Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXXI No. 3, May 16-31, 2021
If at all the present pandemic has a positive side to it, it is its relentless exposure of our shortcomings. Much of our present way of living and managing of the city has been held up as wrong. The congested manner of urban life is probably the first and biggest challenge. And then we have the woefully inadequate health infrastructure. In short there is no dearth of urgent big-ticket reforms in city administration. What is distressing therefore is the way money is spent on cosmetics such as beach beautification, putting up of selfie spots and so-called footpath widening schemes which in the absence of subsequent maintenance become spaces for vagrants and illegal occupation. The latest in this list of wasteful expenditure are the so-called vertical gardens beneath flyovers.
The pillars were admittedly eyesores. Posters had aggrandised the entire space made available and what was not within reach had been taken over by political graffiti. The Corporation then put up appeals to the general public – ‘these are your spaces built with your money,’ they said. ‘Do not disfigure them.’ This did appear to have some effect for there was a marked decrease in the poster menace. But that the administration itself was complicit in the disfiguring was evident when in its drive to remove political graffiti it very carefully allowed the ruling dispensation’s handiwork to remain while all others were painted over! It was only when the polls were announced and the Election Commission took over that these last too were whitewashed, no doubt in preparation for the new party in power to paint its messages.
Be that as it may, someone in the administration clearly thought that covering these spaces with plants may be the best answer. Fourteen flyovers were identified to ‘benefit’ from this scheme, at a cost of Rs 8.14 crores! The benefits touted were that they reduced noise and air pollution and also had a cooling effect on the immediate environment.
Meet Selvi. She’s more than 60 years old and works as a live-in help for a family in Thiruvanmiyur. She has an old-school Nokia phone with no internet connectivity; she doesn’t surf the web or participate on social media websites. When Selvi decided to get the covid vaccine, she didn’t register on the CoWIN app; she directly went to the nearest center, registered in person and received the jab on the same day. This is exactly what she would do, she says, in a medical emergency as well – reach out to the nearest public health center for help.
During 2019 I lost two of my genuine well-wishers, who were responsible for my new Avatar as a writer/author, post retirement. One was Charukesi, the well-known bilingual writer and music /dance critic who passed away on 30th January, 2019. He had just turned 80. The other one was S. Muthiah, the chronicler of Madras, a heritage activist/ author who passed away on 20th April, 2019. He was 89. Both were single. Charukesi was a lifelong bachelor who never married and Muthiah, a widower who lost his wife of 40 years in 2013. What contrasting personalities they were.
(Continued from last fortnight)