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

Vol. XXXII No. 6, July 1-15, 2022

Short ‘N’ Snappy

-- MMM

The trees are sporting new colours

In Chennai that was Madras, there are we know only three seasons – hot, hotter and hottest. Of late, The Man from Madras Musings notices that there is a deplorable tendency to celebrate the hot season as winter, with many people going around in shawls, monkey caps and earmuffs. But to each one’s own and who is MMM to comment on people’s preferences? However, no matter what the pro-winter lobby thinks, the seasons hardly change all that much in our Garden of Eden, except for the rainy season when as we all know, the garden lies at the bottom of our three rivers. And because the seasons hardly change, our trees don’t shed leaves. And the leaves don’t change colour either. They remain a uniform dull grey, which in Chennai passes off for green.

Our Government, which as we all know is one that works, and delivers, has evidently decided to take matters in hand. If the trees will not change colour, then the Government has decided to colour them. Came a day when MMM, driving along, found all tree trunks on both sides of the road painted in bands – a central band of yellow flanked by an upper and lower band of light green. And what was even more puzzling, it had all been done in the dead watches of the night. One evening the city went to sleep with the tree trunks all brown and the next morning everyone woke up to find the same trunks covered in colours. It all reminded MMM of the great verse that celebrates how morning in the bowl of night had flung the stone that put the stars to flight. What was even more mysterious was that no leader or minister or bureaucrat had taken credit for it. There was no flagging off the tree-painting drive (even by video conferencing), no photo opps and certainly no press statement. All very strange and contrary to standard operating procedure. Was this perhaps a central government initiative and hence the dead silence? But if so, there would have surely been much chest-thumping over it in distant Delhi? That too had not happened.

The choice of colour too has put everyone into speculative gear. Chennai has for long rejoiced in the red and the black. We have been through several other phases – pater familias liked yellow while mater dei was all for green. Could these bands of yellow and green then be an attempt to show that all is peace and amity with the Montagues and Capulets of Tamil Nadu politics united at last in the great beyond? MMM being more prosaic feels that someone in babudom must have seen tonnes of yellow and green paint left over from the times when we were a mom-and-pop show and must have decided to put them to good use.

There has been one other disturbing thought – the colours are the same as those of Chennai Metrorail Limited. And as we know, practically the whole of the city is now in the beginning stages of one vast dig that will hopefully culminate in a magnificent public transport system that we can be truly proud of. Could it be that these trees are all in the way of that pathway to progress and so are earmarked for being uprooted? There are two reasons for this negative view – the painted trees are all on the main thoroughfares of the city, and secondly, not all the trees are painted – those that are a little away from the roadside have been left as they are.

But then, MMM is probably being unnecessarily pessimistic. The paint is luminescent, and it is probably meant to warn those who drive about in the dark, often with fully lit interiors owing to spiritually uplifting refreshment. That Chennai, once known for toppers, is now known for topers is a fact, and the police, quite understandably since the outbreak of Covid are reluctant to ask suspects to subject themselves to breathalysers. Perhaps painting the trees green is a good way to save the lives of those painting the town red.

Get MMM to do it

The problem with running a magazine connected with history and heritage is that most people think that you are the ideal person to offload their creative thoughts. The Man from Madras Musings has often wondered if the late Chief was subject to so many phone calls that usually at some point veer towards “Let me give you an idea on what you should do…” MMM gets one practically every day. In fact, his hand trembles when he picks up the phone. One of MMM’s dear friends, Super Singer, has often asked MMM as to why he, MMM, answers every call. SS is known for being hugely reclusive. But then with MMM answering the phone and returning missed calls is a matter of duty and so he does that and suffers in consequence.

Regular readers of this column will be aware that MMM has in the recent past been asked to restore Bharat Insurance Building, buy the TVS property on Mount Road, and also prevent the sale of Adyar Park Hotel (that deal at least has since been called off). He has also been made to edit some governmental gobbledegook on tourism. But the idea he received last week surely is the most interesting thus far. It all began with a call from a friend to say that a friend of the friend wanted to speak to MMM. Could MMM’s phone number be shared? MMM had to agree and sure enough there was a call from a gentleman who said he was from a community, more a language, that had at one time had significant numbers in the city. In fact, there was every chance that Chennai that was Madras could have gone off with that community and become the capital of another state. But then we had some tough negotiators here and so the city remained in TN. Be that as it may, the caller asked MMM if he, MMM, agreed to the fact that members of his (caller’s) community had made significant contributions to the city. MMM said he agreed. Whereupon there was an explosion of sorts at the other end. The caller had found his cue to erupt.

There followed a long monologue about how the community had been completely side-lined whereas at one time it was in the thick of things in matters concerning media, cinema, music, and much else. The caller blamed it all on politics, vote bank calculations, fall in moral standards, and probably threw in global warming for good measure (MMM had stopped listening after a while). During this diatribe MMM got on with other work, all the while looking out for that ebb in the flow when the caller would pause to take in breath. Over the years MMM has become an expert at identifying that moment of silence. When it came MMM immediately rushed in – he agreed with the caller wholeheartedly he said, and would the caller please tell him what he expected MMM to do.

His friends and he had discussed matter over said the caller and had decided that MMM ought to write a book on the contributions of his (the caller’s community). Unfortunately, he and his friends had no idea as to where to look for information, but the caller was sure MMM would find it all. MMM did not bring up the matter of finance for such callers usually assume that MMM owns a bank and can therefore bankroll it all. “Let us know once you have completed it MMM,” said the caller. “And we will give it all the publicity we can. We are with you in this noble endeavour. Just get on with it.”

MMM hung up. In his view this call was of the same variety as the one with the lady who called asking MMM to do something about the pathetic condition of her old college. When MMM asked her as to why she did not do anything about it the response was why, she had called MMM to ask him to do something. Was that not enough?

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