décor is pleasing and generally reflective of the countries whose cuisine these places are supposed to represent. But the menu cards are a class by themselves.

MMM is not referring to ‘Gobi manjurian’, for that is something that these restaurants from the Caribbean or the Mediterranean would turn up their noses at. What MMM refers to are the menu cards filled with names of dishes that are completely unfathomable and totally unpronounceable. They remind MMM of a Laurel and Hardy film where the duo go to an upmarket French restaurant and ask for a dish from the menu only to be told that it is the proprietor’s name.

The other day MMM was in one such exotic place and try as he might the only thing he could understand was ‘crepe suzette’. And so he decided to ask one of the waiters in attendance for help. Now, these personable lads are unfortunately not given any training before they are sent to the front and MMM found that his chosen helper was not of much use. His knowledge of French, or whatever language it was, was perhaps not more than MMM’s which stopped just short of ooh la la la. MMM then had no choice but to ask about every dish on the bill-of-fare and ascertain its history, antecedents and after-effects, rather like the marriage brokers of the past who would delve deep into family records. Others in the business of serving and ministering were summoned to MMM’s help but it was all in vain. MMM could never make out if something was made of grilled gorilla’s paw or lizard brains. The whole process reminded MMM of an extremely orthodox vegetarian friend who on his first visit abroad studiously avoided grilled aubergines, not knowing what they could be, and finally settled for a pepperoni pizza instead, thinking that the prefix to the latter dish indicated a liberal dosage of pepper! Getting back to MMM’s ordeal, the only dish that appeared suitable was ‘crepe suzette’ and that became a non-starter when the man taking the order pronounced it as ‘crap suset’. MMM had to leave with a bottle of mineral water.

New names for old

The Chief is working him-self up into a tizzy on this whole name business. His stance is that those who contributed to the city’s well-being ought to be remembered, no matter what be their country of origin. The Man from Madras Musings concurs with the Chief in this matter (does MMM have a choice?) but he would also like to look at it from the point of view of the people who originally gave their names to the roads. After all, would Lazarus be happy to come now and see that someone has painted a road sign which reads Loser’s Church Road? And what about Breithaupt of Breithaupt Road now spelt as Brethapet as in Alwarpet? Would Pugh be happy to know that his road is now Bugs Road? And if that is Bugs, can Bunny or Binny be far behind? The road sign off Mount Road reads Binni Road. And have you heard of Patulla’s Road (ooh la la la)? Sylvan Lodge Colony is Jilvan Lodge Colony.

Not that Indian names fare any better. Heard of a Chandrabagu Avenue? As for Bashyam Basheer Ahmed Road (commemorating Bhashyam Iyengar and Basheer Ahmed), none could believe that such a combination was possible and so it is now Bashim Basheer Ahmed Road. In a way it is a Freudian slip. If there really had existed a Bhashyam Basheer, someone from one of the two communities would have anyway bashed ’im.

So, MMM’s advice to the Chief is, let things be. Let matters take their course. Relax, Chief, and laugh at gilded butterflies. But of one thing MMM is sure. Buckingham Canal alone will never have a name change. Nobody in his right senses would want to be commemorated in such a gutter. Let us leave that honour to the long-forgotten Duke.

One-way ticket

Ichabod was the reaction of The Man from Madras Musings when he came to know that a stretch of Beach Road had been declared one-way. This is the part between the Kannagi Statue and the Triumph of Labour. The road is open only to south-bound traffic and those wanting to go north have to drive through Bell’s Road, cut into Wallajah Road and, finally, on to Beach Road.

While the unprecedented summer rush (after all, summer is a new phenomenon in this city) has been given out as the reason, MMM is clear that this is but a sign of things to come. It will only be a matter of time before Beach Road becomes one-way and guess what will be the return route, also a one-way? Why, Mount Road, of course. And what happens if you take a wrong turning and want to go back? U-turns will be permitted at two places – St Thomas’ Mount and Parry’s Corner. That way we will have four lanes on both sides and, presto, all will be well.

Graffiti & graphic art

The Man from Madras Musings wonders at the mysterious ways of the Chennai Corporation, which so nearly trifurcated itself in some strange mitotic process before better sense prevailed and after which it turned into an ever-expanding amoeba seeking to devour neighbouring municipalities. But MMM’s puzzlement is not with its increasing or decreasing size, for whatever happens it will be bloated. It is the law banning graffiti on Mount Road, Beach Road and a few other roads that constitute a creamy layer among roads that befuddles MMM. In these privileged forward-caste roads, walls are now covered with extensive art, depicting the rich culture of the State.

As for the rest of the roads, which you can refer to as belonging to Most Backward, walls have been completely made over to those painting graffiti and sticking posters. And this being an election year, parties have already begun reserving compound walls of private residences for their campaigns. With elections not yet officially announced, these walls are now being used for publicising party conferences, streetside meetings, birthdays of leaders, and demands for redress of grievances, imagined or otherwise. MMM wonders if the Corporation thinks that banning posters and graffiti along two roads alone will make the city a better-looking place.

The roads with art have not fared better. The rain washed away large sections of the paintings, the powers that be not having realised earlier that these artworks had to be in water-proof paints. Secondly, graffiti and posters were not the sole problems. MMM was saddened to see a man relieving himself against a wall depicting some of the classical arts of the State. Does not cleanliness have to come from within?



In this issue

Road widening is NOT the answer for City’s traffic
River basins, not stretches, should be looked at
Travails of city bus travel
Adyar Poonga gets ready for the public
Historic Residences of Chennai - 43
Other stories

Our Regulars

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


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