I have a problem and am confused (which is not uncommon, some might say).
I really do want to write about the traffic restrictions in many parts of the city. The situation is so bad that people may soon have to take diversions to reach the bathroom from their bedrooms. And sometimes husbands may have to go without a second helping during dinner as the passage between kitchen and dining room has been made one-way. If it is so dire within the house, just imagine what it would be like outside. The day is not far off when you, travelling south from Chennai, may have to go all the way up to Chingleput to make a ‘U’ turn. Sunita Williams, I am certain, must have been impelled to become a space woman after an attempted drive on the Chennai roads.
This year’s Nobel prizes have already been announced and taken, and, at any rate, they don’t have one under the category of ‘traffic control’. But if indeed it is possible to give one under that classification, the Chennai police team that has imaginatively thought up the many traffic changes would have won the coveted award hands down. The only problem would be that they could not have gone personally to collect the award, as, in the existing scheme of things, they would still stuck somewhere in the vicinity of Guindy for a few days while on the way to the airport.
Anyway, given the way things are proceeding, the traffic planners may also move to the idea of making air space one-way, which considering the manner some of the budget airlines operate, is not such a bad thing. But that is a different matter altogether.
I am fully aware that traffic restrictions are inevitable in these times of vehicular population explosion. But what the city police have come up with seems to be a roadside version of snakes and ladders game, and mostly you wouldn’t know here whether you are clambering up or bitten down.
The whole of last week alone I kept going around T Nagar in circles, as if I had a religious vow to fulfil, without ever managing to get out of the maze that the police had conspiratorially conjured up. In comparison, the way out of the Chakravyugh would tantamount to a leisurely romp in the park.
The scores and scores of individuals you mistake for shoppers near T Nagar are actually those hapless individuals who have just not been able to find their way back home. They have been taking one diversion after another to the various shopping arcades.
Now I will get back to the confusion I started this column with.
I also want to explain the predicament of men folk during festival times, especially Navarathri. Don’t think I am belittling an important and beautiful facet of India’s timeless culture. I am all for Navarathri. But considering the fact that it is all about Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi —— the quintessential symbols of women’s empowerment — I am a little bit suspicious that the entire festival has been structured and carried on to wreak subtle revenge on men totally. And my boy, haven’t they succeeded!
We had a husband and wife visiting us recently for the kolu. All through the evening, the wife was at her cheery best but the husband sat silent, hardly uttering a word as if auditioning for a Manirathnam film. If he had sat alongside the kolu dolls nobody would have noticed the difference. If anything, dolls looked more expressive.
But I could sympathise with him as almost all hubbies are reduced to this state of helpless apoplexy during Navarthri time, when their sole reason of existence is to dutifully chauffeur their wives to heaven knows how many thousand houses and then partake of the sundals that are either undercooked or overcooked, but never rightly done keeping the neighbourhood gastroenterologist in very good business. This is a sub-tradition that has evolved during Navarathri.
Of course, the main objective of Navarathri tradition is to parade all the beguiling array of silk saris that a woman has in her wardrobe. After seven days of observing Navarathri and countless women, I am happy to report that both the traditions are thriving this year too.
But between the two subjects of clueless driving and clueless drivers, what do I choose to write about. Hey, wait. Isn’t this festival time? And isn’t a special offer expected from everyone? For instance, Metro-water supplies germs for a lifetime along with the water. So here it goes from me too: Two issues in one column.
While you enjoy this special festival offer, I will go take my wife to yet another round of kolu, sundal and gastroenterologist. But considering the way the traffic is, I think I will be able to meet you only next week.
(A reprise of an old column)