Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXVIII No. 15, November 16-30, 2018
The Man from Madras Musings is perpetually looking up at the sky, rather like one of those cultivators in famine films that the 1950s so specialised in. And not a cloud can he see. The weather department, whose words nobody can trust, had promised monsoons as early as October 10th and then retracted that statement. It had then gone on to predict downpours from October 20th and when that failed they said the clouds would be here by November 1st. That date too came and went and now it appears that MMM‘s weather prediction system is as good as the meteorological department’s. And so he confidently states that by November 20th we will be subject to heavy rains.
How is MMM so sure you may well ask. Actually he is not sure at all. He is just speculating and if he does turn out to be correct, he may have a living, as a rain diviner. The Red Indians, if you recollect, held such men in high regard. What if it does not rain, you may wonder. MMM has an answer to that too – his fate cannot be worse than that of the officials of the Met Department or the average astrologer. But what is going to happen if the rains fail is yet another matter altogether. The newspapers are full of reassurances. The city gets around 140cm of rain in a year they say and we apparently have already got around 60 per cent of it. Did you notice that rain? No? MMM too did not. And yet it appears that we did have that rain. Now all we need is the balance 40 per cent. Let us hope that happens.
Our State Government has not gotten around to being aware of this looming crisis as yet. It is currently more interested in taking umbrage over certain sections that it deems objectionable in certain films and demanding cuts. And when that crisis is over, it will get back to praying to Mother Goddess and erecting arches to commemorate various centenaries and other such happenings. It also appears to be unaware that water from the Krishna River, which was made available several decades ago by the very leader whose centenary is being observed, has been turned off at the main as the State of Andhra has declared that it needs the precious fluid and has none to spare.
And so where does it leave us all? Well, we do have water in long-abandoned quarries and that should see us through for some time. And then we have the lake that a famed prince dug for us in the 9th Century and over the piping of which we dithered for almost a century. And then we have water tankers that drive through the city at breakneck speeds demanding exorbitant rates for supply of water of doubtful quantity and quality. And finally we also have our collection of plastic pots that photographers never appear to tire of. At least one five-star hotel in the city has made a display out of them. Who said we have run out of alternatives?
But be of good cheer. MMM predicts rain by the 20th and as for the Met Department, they have said a cyclone will blow us cross-eyed by November 14th. And may the best man win.
Tragedy that’s Tranquebar
The Man from Madras Musings was in Tranquebar last week. And he felt exactly like the unnamed central character in Daphne du Maurier’s novel Rebecca, when she dreams of having gone back to the family home only to find it a mouldering ruin.
Time was when Tranquebar meant hope for the heritage activists of our State. There was a smart hotel, run by a chain that specialised in transforming old edifices into hostelries. A foundation from Denmark was spending money on restoring some of the old houses and had made a showpiece out of at least one street where it hoped it could entice tourists and scholars from its home country. The Danish fort had been given a makeover and had a museum of sorts, which was better than nothing. The two churches were gleaming. The sea lapped the coast. A pleasanter spot you could never espy.
But all that is a fading memory now. The State Government, after a high profile launch of Tranquebar as a tourist destination a decade or so ago, has done nothing to promote the place. The number of visitors has dwindled. The smart heritage hotel is run down now and, having given up the lease on one of its two properties, operates with only half the original number of rooms it had. The Governor’s Bungalow, which was to function as an immersion centre is perpetually locked. The old Shiva temple, which was perennially threatened with erosion by the sea, was given a most unscientific restoration and has lost its heritage feel. What is worse, it has now sprung a twin, a second shrine as it were, to which the deities have been shifted and where a priest intones hymns in the most atrocious Sanskrit. If at all any of the edifices are doing well, it is the two churches and there too, it appears that the congregation is small.
Now what took MMM there you may ask. Well, he had sung the glories of Tranquebar to a couple of his friends from up north and they had seen pictures of it as well. They decided that it was a place they had to visit. A week before they arrived, MMM was warned by other friends that the hotel in Tranquebar was not really an option to stay. And so MMM booked himself and friends into a resort from where Tranquebar was a backbreaking two hours journey by car.
Arriving at the place rather expectantly, MMM found his heart sinking into his boots. But he made a brave show of it. He shepherded his friends into the fort museum only to have the man at the ticket counter asking MMM if he and his friends really wanted to go in. There was nothing worthwhile in the museum he assured us. From the there on, the rest of the visit went steadily downhill. The showcase street of restored houses was the biggest shocker of them all. It appeared that the place, devoid of usage, had rapidly disintegrated. True, the houses still stood. But that was the most you could say in their favour.
If at all there was a saving grace, it was the sea. As MMM gazed at it, he realised that it had seen several phases in Tranquebar’s history. Perhaps better times will return. But with our State Tourism Department being in charge, all that appeared a distant possibility.
It has been a fortnight of disappointments for The Man from Madras Musings, at least as far as heritage locations are concerned. Driving up to Alamparai, he was turned away by the police who said that the place was out of bounds owing to murders having taken place among the fishermen there. It was then that MMM saw this signboard.