Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXXI No. 18, January 1-15, 2022
These are days when Chennai that was Madras is in the grip of a cold wave – well, the temperature is below 30 deg C and that is freezing as per our standards. The band of morning walkers that The Man from Madras Musings usually sights everyday is literally festooned in monkey caps, mufflers and earmuffs. Anybody would think that arctic winds are blowing around in this, our city. But if our fellow citizens aspire to such things, who is MMM to object?
A humourist whom MMM walks with on most days also drew attention as to how the numbers of those walking up and down flyovers early in the morning have thinned out, no doubt owing to the extreme weather conditions on those icy slopes. That naturally turned the conversation to some of the regular characters that MMM and friend end up seeing each morning on the flyover. But before that MMM also needs to tell you about what walking on the flyovers is all about.
It all began during the first lockdown when the Government for reasons best known to itself, decided to close flyovers for traffic, along with beaches, parks, cinema theatres, auditoriums, restaurants and malls. Perhaps there is a scientific study that has shown that the COVID virus propagates on flyovers. Whatever be the reason, flyovers were closed and then, when the phased opening up began, these continued to remain barred at nights, as they still are. That naturally led to walkers scaling the heights so to speak, early each morning. The slopes get the blood pumping and there are, it must be admitted, some glorious views from up top. You almost feel like stout Cortez’s men, silent on the peak at Darien. You can see sunrise, birds flying from treetops, and then looking down you can also see men relieving themselves under the pillars.
Naturally, not everyone gets on to the flyovers and it amuses MMM no end to see some of the regulars look askance at newcomers who dare the climb. It is almost as though those who have been making it to the top since say June 2020, resent those who have begun doing so in October of the same year. There seems to be a view, so prevalent in starchy social clubs of the city, that only those who make the cut should be allowed in. Extending the same logic a little further, these old timers also resent the policeman who promptly at 6.30 am, pushes away the chicanes that block traffic access to the flyover. It is almost as though the regulars puffing away to the top feel that the flyovers ought to remain for pedestrians only.
Looking at it from another angle, this may not be such a bad idea after all. Given that the pedestrian has no space for him/herself on the roads, what with the footpaths taken over by hawkers, makeshift shops and squatters, and the carriageways being full of vehicles, flyovers as walkways is something that can be explored. That way those getting about on foot can be assured of safety (provided they don’t attempt bungee jumping or paragliding from the top). If implemented, it can also be another instance of how Chennai has managed to stand every road rule on its head. After all, flyovers were once meant for vehicles were they not?
Continuing on the same vein, The Man from Madras Musings is aware of walkers’ associations in various cities of India. He is quite sure that pretty soon the flyover walkers’ association will be an offshoot. It does sound a lot better than streetwalkers’ association. More elevated you know.
MMM also notes that just on the lines of the social clubs, the flyovers too have some noted eccentrics populating them in the early morning hour. MMM’s regular flyover has quite a few and these add colour so to speak to what is otherwise a rarefied community. There is a man who turns out regularly in salmon pink dhoti and a sleeveless vest of the same colour. In this garish outfit he walks up and down, suddenly stopping to adopt some postures, sometimes tying himself into a knot. Given his shaven head and the rosary around his neck, MMM has classified him as the Monk who sold his Ferrari and Bought a Pink Dhoti.
Then there is the elderly gent who has made it his mission to train his already well-trained dog. Each morning the two set out, man and dog. The journey continues in absolute silence as long as nobody else is within earshot. As soon as someone is sighted the dog’s companion lets out a stentorian shout to the dog – it could be anything from asking it not to loiter or to keep silent or not to lift a leg. The point is this dog is one of the most well-behaved animals anyway and there is no reason for the man to yell at it. He does it chiefly to impress everyone. This one, MMM has classified as Watch Out, I Can Bark.
The Blessed Damozel is as can be guessed from the name, of what at one time used to be referred as the distaff side. She turns out each day in a saree – not unusual as walking gear but certainly not suitable for running. Having reached the flyover she daintily tucks a bit of the saree to her waist so that she does not trip and then proceeds to sprint up and down the flyover. Also of saree-clad variety is Barefoot in the Park – who while otherwise impeccably turned out is barefoot – she walks on all the roads without footwear. Her companion on the other hand is fully suited and booted, rather in the manner that the present (and forever wanting to resign) leader of the opposition described our government.
MMM also recognises Show Business who does nothing but parade on top of the flyover, fortunately not in the altogether. This man has a variety of exercise gear – one day he will arrive with a bicycle, another day a set of weights and on a third day an exercise band. His outfit also varies, from track suits to army fatigues. His footwear changes from rubber slippers to the most expensive running shoes. The point is, he does no exercise – he strolls up and stands at the top of the flyover. And then having given everybody a glance, he goes away. MMM has not yet given up on this man, he is sure that one of these days Show Business will display some hidden talent. But at present it remains truly hidden.
Last but not the least, the flyover also has the Masked Avenger. Masked to the eyebrows, this man, identifiable in his trademark white was known for going around telling everyone else to mask up. And then there was a long hiatus. Nobody knew what happened to him. He returned, sans mask. It transpired that he contracted COVID and having gained what is known as herd immunity, decided to abandon the mask. In MMM’s view that was not such a good idea after all.
If you thought that was all there was to the flyover, let The Man from Madras Musings assure you that there is a lot more. There is a band of parachutists who everyday attach tiny parachutes to their rear and run up and down the flyover. It appears that it gives them no end of a thrill to see the parachute billow behind, opening out owing to the rush of wind as they run. None of them has as yet taken off from the flyover. On that happy note, MMM wishes you all a happy new year.