Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXVIII No. 6, July 1-15, 2018
Years ago, The Man from Madras Musings, when he was a Cherubic Child of Calcutta, had read a story in the Arabian Nights of a man who slept on a palm seed and his body warmth made it germinate. When he awoke, he found he was several feet above the ground. And he decided to stay there, for he was assured of food and drink from the tree. The story was, however, quite silent on what he did for relieving himself. Presumably others had to worry about it. Talk about serendipity.
Chennai that was Madras is now in congratulatory mood in rather similar circumstances. Apparently, the city, which ranked last year 235th on the cleanliness or to give it its official name – Swacchatha – index, has zoomed to 100th position this year. Government babus are congratulating each other. It is party time at Ripon Building and the Tweedledum-Tweedledee combine that is in power is claiming all credit for it and attributing it all to the blessings of late lamented mommy dearest. Not so happy is perpetual prince in waiting aka eternally youthful leader who owes allegiance to daddy dearest. But that is understandable.
The public, and that includes MMM, is puzzled as to what has really caused this sudden improvement in ranking. Last year’s pathetic marks were on account of “poor performance in waste collection, lack of scientific solid waste processing, delay in construction of toilets and poor communication to bring about behaviour change.” In what way has all this changed in the past one year? Have we improved markedly on waste collection, have we evolved a scientific method to process solid waste, have we speeded up construction of toilets or is there a change in the way we are communicating to bring about behaviour change? MMM does not think so. And his views are shared by much of the ever-growing population of the city. All over the place people are wandering about with puzzled looks, wanting to find symptoms of better performance in waste collection and the rest.
Having debated on the matter in his venerable mind, as the Father of the Nation often said, and what is good for he (Father of Nation) is good for him, MMM, he, MMM has come to some conclusions on how we improved in ranking. The first is of course the simplest – we remained the same while other cities slid rapidly down the scale. Perhaps there was an epidemic of defecation in the open in the rest of the country. That could explain why we suddenly found ourselves 100th. The other reason, which is more plausible, was found by MMM deep within the celebratory bureaucratese on this improvement. Last year, the Babus who sit in judgement over such rankings had cast Chennai down to 235th chiefly because we failed to submit documents on time. This error was rectified this year and the babus were pleased. They gave us high marks and we zoomed ahead. In short, it is all in the paperwork.
Now that is something our bureaucrats are very good at. After all, up north it was always believed that we Tamils are best when it comes to filling forms. And, so, MMM expects our ranking on Swacchatha to only improve. Soon, like Abou Ben Adham, we will awake from a dream of peace to find our name leads all the rest. As to all that ground work on waste collection and the rest, why bother? We can go a long way on paper.
The woes of eternal youth leader aka prince in perpetual waiting appear to be piling up. Looking at him, The Man from Madras Musings was tempted to comment if this, and not Mona Lisa’s was the head on which all the sorrows of the world had fallen. Let’s face it – you thought the Tweedledum-Tweedledee combo would collapse within weeks and here they are going strong. You thought the river water could be ratcheted up as an issue and all of a sudden Tweedledum claimed victory though as to what exactly was won is yet to be understood by anyone. Then came the polluting plant in distant pearl city but there too matters just went ahead and all is quiet. Eternal Youth Leader (EYL), at the time of going to Press, was contemplating laying siege to the Governor’s residence, than which there can be no bigger non-issue. MMM doubts if anyone would notice. The Governor will be happily ensconced in his beautiful home and the rest of the world will continue to function as usual.
But that is not all. Last fortnight, EYL and his party, the Rising Sun, conducted a political meeting in a locality named after the original founder and elder brother of the party. In the process of this, they followed the usual procedures laid out – drilling holes in pavements, digging up roads, putting up flags and generally making nuisances of themselves. The public, which all along ignored these things (a euphemism for suffering in silence), suddenly decided to protest. Social Media erupted in anger. Tweets and Face-book posts proliferated and EYL had to take notice. It is unlikely that he would have cared if people had protested in person bit something on social media was a different matter altogether. He issued an immediate apology and asked his legions to repair the damage done. This was done after a fashion – concrete was poured into the holes, grit pushed into the pits and the banners vanished. The Social Media protestors went on to protest other things – such as the situation in Outer Mongolia for instance. Attention span is notoriously short on Social Media.
But if you thought EYL’s troubles ended there, the next day saw people protesting against his party blocking off a central thoroughfare for a political meeting. Protests about this were less vociferous and the meeting went ahead. But it just shows that EYL is going through a tough phase. What puzzles MMM is that nobody protested when Tweedledum and his twin, and their party did just about the same thing – drilling holes, dug pits and put up banners. How is it that Social Media did not protest? The only one who did was old Traffic Ramaswami and he did it the old way – remaining steadfast and moving the Courts to act, not by sitting in a couch and pressing the ‘Like’ button. It would be good if EYL and the two Tweedles pay attention to the likes of Traffic Ramaswami and not the likes on Social Media.