Yes, come here Singara Chennai. Where have you been all these days? Remember you are turning 375 today? I agree, I agree, you look more and more ravishing as the years roll by. Not a strand of grey hair, nor a wrinkle. If anything, you are fitter and more nimble. But a bit more buxom and flabby. Your fiery temper has but grown fierier. I look back at what I saw of you and I hope you recall the lecture I gave you last year this day. [Birthday greetings, you 373 year old monster] And try to see if you have any improvement to show over the last 12 months or just continue to be what you were a year ago – haughty, impertinent and downright the naughty girl that you always are, unwilling to mend your ways. I had then promised that I would give you monster another earful if you live to see your 375th birthday.
You have lived and so have I. And now I see you shamelessly handing over your progress card to me for signing. Lend me your ears and let me read your progress card first. I will think of signing later.
Traffic – Still remains the same horrible mess, vehicles have increased on the roads and you are polluting more and more. But at least no deterioration over last year’s situation noticed. Marks 50/100 – PASS
Police enforcement – The year that went by was one of 'visible policing', as the cops would like us to believe. Nice hoardings they have put up everywhere – Close to your block, round the clock. Close they are and quite visible too but what about improvement in enforcement of rules? You still see motorists violating traffic rules with impunity right under the nose of the cop who is busy or rather idling inside his swanky patrol vehicle. The day when all vehicles stop at a red light even without a cop lurking around nearby would be the day, you would pass this test, Madras. Marks 30/100 – FAIL
Garbage – Some improvement seen here, at least the mounds of trash are less visible, what with huge blue tin vats swallowing them up. The vats are an eye-sore but any day preferable to heaps of naked garbage strewn around. Okay, I admit you have done some good work here Marks 60/100 – PASS
Infrastructure – Status quo ante. Don’t see too many new flyovers, civic improvements or fresh initiatives. Metro is coming up fast but you can’t take much credit for that, it is not your state project in the first place. Compliment, if you need it badly, can only be for the fact that the infrastructure has not gone any worse. Marks 55/100 – PASS
Waterways and Parks – You have long been bragging that you will make a Kaveri of Cooum and a Brahmaputra of Buckingham Canal. All gas and no action . You have only managed to create more stinking rivulets rivaling Cooum on the streets in the form of overflowing sewage. Forget Cooum, can’t you at least give a thought to the last few still unspoilt waterbodies and marshes you have? And the parks? Many have given way to constructions and dumping yards. Sorry, not much to crow about here. You should be happy that you just scraped through here – Marks 40/100 – JUST PASS
Tasmac shops – Can’t help discussing this underbelly of yours, because they are slowly becoming the face of the city. They have only increased in number. Their patrons sustain your livelihood, Madras, by gulping in gallons each passing day. You throw freebies around out of their courtesy only. To pay the Pauls, you have all along been robbing these poor Peters. Have you given anything in return to them? The gentlemen thronging Tasmacs who fill your coffers continue to wallow in filth and muck. Your doctors and hospitals do roaring business out of the mass liver cyrrohis your Tasmac patrons contact. High time you mended your mean ways here and show some courtesy to your drinking millions. Marks 35/100 – FAIL
Yes, here comes your favourite subject – films. I thought you would always pass this subject but I see something unbelievable here. You have managed to create a parallel super censor board to clear films. Goons roam around wielding sticks and stop film shows. Now this is new and where did you learn this? It’s all bad company you have gathered around you. Marks – 20/100 FAIL
And there are other subjects – like population explosion, auto-wallahs, the heat, the humidity, blah, blah….. Since you can’t do much about these, I let these pass and let you pass. For these sundries, I give you, Marks 50 – PASS
So this is my earful to you this birthday. Will hound you throughout the coming year and give you another earful when you turn 376 next year. Till such time, good bye and good luck. Don’t show your ugly face to me for the next 365 days.
Madras heard out all this without a word, shrugged and walked away nonchalantly. There she goes, out of hearing distance. She can’t now hear what I say. Now readers, this is just for your consumption – don’t blurt it out before her if you happen to meet her again round the corner.
Fact is, my Madras is not that bad at all. But you do not praise your child before her face and spoil her. Arrogant she may be but not beyond salvation. She has good taste, exudes warmth some times, embraces strangers, doesn’t flaunt her prosperity, level headed and cool! While other cities would go to town over birthday celebrations, she is ever conservative and kind of shy. Not for her the garish celebrations over birthdays like politicians. Her Tambrahm inhabitants still make the best coffee in the world. Her 108 ambulances, state-owned, still manage to reach the mishap site within minutes. Her Government offices still manage to move files without losing them like Coalgate files. Her cool evening sea-breeze still make one forget the humid days. Her temples still offer peace and solace. Her music season still spell-binds. Her Amma canteens still give value for money. Her five star hotels nowadays even make Oorgai cocktails. A dash of mangai oorugai over vodka or something. (hehe, this cocktail was invented long ago by Tasmac patrons only, how coolly these big hotels usurp the recipe without patent!) Her Madras Bashai is still music to the ears leaving you yearning for more. Meyyalume!
My Madras still manages to soothe and comfort. She is now the toast of India. Every other Bollywood film now fashionably names the movie after my Madras/Chennai. Meet her I will next birthday and bash her up again but that would be a façade. Don’t tell her and MIND IT.