375 has a nice ring to it, no? Gary Sobers plus ten? That’s what Madras has turned this month. 375 years. The Madras week starts from morrow. The national broadsheets as well as the neighborhood times will all go to town i.e Madras to sing its paeans. Like how steeped Madras is in history. Like the soft spongy medhuvadai in milagurasam. What an amazing amalgam or concoction or decoction of tradition and modernity this Madras is! What good karma of our previous births has bestowed on us this present birth in Madras.
Really? Aren’t we fooling ourselves? Peel off the sentimental gibberish and look underneath. The underbelly will be very uncomfortably visible. Madrasis singing praise of Madras is any news? Why, for every Ethiopian worth his salt, Ethiopia is the utopia of earth. So with Madras. I too have been, off and on, proclaiming loudly to whoever would listen that Madras is the best. But deep inside, a few dark images lurk, and now is about time they were dusted, polished, pulled out and put up for public view. Here are a few vignettes of colours the real Madras is made of:
The most visible hue of the spectrum becomes almost invisible to the average Madras motorist if the color emanates from a traffic signal. Seldom would you find a motorist stopping at a red light here, unless the signal has, a retinue of traffic cops as bodyguards. Madras is probably the only metropolis (if only size qualifies it to be called so) where every traffic light has to have a cop as an appendage. It beats logic that to enforce a single rule you spend twice over – one on the cops’ salary and the other on maintenance of lights. And if that cop too turns the other way busy extorting that tenner from a lorry, the traffic junction would be a free for all. It hardly matters if the light is green or amber or red or bloody white. Who cares? The plain fact is that traffic rules enforcement is the poorest in Madras of all the big cities in India. Statistics don’t lie, despite their notoriety. Road deaths are the maximum in TN of all states.
Has anyone noticed why most of the walls of each and every lane and bye-lane in Madras is moist and wet? The unstoppable bladder of the Madrasis, what else? Masons here have learnt the trick of cementing the bricks of the walls and leaving it without watering and curing. That public service would be taken care of by the Madrasi urinating all over the place. The shower-proferring citizens can even teach a lesson or two to the stray mongrels roaming the streets and looking for a lamp post. The entire city is a lamp post for these shameless denizens of a ‘conservative’ and ‘cultured’ metropolis. In say, the much-maligned Calcutta one would seldom witness anything rivaling the magnitude and ferocity of the relieving public of Madras. The otherwise blissfully-urinating-all-over ‘cultured’ and ‘decent’ fellow would not forget to paint the Chandrasekara, the Crescent and the Cross on his own house’s wall to prevent the shower-favour being returned. The 3Cs would retain their chastity only for a few days. From day 4, the walls will be back to their alluring and inviting best – wet all over.
You can be sure the State milk distributor Aavin would double production the day a new movie of that mega-mass star releases in Madras. We Madrasis are cut out for the colossal stupidity of pouring gallons of milk on cut-outs of our mass stars. If Surya is drenched with 100 litres, Vijay should have at least 105. If Vijay has 105, Thala should have at least 110. One thing you can be sure of – we Madrasis believe in keeping everything and everyone cool. If not the walls, then the cut outs. Some liquid or the other we would keep unleashing on the unsuspecting. Taken together with the hundreds of gallons of milk the deities of our million temples consume, are not we Madrasis the torch-bearers of the white revolution?
We have heard of the Corleone family. And the Giuseppe, Catanic families. The dreaded mafias of Italy. Why, even Madras has had its own share of colourful criminal characters like Auto Shankar, Maadu Sekar, Bokkai Ravi and Welding Kumar. But three mafias of Madras, no power on earth could root out are the Pachaiyappas, Nandanam Arts and the Presidency mafias. The venerable inhabitants of these three colleges have managed to bring parts of the city to a near state of bloodbath and mayhem very often by their openly brandishing knives, swords, sickles and sundry other weaponry to attack each other, break buses, strike at the public, smuggle arms inside colleges and in general strike such a terror that the public have come to believe that the police need to think of an alternative profession, casting aside their uniforms. A few of our city colleges are so infested with petty politicians, criminals & goondas ( don’t ask why I am using 3 names for the same entity – it is for emphasis) that it is a mystery that they still continue to be called colleges when crime-dens would be more apt a name for them. And then there is this abomination called bus-day celebrations in Madras when on multiple days each section of each college would simply hijack a bus, empty it of passengers, climb on the roof, bang it to pulp and create huge traffic jams in busy thoroughfares on week days. Police? Well, they will dutifully escort the processions. To prevent any ‘untoward’ incident or damage – to the marauding students that is.
Even the Ebola survivor of Sierra-Leone is sure to fall prey to the yellow fever of Madras once he lands in its airport or railway station. Gabbar Singh type robbers rule only in the jungle. Highway robbers loot only in desolate stretches of highways. Our yellow auto robbers do it all over the city, throughout the day, 24X7,for decades together. Madras is the only city where per kilometer fare by auto would even exceed the airfare. For those hapless, uninformed, unfortunate ones landing at midnight or unearthly hours at railway stations or airports, they would be better advised to carry title deeds of their property, for they would be required to hand over the same as fare for say 5 kms or beyond, when they run out of cash. Fare meters, did you say? That is for ‘Dhrishti’, you know, the scarecrow they erect on paddy fields to ward off evils. To think that this day light robbery is continuing in Madras for nearly 3 decades will be astonishing for outsiders but not for us. Police? Enforcement? Again, tell that to the dogs. [that said, only recently some semblance of order has been restored to the auto scene but that too only in patches, too insignificant to be any newsworthy]
375, did you say? Isn’t that only a number? Even a thousand years hence, fat chance Madras would reform. Atleast in scrubbing off the decadent layers of the above 5 colours. Temples, music, maamis and madisars, at best, are only the public façade of this monster of a city. The above 5 colors of the spectrum are the reality. Deep inside its belly. You better believe me, for I know this city like the back of one’s palm!