Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXIX No. 4, June 1-15, 2019
The Man from Madras Musings has often heard of the expression that it is from chaos that order was born. Sir Theyagaroya Road in T’Nagar appears to disprove this maxim for here you can see chaos born from what was once order. Time was when this arterial road leading to Panagal Park was a lovely stretch with a broad carriageway, sidewalks, and trees lining both sides. Then it degenerated into chaos with the sidewalks being encroached upon, the trees cut down, vehicles taking over much of the road space and hawkers given the run of the road overall. Mind you, MMM is all for hawking (and by that he does not mean the variety where you sport a hooded hunting bird on a gloved hand) but like everything in the city, it needs to be regulated.
And then, after having allowed chaos to reign supreme, order of a kind was re-imposed, the High Court throwing its weight behind the move. The hawkers were banished into an airless multi-storey structure and the footpaths freed up. Suddenly you found people walking around on Sir Theyagaroya Road. That was until a fresh batch of hawkers took over the space vacated by the earlier lot. The administration turned a blind eye for after all the High Court was only concerned with the earlier lot of hawkers and not the new ones, get it? As for cars, they continued being parked in haphazard fashion all over the place. Touts emerged, no doubt backed by local politicos, and controlled hawking and parking. MMM is quite certain that they collected money far more efficiently than any agency of the administration.
It was then that a bright spark, whoever that was, came up with the idea of making Sir Theyagaroya Road a completely pedestrian thoroughfare. No cars will be allowed declared the spark and the admin, no doubt caught in a weak moment, agreed. Overnight, the footpath, which was around four feet in width, was expanded several times over, the same happening to the footpath on the opposite side. An army of labourers descended on the road, together with tons of what is our State’s official building material – granite. Work began on converting the roadway into one enormous sidewalk, spanning the whole road.
The shops then must have staged a protest. The admin developed cold feet. In any case such revolutionary ideas are never welcome in an election year. It was decided then that a road has to exist between the two sidewalks. As a consequence, what we now have are two huge sidewalks with a narrow passageway for vehicles in the centre. MMM, driving down this stretch just a week ago, was powerfully reminded of the geographic feature known as an isthmus – a narrow strip of land connecting two landmasses and separating two bodies of water. Sir Theyagaroya Road is now an isthmus – it connects Panagal Park to Mount Road and separates two huge sidewalks that threaten to overrun it at any time.
The hawkers are delighted, for they now have a huge platform to sell their wares from. Cars and two-wheelers are now mounted on the sidewalks and parked there, blessed by the local thugs. Those that drive about have to crawl, the road having narrowed to such an extent. On the other hand, there are some that ride their two-wheelers on the footpaths, at breakneck speeds. All around are pavement layers, working on the granite and not noticing what is happening at all. Theirs not to question why. In short chaos is king.
“Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth,” states the Good Book and it never spoke a truer phrase than that, at least going by the way our local administration functions. It was just around a couple of months ago that our State Government announced that it has begun plans for the second phase of Chennai Metro Rail Limited. Several private properties were notified about takeover in part, and it must be admitted that the numbers of these in the second phase are far fewer than the ones in the first phase.
The property in which The Man from Madras Musings has his office was one such, the space acquired being a small portion near the entrance. MMM is quite aware that the access to his office building will be restricted, there will be plenty of dust to contend with, apart from vibrations from drilling and lots of noise. He is also aware that the footpath just outside his office will vanish, albeit temporarily. MMM knows that all this will mean putting up with major inconveniences in the next few years but he is happy to make that sacrifice in the interest of the city. And that was why when some of MMM’s neighbours approached him with the suggestion that a letter of protest be drafted, he advised them to desist. MMM learns that a Metro Station will be constructed just outside his office and he is very happy about it. Having become a user of the Metro’s first phase, especially on the route to and from the airport, MMM is all for it and looks forward to the day when he can board the Metro from his doorstep.
MMM however, is concerned as to where the TNEB, now rejoicing in the name of TANGEDCO, will store its bobbins, cables and worn-out transformers, all of which found this particular sidewalk a convenient space to rest in. Scores of those urinating in public may also be hard pressed but MMM guesses that these are men who can manage anywhere.
When an army of workmen descended on the sidewalk a fortnight ago and began tearing it up with drills, spades and pickaxes, MMM assumed that this was the advance army of the Metro. It therefore surprised him no end when truckloads of pre-cast concrete blocks and paving stones began to be unloaded on the site. MMM decided it was time to make enquiries. He walked across and asked one of the workmen who in turn directed him to a man of supervisory aspect. This official, after having looked at MMM with suspicion, asked if he, MMM was a journalist. When MMM said yes, albeit part time, the man unbent a little. The work was one he said, for laying a new footpath all along the road. The cost he said, ran into lakhs and was an indication of how the State Government cared for its people, something not readily appreciated by journalists.
But what happens to the lovely new footpath once Metro Rail comes along and begins its digging asked MMM. Oh that, said the man, completely unconcerned. That is another department and had nothing to do with him.