Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXVII No. 1, April 16-30, 2017
The Man from Madras Musings has never visited RK Nagar, the locality that is forever in the throes of an election. He did toy with the idea of visiting this hotspot some days ago, but then along came the news that the election had been cancelled and, so, MMM decided to do the same to his planned visit.
One of the chief reasons that MMM wanted to go to RK Nagar was that he had come to know that the place rained cash. Apparently, the Gross Domestic Product of this particular constituency of India has risen so sharply in one week or so that there were rumours of it soon declaring itself an independent nation and, if that was not feasible, looking at the possibility of electing a representative to the US Senate. Families of, say, four, suddenly found themselves earning in five figures, each member being showered with cash. Whoever disbursed the moolah was most democratic, for the money was given to all, irrespective of caste, creed, gender and age. With the money coming in, daughters could be married off, children educated and men could open accounts at the local liquor outlet. In short, happiness abounded. Talks had commenced on the possibility of RK Nagar buying up land in other and better laid out parts of Chennai where a new RK Nagar could be built. That idea was, however, rendered unnecessary when one of the electoral hopefuls declared that, if elected, he would so institutionalise the Tamil Nadu sport of land grab that RK Nagar denizens need not think of spending their hard-earned cash on such frivolous pursuits as buying land. They merely needed to indicate the property of their choice and it would be theirs.
Nobody is quite sure as to where the cash was coming from. Some said a mysterious hat was being passed around and, rather like the ones used by magicians, people needed to merely dip their hand in it to take out the money. Those that opposed the hat smelt a rat. Chief among these was a group that when it was not dancing around an electric pole was busy carting around a rather ghastly effigy of its late leader lying in a coffin. A smaller group that rowed a boat in search of the vote was not happy either. Those that swore by the rising sun opined that dark deeds were done in the dark alone and not by their group. Let’s fight the honest fight, they said. There was, however, a strong rumour that a cashless man from Delhi was not too happy with the quantity of cash floating around in RK Nagar. This way, he feared, RK Nagar could become a tax haven of sorts rather like those shady islands and tiny European nations.
And that led to the RK Nagar elections being cancelled.
The people of RK Nagar are happy. They get to keep their rupees and, as and when the elections happen again, there will be more money. Not so happy is the rest of the city for it never saw the colour of the money and, what’s more, lost the one opportunity of a public holiday.
The hat party is, so MMM understands, hopping mad. The electrical pole group is looking for a warehouse to store the effigy and coffin. The boat has at present weighed anchor. As for rising sun, it is temporarily in eclipse, but hopes for better times.
Can you believe that an area with such a name really exists in this, our city? The Man from Madras Musings would have also been incredulous had he not had the opportunity to visit the place a couple of times previously. But then, Madras has no dearth of funny names. How else can you account for a place called the Belly Area? It has a housing colony in it that rejoices in the name of Belly Court. Or for that matter have you heard of BRA Road and SOB Street? We also have ROB Street that leads to a bank!
MMM has puzzled for long as to how Baby Nagar acquired its name. Having no success in his researches, he finally decided that it must be because reaching it from any part of the city, unless you are already in Baby Nagar, in which case you don’t count, takes so long that it feels like nine months. It could also be because pregnant women, if driven at great speed across its rutted and pitted roads, could be induced into labour. But be that as it may, some developer of land decided that the colony that he was laying out would be known as Baby Nagar and that was it. MMM is sure that if this person was asked ‘why Baby Nagar’, he would most likely reply with a ‘Why not’. Perhaps he was also fond of infants.
Whatever the reason, MMM is certain that it is a very embarrassing address to give out. Imagine being in a social gathering and the conversation turns to places where people stay. The majority give out names such as Mylapore, Triplicane, Purasawalkam, etc, then pipes up a lone voice that says Baby Nagar. There is a dead silence followed by hurried and loud conversation even as the person who said Baby Nagar slinks out into the grim outside world and from there moves on to Baby Nagar. There is also the other question, do residents of Baby Nagar refer to themselves as Infants? And is their municipal councillor Peter Pan?
These and other questions of similar pith and moment jostled MMM’s brain as he drove to Baby Nagar one evening. For those who do not know, it is close to Velachery, another locality that lots of people in the older parts of Chennai know about but have never visited. MMM has, and let him tell you that there is nothing to be afraid of. The natives are friendly and you can spend the night there in case you so feel like it. MMM had, however, no such intention; his visit to Baby Nagar was mainly to attend a concert in which his favourite singer was performing. The event was scheduled for 6.30 pm and MMM set off a couple of hours earlier, but at the time when the curtains would no doubt have been rising, he was still a good two kilometres away. In short, MMM would arrive late, rather like a full-term baby that decides to stay on some extra time in its mother’s womb.
Reaching Baby Nagar, MMM’s mind came up with another possible reason for the area’s name. Its entire layout reflected the infantile capabilities of our city planners. This is a new area and you would expect it to have broad roads, sidewalks, proper street lighting, underground ducting and street signs. Not one of these was in existence. For good measure, you also had huge gaps in what must have once been a pavement, giving you direct access to the drains -below. Now these are all supposed to be problems associated with old localities, planned at a time when the horse carriage abounded. What prevented the planners from laying out localities such as Baby Nagar in a better way? There is, however, no doubt that the place lends itself to adventure sports.