If you are reading this in Chennai, and if you have a function/office to attend tomorrow, I have one extremely helpful advice for you: Stop reading.
Don’t get me wrong. What I mean to say is that you must get out and start joining the traffic today itself so that you can hope to reach wherever you want to at least by tomorrow. The traffic jams have become that bad now.
But luckily people have better equipped cars to take on the traffic today. It would be near impossible to endure the Chennai traffic chaos in, say, an Ambassador. On the other hand, modern cars allow a person to handle traffic jams better because they are filled with engineering excellence, by which I mean, they have way better audio system and AC. As far as actually negotiating through a traffic jam, I must say you are better off in a Premier Padmini than in a Peugeot, because at least you know a dent in the trunk of the former is less costly to repair.
Anyway, Chennai’s traffic problems are mostly due to the construction works that are on for the ambitious Metro Rail project, designed by, I must point out here, expert engineers previously employed to conceive thrill rides at large theme parks.
I mean, as per the signs available (based on the structure of the tracks), the Metro Rail goes underground, and it climbs up immediately, only to take an acute curve, to be followed by a near sharp turn. I am sure that once the Metro Rail gets going, we Chennaiites will find the famed rollercoaster at Disneyland less exciting and exhilarating.
But Chennaiites can feel reassured that with the Metro Rail there seems little scope for traffic snarls to break out in 2013 — the year the first phase of the Metro Rail service is expected to roll out —- because it looks highly unlikely that the traffic jams that we are encountering today would have cleared even then.
The situation has reached that stage where it is not uncommon to find people travelling abroad from Chennai complain of severe jetlag. Some of you might ask isn’t jetlag very normal when you take long-haul flights. Bloody hell, people are contacting jetlag just driving to the airport. For, it takes that much time.
But make no mistake about it, the Chennai Metro Rail project, when it becomes operational, will be a major success, particularly in terms of public patronage, mainly because the authorities seem to have taken up all the roads that are navigable by other means.
OK, I exaggerated a bit there. They have not taken the nearly 10-kilometre-long Arcot Road, possibly because the engineers, who went there to prepare the feasibility report, are still to return. Yes, here on the Arcot Road it is not uncommon to find traffic snarls dating back to the MGR administration days.
Just the other day I managed to set what I believe to be a record in Chennai by covering in 45 minutes a distance of less than one kilometre. On a car, that is. If I had the good sense to walk the distance, I would have needed just around five minutes, provided, of course, I had not fallen into any of the ditches near my house that the civic workers have dug up for the purpose of our entertainment.
Yes, I said ‘entertainment’. Let me elaborate: The ditch has been there for over a week now. Initially I thought the Metro Water officials had got it for fitting some pipes to supply fresh air, which is what you get these days in the tap. Anyway, that did not happen. Then I wondered whether it could be the BSNL people at work for laying underground cable. And then I realised that the entire BSNL itself has now gone pretty much underground, thanks to the work of Maran and Raja. Or perhaps the Corporation workers were getting ready a storm water drain to handle the monsoon rainwater? No, that could not be the case at all, as local history clearly suggests that the works to prevent flooding on the streets are generally taken up only after the streets are fully flooded.
So, the only logical explanation left with me now is: Yes, they have moved, without any fanfare or formal announcement, the Olympic 3000m Steeplechase event to Vadapalani, Chennai.
The pit, filled with muddy rainwater, and fenced with makeshift steel barricades, certainly looks primed for the event. The Kenyan and the Ethiopian athletes will particularly relish the Vadapalani track, since it has a striking similarity to the terrain in African jungles.
The only problem, however, is if there are any more rains in the coming days in the city, they may have to scrap the steeplechase race. But nothing will be lost for Vadapalani. Its Olympic dream can still be intact. In case of more rains, it will be even more ready for underwater diving.
But the athletes better start early for the events next fortnight. Like yesterday. For, the traffic jams don’t look like clearing any sooner.