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VOL. XXII NO. 5, June 16-31, 2012
Short 'N' Snappy

Giga-sized garbage bins

You couldn't have missed them. The Man from Madras Musings certainly did not. They have come up all over the city. MMM alludes to the blue-coloured corrugated sheet containers, each the size of a railway goods wagon, that have been placed at strategic street corners. These, it appears, are the latest gifts of the city's worshipful fathers to their, er, children.

Apparently, this is an idea that has emanated from the very granddad of them all. Having reasoned that the citizens are forever increasing their garbage outputs and the collection agency is forever minimising its conservancy staff, he has, MMM learns, declared that these mega- or giga-sized bins are the only option. They are large and roomy enough to keep the garbage of a week and more. This way, he probably decided, garbage will not flow on to the street, thereby making the roads exactly like Singapore. The new bins occupy half the street anyway.

But there is always a slip between the muck and the tip, as the expression goes.

What our worshipfuls have not reckoned with are certain practical problems.

Firstly, as MMM notices, the bins have six-foot walls. This is ostensibly to prevent cattle and dogs from foraging in the garbage. But with the height of the average Chennaiite being less than six feet, it would take a basketball player to be able to tip garbage into these bins. Of course, given our population, we could always stand one on the other and manage. And those who live in nearby high-rises can simply fling their rubbish into them.

Of course, to be fair to this Worship, he has declared that this bin is not the day-to-day bin. Those are the small ones on wheels, which are forever being shunted around. The idea was that local conservancy staff would empty the wheeled bins twice a day into the meg-gig bin and then the clearance truck would call once a week to take away the stuff in the meg-gig.

Here again, the idea has sprung a leak and having skidded on a few random banana peels, come a purler. The local conservancy man/woman is frequently AWOL and the bin-on-wheels is either missing or lying on its side, the latter act being done by the cattle which, MMM hardly needs to remind you, are officially banned in the city. As a consequence, the citizenry has taken to the big meg-gig bin.

There are, however, two major deterrents to using the big bin. The first is, of course, its height. The second is that it is never cleared and so the stink from it is awful. Even cows and dogs avoid it, so MMM is told. As a consequence, those who need to empty garbage do so all around the big bins. Result? The garbage tip just gets bigger. The roads get narrower and some are frankly out of bounds for those with sensitive stomachs.

Those who interest themselves in garbage are crying foul. But the erection of the mega bins is progressing regardless. Most probably, a tender, that irreversible Government juggernaut, must have been floated and, irrespective of their impracticality, the bins must be put up. Strange are the ways of the city. But, then, Daddy knows best.

The great leveller

'Tis the season of college admissions. Parents go around with haggard faces and the air is full of words such as counselling, capitation fees and certification, all terms fairly alien to The Man from Madras Musings. But having willy-nilly been sucked into the process, he has been able to observe that if at all anything does away with class distinctions in our society it is the process of admitting children into higher education. Of course, as MMM well knows, school admissions are also a similar process. The only difference is that schools are divided into high society and others, but in colleges the same distinction is not entirely applicable.

What makes colleges greater levellers are the way in which the admission process is conducted. Those on the technical side invite parents and children to entrance exams conducted in out-of-the way spots such as Nesapakkam, Kelambakkam and other pakkams of which most parents have only vaguely heard, the only pak they being familiar with being Pakistan. Carpools are hastily put together, and those driving around in BMWs happily mix with the more common Maruti 800 and even (horror of horrors!) the tourist taxi Indica.

Then comes the actual task of trying to find out where and how to reach these locations.

MMM was on one such journey to Nesapakkam and all he can say is that it was fraught with adventure. After a certain distance, signboards completely ceased to exist and it was a case of the visually challenged leading the visually challenged. Every corner shop was stopped at and enquired from and some became so adept at it that they shouted out instructions even before vehicles stopped to enquire.

It is rather a strange situation that the so-called new areas of the city boast of no civic infrastructure whatsoever, and that includes roads, signboards and any kind of pavement. The only signboards that did exist were those put up by property dealers who promise all kinds of dream homes and villas in the vicinity. And the number of constructions in progress indicated that MMM was in a minority in considering that, like St Helena in the eyes of Napoleon, the place was made of the Devil's droppings as He flew over the earth.

But, to get back to the journey. Nesapakkam had never seen so many vehicles in its entire existence. The streets, which were meant to be totally pedestrian, gave up the ghost after the first few cars and to MMM it appeared that the only way to get out of the place, if he got into it, was to do the entire distance in reverse gear. But happily there were more enterprising souls and a couple of zigs, a few zags and the chanting of the national mantra, 'Adjust Please', ensured that two-way traffic was established, though not without the occasional snarl.

MMM is now NNN – Never Near Nesapakkam.

7 days of the week

Now that the temperatures have dipped a bit, The Man from Madras Musings can bring himself to write something about summer. Suffice it to say that in MMM's experience, this was a summer to remember and compare all future summers with. Having been through it, MMM knows what Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego went through in the divine fire.

In Chennai, MMM feels, the seven days of the week in summer ought to be – Sunday, Mean Day, Stew Day, Basting Day, Thirst Day, Fry Day and Sautéed Day.


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In this issue

Welcome restoration approach by Government
Garbage collection plans go awry again
Looking back
Driving Down Memory Lane
Masters of 20th Century Madras science
Three looks at heritage
There's heritage in idlis & sundal
The plight and the challenge
More Iyengars of cricket
Butterfly tricks

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan


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