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Vol. XXXIV No. 2, May 1-15, 2024

Short ‘N’ Snappy


Chasing apples through mazes

These are exciting times, at least for those who live in the vicinity of Chennai Metrorail work. To give the authorities due credit, they have planned the activity well and kudos to our police too, for identifying streets that nobody ever knew existed before and convincing Metropolitan Transport drivers to steer buses through them. And there is also the inner glow that comes from the realisation that all these troubles for the present are small sacrifices for a better tomorrow.

The Man from Madras Musings is not one to complain. He looks upon the rumble and tumble of metro work as part of life in general. Thus he did not turn a hair(not that he has any) when a vast flyover vanished leaving not a wrack behind. He keeps his sang froid when he has to drive over metal pathways with yawning chasms below. And he merely mutters a prayer as he steers his car down a one-way with many vehicles, particularly two-wheelers, careening down the wrong side. But even MMM can be tried and tested at times.

A Great of All Times, a Swami G whom MMM reveres, was leaving for Calcutta (a city that MMM was once a cherubic child of, you will recall) to take over his entire monastic order. There was a public farewell event which MMM could not make it to but the next day there was a private audience and so MMM decided to go and pay his respects. And as is customary, MMM had a basket of fruits with him, to be given as an offering.

In normal times, driving from chez MMM to the monastery is a simple matter, a journey of few minutes. But in the CMRL era it has taken on the nature of an adventure. Hills and dales have to be crossed, rivers forded, and some hostile tracts have to be negotiated. The basket being of the shallow variety, MMM placed it, and the fruits, in a bag and then got into car and drove off. After going around in circles at quite a few places with the Google maps lady losing her mind and shrieking turn left/turn right/turn left/turn right repeatedly, MMM decided to park the vehicle at a sort of no man’s land and walk the rest of the distance.

This was where some practical difficulties presented themselves. The paper bag with the fruits had become sodden and so its bottom had given way. The fruits were all over the car, in particular an apple that had wedged itself under a seat and had to be prised back. There was no option but to arrange the fruits in the shallow basket and walk, rather in the manner of serving girls in the courts of kings of yore. MMM having embarked on the journey thus, found it no easy task. The way was ill-lit, and the street was marked by what geographers would call areas of high relief that manifested themselves without warning. At each such spot the fruits heaved, the apple rolled off, and had to be retrieved.

The destination was reached after much trouble, but it was worth it. The music in progress was divine. MMM in thankfulness bowed low to offer obeisance only to have the basket tumble over and the apple racing away with two devotees in pursuit. The fruits were assembled once again, and all was well until MMM lifted his hand in appreciation at a particularly fine musical movement and the apple rolled off again. It was retrieved and placed on the top of the fruits. There was a repeat performance when MMM bent low before G himself but such was the latter’s magnetism that the fruits behaved themselves.

The return journey was a mere bagatelle after the earlier travails. But MMM has decided to courier fruits if needed to anyone at least until Metrorail completes its work. And he will avoid gifting apples.

Who owns Heritage?

The Man from Madras Musings was leading a heritage walk the other day. And on the itinerary was a structure that he is particularly fond of. He had not been there in quite a while and was looking forward to gazing at the edifice and telling the attendees its story.

On the reaching the site however, MMM was in for a shock. No, the building had not been demolished but it had clearly been neglected in the years during which MMM had not visited. The owners of the property, a venerable institution by the river and famed for a banyan tree, had not been visiting the place and it had the sickly air that heritage buildings take on when they have been locked for long. You know what MMM means – dark stains in the plaster, a couple of roof tiles missing, some windows hanging loose from surviving hinges etc. MMM is not doing justice to the description he realises – after all he is no Great Director and this is not the climactic scene from the film The Master, The Mistress, and the Slave. But you get the idea.

MMM realised he could not let his emotions get the better of him and got on with the story about the building. He dwelt on what it had been in its heyday, the great people who had lent lustre to events that had been held there, and the man after whom the structure had been named. The audience listened with rapt attention. Some of the locals gathered too. And one among these was a lungi-clad individual who had emerged from the neighbouring house. He was clearly not impressed. Even as the others gazed open mouthed at the building and marvelled at all that had happened under its roof, this man could not care less. He scratched himself and shook his head cynically.

The story behind the location done, MMM prepared to shepherd his flock and move on when the man stepped forward. “Oh you are back, are you?” he said. “Every once in a while, you come with people, say something, they take pictures and then you vanish. Look at your building. You do nothing for its maintenance and upkeep. The garden is full of weeds, there are snakes, and the compound wall has fallen in. Why don’t you do something about it?”

MMM moved on, but not before registering a silent wish that the building was indeed his to do something about. And if by merely conducting heritage walks around a place he could claim ownership rights, then he has clearly not realised the true potential there exists in his hobby. Why, every politician would soon become a heritage enthusiast.


The dreaded Kathiri or Agni Nakshatiram, which is supposedly the hottest time of the year will be well on its way by the time you receive this copy of MM. But as it is the duty of The Man from Madras Musings to spread sweetness and light, he bids you to be of good cheer. For experience has shown MMM that temperatures rarely soar to predicted levels in this city of ours during May. June is far worse. And meanwhile, enjoy the mangoes!

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