Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXV No. 14, November 1-15, 2015
Battered by Bharati Nagar
All of you fellow travellers in the Madras Musings time machine will surely be aware of the national poet from our city. By that The Man from Madras Musings refers to the turbaned and moustachioed figure who has left behind a treasure trove by way of his works, all written within a very short life span filled with tribulations and privations. There are many ways in which our city has honoured this genius (sadly, all of them after his death) and one of these is the naming of various housing colonies after him. At last count there were at least six.
MMM happened to travel to one of these last week and it was an experience that he is unlikely to forget. Firstly, no doubt in keeping with the fact that the poet was persona non grata in our city and had to seek shelter elsewhere for several years, this particular colony bore no signboard announcing its name. MMM had been given a route plan in an email which said that to reach Bharati Nagar he had to drive straight down LB Road (if driving straight down is at all possible on that thoroughfare) and continue till he reached a point where it took a natural turn to its right and, hey presto, there was Bharati Nagar, on his left.
Only, it wasn’t if you get MMM’s meaning. There was a narrow lane which appeared at least like sandy wastes that another national poet from the eastern end of our country once sang of. MMM had to stop his car and make enquiries and this naturally set off a cacophony of blaring horns, all the vehicles at the rear wanting to get ahead. Some drivers wholeheartedly cursed MMM as they passed, but MMM, hardly Chennai-ite that he is, respected them not and let them pass him by like the idle wind.
There was a considerable number of loiterers in the area and this being around 10.00 am, it was clear that they were waiting for the local Tasmac to open up, whereupon their day no doubt became brisk and active, converting all of them into active, contributing men (and some women). Not one had heard of Bharati Nagar, which was perhaps a good thing as far as the poet was concerned. Finally, in desperation MMM had to call the person he had to meet and ask for directions. It transpired, of course, that the narrow lane itself was Bharati Nagar and all MMM had to do was drive further down. As to why the locals did not know of its name is a bit of a mystery. But MMM perhaps ought to give them the benefit of doubt. After all, they could have guided him to the local bar quite well if only he had wanted to go there.
As for Bharati Nagar, it was in many ways a tribute to the poet. His works, it is often said, lift you to the very heights of joy and then can also bring you to the depths of despair, the latter especially when he portrayed social ills. The roads of Bharati Nagar were exactly the same way, full of dales and hills, the kind that once inspired Tennyson (or was it Wordsworth?) to sing of daffodils. If MMM had a queasy stomach he could have easily been seasick the way his vehicle kept lurching forward and back as it negotiated the area. Besides pitching, there was considerable rolling as well, given that the roads were built for pedestrians but had to make do for cars (two lane) at that. At the end of it, MMM and car emerged at their destination, shaken and stirred. Wonder what the national poet would have made of this experience. Given his world class dreams for our country, he would have perhaps shaken his head despondently.
The Man from Madras Musings assumed that he was reading a report on general elections, or to be precise, State Assembly polls. The essential ingredients were all there – two groups, charges, counter charges, promise of reforms and a thorough enquiry into deals entered into by the group currently in power, police security, tension caused by supporters and an inordinate amount of media attention. It was therefore something of an anticlimax when MMM realised that it had to with an actors’ guild in our city. Of course, with a film career being but a stepping-stone to the corridors of power in our State (at least that is what most think, though very few have actually made it), this was only to be expected.
Came the day of the polls and almost every newspaper and TV channel worth its salt was covering the event live. Anyone would have thought that the outcome would have an enormous impact on the world political situation. A school in the Mylapore area was almost made into a fortress with battalions of police mounting vigil and chasing away curious onlookers. Busloads of supporters from the mofussil added colour with their sloganeering. The only element that was absent was our celebrities coming away from the polling station with their finger raised, the index digit that is, with an ink marking on it. Given the drama, they may as well have added that element.
At the heart of the whole strife is, as is to be expected in our city, a goodish bit of real estate, in the heart of Traffic/Tangled/Trade/Terrible/T’ Nagar. One group, represented by he who rejoices in the name of Autumn Son, has apparently struck a deal with some theatre conglomerate to develop the place into a multiplex so that films can be screened. It is the logic of this lot that the money that will so come in will help the actors’ guild in supporting the needy members on its rolls. The other group, led by Broad or Large, is not in agreement and claims that the whole agreement is murky. They promised to rescind the contract if elected. Ultimately the latter group won only to find Autumn Son declaring that he had himself cancelled the agreement earlier. It was almost as though the winning group had won the battle only to find that there was nothing to win over. But MMM confidently expects further fireworks with much histrionics and melodrama.
What everyone forgot was that the land in question is in the heart of a residential area. MMM shudders at the plight of the neighbours if such a proposal were to go through. Where would the cars be parked? How would homes handle the consequences of loss of privacy owing to the sudden coming up of a commercial theatre complex in their midst? But then that is clearly not the worry of any one of the people fighting this Tweedledum Tweedledee battle.
The Man from Madras Musings learns that the Corporation is highly miffed with public response to its smart city polls. It had hoped to receive inspirational suggestions from our citizenry on how to make Chennai a digital fortress. What it got was a number of complaints on how garbage was not being cleared or why a particular toilet was in such a mess. Clearly, the problems of here and now need to be solved before we get on to being high, wide and plentiful. ?