Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXVII No. 19, January 16-31, 2018



The underbelly of a flyover

There was a time when, as The Man from Madras Musings remembers only too well, our city had one flyover – at the Gemini intersection. Thereafter, sometime in the 1990s, we broke out into a rash of them and they continue to dominate Chennai’s skyline. Some are straight, others curve, while yet others branch off into confusing branches and loops, the last being named four-leaf clovers perhaps in commemoration of the green cover they displaced. All of them, however, have one problem in common – namely the space underneath. And all the bleaching powders and disinfectants of Arabia will not sweeten that little land, to paraphrase Lady Macbeth.

The most practical solution is to convert them into parking spaces. After all, these flyovers did come into existence chiefly to cater to the vehicular population of Chennai and so we might as well go the whole hog. And that has happened under many flyovers. Not so in the case of the one on RK Salai. This thoroughfare, for long the Chief Minister’s Way no matter who was in office, hospital, prison, sick-at-home or meditating on the Marina, has been the royal route so to speak and so it became necessary to beautify it in the best traditions of our city’s Corporation. Imagine the CM (whomever that may be) driving down and seeing a whole lot of cars parked under the flyover. What an abomination it would be for those Chief Ministerly eyes. And so a plan was made.

The powers-that-be decided that this space would become a plaza of sorts, or, given the plans, may be platz or piazza would have been a more appropriate term. This, said the powers-that-be, would become a space for modern art. These would be dotting the area, so ran the dotty scheme. And then we would have children playing open air games such as hopscotch, snakes and ladders and maybe catch-catch. Add a troubadour or two and a few potted plants and you could consider yourself to be in Venice. The only absent element was the gondola, which too could be arranged each time the space flooded owing to rain.

Work proceeded briskly thereafter. The vagrants who slept under the flyover were scooped up and dropped elsewhere. Flagstones or their concrete equivalents were laid. A couple of ferns came along. By way of modern art there was something that, at least to MMM’s eyes, appeared to be an upturned broom with baskets festooned all along its handle. On these receptacles reposed some rubber tyres. What this ensemble was supposed to mean was beyond MMM but, then, much of modern art is that way. It was bruited about that a very large sum had been spent on the artwork and the rest.

All was well for a couple of weeks. And then the vagrants came back. They missed their home, but it was worth it, for, in the month or two’s absence, someone had redecorated their demesne at someone else’s expense. And now all was well. The police tried their best to evict the settlers, but soon lost interest. They even became pally with them. The tyres were removed from the baskets and the children of the vagrants (the numbers had multiplied while on holiday) played around with them. The vast open space became a convenient spot to lie down and watch traffic go by. Last seen, the tyres had vanished and the baskets around the broom were used for storing clothes. Talk of built in wardrobes!

Poster plethora

And, so, ‘sucks to the High Court of Madras,’ they seem to say. The judgement banning the putting up of posters and hoardings on public spaces and private walls lasted less than the time that posters and hoardings remain. What with the political parties, the administration which is such a handmaiden to the first named, and the print media (which is another offender in this regard) all ganging up to represent as to why such an order went against the very principle of fundamental liberty, it seemed inevitable. Those whose properties stand defaced thus, evidently don’t matter. But that, as The Man from Madras Musings notes, never was a consideration.

No doubt emboldened by the lifting of the ban, everyone is back in business. Tweedledum and Tweedledee, who had set out to battle following the departure of their mum, having since buried their hatchet and been smoking the pipe of peace, letting all and sundry know about it by means of posters. No doubt accurately monitored by the guidelines of the Weights and Measures Act, these posters give equal importance to both. They are shown holding hands, waving to the lay public and when not so occupied, paying obeisance to the late lamented duo, one the creator and the other the preserver of the party.

Son rise party too has much to rejoice. Truth, they feel, has been upheld in the matter of the great scam over which at least two of their leaders were likely to come to grief. A Daniel come unto justice, cry their posters, what with the Judge letting off the two leaders and declaring them pure as driven snow. In this connection MMM notes that the posters in Chennai only laud the distaff of the two accused. What of the so-called kingpin? Why is he not feted? That is a mystery. MMM assumes posters in his praise are up at his (king’s) native village.

Also in celebratory mood is Truly Troublesome Victor, who having contested elections in a pressure cooker of a situation has emerged like a jet of steam from aforesaid cooker, complete with three triumphant whistles. Posters laud him as the deity of charity, no doubt recalling the largesse that he is alleged to have distributed or at least promised to distribute. His victory was a blow to all the aforementioned celebrants, especially son rise party which came a cropper. Son 2 has since accused Son 1 of being the prime reason for the miserable outcome. MMM thinks that another Tweedledum vs Tweedledee situation is arising.

Whatever it is, 2018 promises to be a good year for those in the poster printing industry, ditto the banner raising industry, the sidewalk digging industry and the road repair work industry. Tamil Nadu shines.


greyscale copy copyAnd so the New Year dawns, exactly as The Man from Madras Musings predicted, full of scope for satire and humour. To illustrate this we have the featured photo, where, as you can see, women with curly hair have new joys to look forward to.

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