Outstation tour to Madurai

August 5, 2015

Our next outstation tour will be to Madurai and will be from the evening of January 2nd 2016 to the morning of the 6th. The emphasis will be on a holistic approach to Madurai starting from its ancient history till recent times. 

A partial list of places that will be covered will include the Meenakshi Amman temple (but of course), the Koodal Azhagar temple, Tiruparamkunram, Azhagarmalai and the Tirumalai Nayak Mahal. However what is also being planned is a secular history tour of Madurai that will look at its place in the performing arts, British rule and the Independence struggle, as also it’s industrial history. As part of the itinerary we will also have a young musician travelling with us to take us through the rich poems and songs on Madurai.

The idea is to travel by train (2tier AC). Bookings for these open by September 1st and so we need to close our tour bookings by then. Those interested may please register at walks@chennaipastforward.com for further details.

Walks for Madras Week 2015

August 4, 2015

15th August – Mylapore and the Freedom Struggle led by Sriram V– 6.00 to 8.00 am, followed by breakfast. Charges: Rs 500 per head.

16th August – The Justice Party in Triplicane, led by S Prince Ennares Periyar and Govi Lenin – 6.00 to 8.00 am, followed by breakfast. Charges: Rs 500 per head.

22nd August – The Islamic Heritage of Triplicane, led by S Anwar – 6.00 to 8.00 am, followed by breakfast. Charges: Rs 500 per head.

22nd August – The textiles of T Nagar, led by Sreemathy Mohan – 2.30 to 4.30 pm, interspersed by a tea break. Charges: Rs 350 per head.

23rd August – Fort St George, led by Sriram V – 7.00 to 9.00 am. Charges: Rs 350 per head.

Prior registration and payment a must for all walks, all of which have limited number of participants. Registration to be done at editor@madrasmusings.com. Payment details will be sent by email on registration.

Hidden histories: Musing on Madras Week – The Hindu

August 30, 2015

Another edition of Madras Week has just concluded. As always, it proved to be an enormous learning experience, the city displaying its layered history to all celebrants.One of the most relaxed mornings, in what was othe

Source: Hidden histories: Musing on Madras Week – The Hindu

To prohibit or not to prohibit

August 19, 2015

Everyone has gotten on to the wagon. Or should The Man from Madras Musings say the bandwagon? He alludes to the recent snowballing support for declaring our beloved State and City completely dry. Nature, or what we did to it, has already made the region water-free and now the powers-that-once-were and the powers-that-want-to-be-in-power are building a groundswell of opinion in favour of completely abolishing the other fluid – the one that cheers. To Hell With TASMAC appears to be their motto. It is noteworthy, however, that the power-that-is is completely silent on the subject.

MMM, who is abstemious to a degree (his only weakness in the wine, women and song trio is the last named), could not care less either way but he does have a kind heart and would like to point out to the lobby that demands the ban on brandy, the whisking away of whisky and abolition of arrack that without these essential commodities, our State may come to a complete halt. For, just as Napoleon (or was it Wellington?) said that an army marches on its stomach, our State and our City operate well only when considerably lubricated.
Take for instance that mega festival that happens once every five years – the general election. How can this be a spirited affair without the distribution of spirits? In the absence of this perquisite, the cadre will be dispirited and newspapers cannot claim that the campaign ended on a high note. In short, the zigzag path to the hustings will be filled with hiccups.

The only option would then be to brew the stuff illegally. MMM has no personal experience but he is informed by those that are in the know that the formula for these home-remedies is taken directly from the three witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth (fillet of a fenny snake, fingers of a strangled babe, etc.) and the end-result is invariably double double toil and trouble. The potion gives such a kick to those that imbibe it that they permanently move to a higher abode.
Another option would be to take a tip from the wildebeest of Africa that migrate in large numbers in search of watering holes. In this Madras that is Chennai is singularly blessed for it has well endowed neighbours on both sides – the French town that has pretentions of being a State, and the IT metropolis that thinks it still is a garden city. MMM predicts that it won’t be long before our tipplers begin planning visits to these cities on the slightest pretexts.

MMM has had experience of living in other cities that temporarily went dry for various politically correct reasons (these moves are never altruistic). Those who HAD to drink every day in these places were advised to get a medical certificate that stated that they needed to imbibe in order to stay alive. This in turn translated into what was called a permit, which rapidly became the most precious document possible, spawning a whole corruption industry in its procurement. The application form in the national language of the north was evidently created by a rabid dry. The first column asked the applicant to fill in ‘The Alcoholic’s Name’ and the second one ‘Name of Father of Alcoholic’. These terms alone, it was said, turned several hopefuls permanently away from the bottle. As they say, the pen is mightier than the sword.

Do heritage buildings have to become museums?

August 18, 2015

Why is it that, unlike in several places abroad, heritage buildings in India have to become museums in order to survive? Is there no way that they can be treated as living instances of our past and be put to good use after proper reconstruction? These are questions that renowned architect and sculptor Gautam Bhatia raised in an article in The Hindu (one of the supporters of Madras Musings) quite recently. That found a ready echo in our mind, as the situation in Chennai is no better.

While there are certainly more number of instances where we have successfully demolished and obliterated our built heritage, there are a few cases where we have done some restoration. And almost without fail, post the conservation effort, we have either locked these structures up or have made a hash of trying to convert them into museums that nobody visits. Take for example the Connemara Library. The old wing was being used as a reading room for several years. It was then locked up for a few more years before a very authentic restoration exercise was embarked upon. On completion, the building was thrown open to the public as a magnificent showpiece, sans bookshelves and reading tables. This lasted a week and then the building was closed forever.

The Senate House began its restoration exercise sometime in 2005. At that time it was agreed that a public trust would be formed to administer the building once the renovation was complete. The idea was that the structure would be used as a thriving convention centre. The restoration was completed in 2007 and this coincided with a new Vice Chancellor taking over the University of Madras. He locked up the building. A successor came up with the idea of having a permanent exhibition on the University being hosted there. A shoddy excuse of a display was put up for a fortnight and since then Senate House has been in and out of bounds, depending on whether it is used as a storeroom for old answer sheets or not.

We all know of Ripon Buildings as the headquarters of our Corporation. It is a busy place, full of people and activity. A restoration programme, coinciding with the building of a vast annexe, began a few years ago. The new extension is ready and awaits inauguration. It is learnt that once this is done, the entire Corporation will shift into the annexe, leaving Ripon Buildings, which is to be made into a museum. Considering that our Corporation has very few relics, this will be yet another photographic display taken from various public sources on the Internet.

The Madras Medical College, which has moved into a spanking new block that has come up where the Central Jail once stood, also has similar plans for its old anatomy block, also known as the Red Fort. The rest of the old blocks face an uncertain future. It is not clear as to why buildings that were continuously in use till a few months ago, need to be abandoned or converted into museums.

If the Government had its way, we would have all its heritage structures facing two alternative fates – either being demolished or becoming empty shells, albeit after restoration. The latter is not necessarily a better fate than the former, for a mere showpiece soon loses its raison d’être. A subsequent administration can easily question the necessity of retaining such structures and have them demolished in the name of development. It is therefore necessary to keep all heritage buildings in active use, with as much public participation as possible. One of the frequent arguments against such a move is that our public are indifferent to heritage and will therefore spoil the buildings. While there is much truth in that, it is the bounden duty of the Government to educate the masses on the necessity for care and preservation. But given that those in power and out of it think nothing about pasting posters and disfiguring public walls with graffiti, this may be a tall order.

Those who wish to read Gautam Bhatia’s article can do so at this link:
http://www.thehindu.com/features/magazine/gautam-bhatia-looks-at-how-heritage-buildings-can-be-used-to-create-vibrant-neighbour hoods/article7429665.ece

Know Fort George – 8, the Barracks

August 17, 2015
The southern face of Kings Barracks

The southern face of Kings Barracks

The Parade Square has barracks fronting it on three sides – the south, west and north. In the initial years of the Fort, and Madras, the soldiers camped outside the Fort and there were several complaints about their many “notorious Actions (and villainous crimes)”. In 1684, it was decided that the garrison ought to move into White Town, or the Fort. Temporary barracks in Tuscan style were constructed on the western side, opposite the inner gate of the then Fort and the building was named New House. It was a terraced building with a tiled roof and at each end had a prison for “Souldiers that offend”. This ‘temporary’ accommodation was given permanent status by 1687.

Soon other buildings were put up alongside the barracks. At the northern end was a house, followed by the fort hospital. Then came the barracks, after which was the Mint and then the company’s import warehouse. All these buildings were in a precarious state by 1715. It was decided that the entire area would be rebuilt, with the Mint, the warehouse and the residences moving elsewhere in the Fort, leaving the space for an extended barracks and hospital. John Payne, writing in 1717, noted that “opposite to the west gate of the Fort is the barrack, or rather a long room, in which all the Company’s soldiers are obliged to lodge when off the guard, and adjoining on the north is a commodious hospital.” It can be concluded from this that the reconstruction was complete in two years.

By 1750, both the hospital and the military had expanded considerably and each was jockeying for space at the expense of the other. This resulted in moving the hospital out of the Fort to Peddenaickenpettah in the city in 1752. It was decided at the same time that the erstwhile hospital buildings would be handed over to the military. However, the north-east monsoon of that year proved to be so severe that the barracks suffered extensive damage.

The derelict eastern face of King's Barracks

The derelict eastern face of King’s Barracks

Work then began on the construction of the King’s Barracks adjacent to the old buildings and with its alignment being north-south. The principal entrance was located on the west. Executed between 1756 and 1762, it acquired its name from the fact that it housed a royal regiment from the inception. A simple double-storied structure, it is rectangular in shape, with each floor having two sets of rooms, one behind the other on all fronts barring the western face, which has just one set of rooms. The northern part houses the army canteen and can be accessed from Parade Square. The whole building encloses a massive central courtyard that lets in much needed light and air to the inner rooms. The western face of the King’s Barracks also has a very interesting feature, one that repeats in several other buildings of the Fort – two helical stairways leading to the upper floor. The King’s Barracks is also known for its variety of roofing – Bengal terrace, Madras terrace and Mangalore tiles. The lower floor was meant for ancillary facilities and the upper floor for the men, who were all quartered in eight sections, each with a sergeant’s room.

The ill-ventilated casemate barracks at St George's Gate

The ill-ventilated casemate barracks at St George’s Gate

In recent years, K. Kalpana and Frank Schiffer, as part of their work for the book Madras, the Architectural Heritage funded by the Indian National Trust for Arts and Cultural Heritage, undertook a complete study of this building. Published in 2003, it noted even then that the Kings Barracks was in a terrible condition, its roof having caved in at places owing to ingress of moisture. There is nothing to show that matters have improved since, though the Army did announce in 2013 that it intended to shift from here to Pallavaram so that the Archaeological Survey could undertake some much-needed restoration work.

The barracks on the southern side, facing King’s Barracks were constructed as part of the Fort’s restoration; post the French siege of the 1750s. John Call, then in charge of much of the work, proposed that Officers’ Lodgings be built on each side of the “New Square which is to be formed before the West Side of the Inner Fort” and the Company agreed that this was a very “usefull and convenient Distribution.” That these buildings were constructed to be bomb-proof is evident from a detailed note on their extension in 1771 proposed by Colonel Ross, the Chief Engineer. He suggested among other things that “18 rooms over the Bomb Proof Barracks, North Side of the Parade, which can conveniently lodge nine Gentlemen” be built at a cost of 25,950 pagodas. It would appear that by 1781, most of these buildings were completed, for a minute that year recorded that the “Quarters South and North of the Parade” were to have accommodation for six captains and twelve subalterns. A noteworthy feature is that this spate of reconstruction saw both King’s Barracks and its smaller counterpart on the southern side being given identical facades on the sides facing Parade Square. These are in the Classical style – double storied with pillars supporting a pediment that sports a rather complicated coat of arms. This gives a harmonious frontage to Parade Square.

George Robert Gleig, arriving as a soldier in 1817, wrote in The Subaltern’s Log Book (1829) that the “barracks at Fort St George are the most commodious and magnificent I ever was in. The rooms in our apartments were lofty and the windows extended almost to the ceiling from within two or three feet of the ground, they have Venetian blinds in them instead of glass which keep the rooms cool and admit sufficient air.” A Parliamentary Committee reporting in 1871 was not so impressed. While it commended the design for aligning the buildings from north to south, thereby allowing for sea breeze from the east, it noted that the effect “is a good deal influenced by high buildings on the east”. It also noted that the first floor of the barracks had good ventilation but the lower floor was not so blessed as it was surrounded by other structures. Evidently, married quarters were also part of the same block, for the report notes that these were very good, each family having two rooms of good size. The most unfortunate among the lot was the Battery of Artillery, which was quartered in a series of casemates close to the western end of the Fort. They were completely cut off from the sea breeze and had no ventilation of any kind.

The western side of the Parade Square has a set of three or four independent barracks. Writing in the early 1900s, Mrs. Frank Penny has it that these were “built in recent years; they replaced some low wretched buildings utterly inadequate to the requirements of the troops, if they were to be kept healthy and free from disease. The basement of the old barracks was below the level of the ground and were small and airless.” The old ones that Mrs. Penny speaks of probably traced their roots to the original barracks that stood on the western side of the Fort. Alas, today most of even the later construction, once termed handsome by Mrs. Penny, is in a bad way.
Much of Fort St George is owned by the military but no garrison is housed in it today. The army’s departments occupy its various buildings and offices and these are all in a reasonable shape of repair. Not so lucky are the barracks which, devoid of occupation and maintenance, are collapsing. King’s Barracks is part canteen and part stores. The barracks to the west are largely abandoned. As you walk around them you will notice additional floors were added later with cement concrete and architecturally unrelated grille work. Most of these buildings are filled with rubble to prevent them from collapsing.

In which, MMM stands in for the Chief

August 13, 2015

The Chief, not many of you may know, has been away for around three weeks to lands across the seas. During this period, the affairs of Madras Musings were handled by a small but select band of ardent devotees of whom The Man from Madras Musings is also one. It, therefore, fell to this group to represent the Chief at various events where he would have usually lent his weighty presence.

One of these was the closing ceremony of the centenary celebrations of a once-upon-a-time quite magnificent college that has since become an autonomous institution with a spanking new domed administrative building to show for it. The rest of the campus, filled with heritage structures, is rapidly going to seed, with very little by way of maintenance being done for it. The old students of the college, however, are a determined lot who once saved their campus from being taken over and demolished to make way for the State Secretariat which, as you all know, has peregrinated to various places in thought and deed, destroying much heritage in its wake before going back to roost at Fort St George.

These old students, as part of their efforts to celebrate their heritage, had brought out a centenary book and as part of the centenary wanted to have it released at the celebrations. MMM too was invited and was asked to say a few words as, he believes, the usual expression is. The event was scheduled for the evening, co-hosted by the college and the alumni association. The morning, so MMM learnt, had seen another celebration held by the college alone, with attendance by several important worthies. The evening too had a VVIP slotted in, apart from MMM, the head of the alumni association and a couple of visitors from abroad, the last being members of the founding Principal’s family. Everyone was asked to be in his seat by 4 pm sharp, with the event scheduled to begin at 4.15.

MMM was there on the dot, only to find no sign of any celebration. After he had wandered about a bit, kind hands took him to the open stage where a smallish audience had gathered in front of a vast stage. This chiefly comprised an enthusiastic set of alumnae, some accompanied by very resigned and bored-looking spouses. MMM is not holding that against the latter, for the weather was hot and everything pointed to a sticky evening ahead.

After some desultory conversations (and there being no coffee in sight), everyone lapsed into a silence. The college band was booming in the distance, preparing itself for when the VVIP would arrive. It was soon 4.30 and there was no sign of the all-important visitor. By way of passing time, the other speakers were asked to get onto the stage and take their seats. This took five minutes and still no sign of the VVIP. By then some kind of a panic had gripped the organisers and there were talks that the VVIP may not come, cancelling the visit in the last minute in keeping with the trend these days.

In order to provide some entertainment, an alumna was asked to read out a few passages from the yet-to-be-released coffee table book. She started off from page one and, with the VVIP being nowhere in sight, half an hour later, succeeded in reading out most of the book. MMM and others on stage looked on silently even as those in the audience glowered back. It was rather like one set of sarcophagi looking on at another set.

Precisely an hour behind schedule, the VVIP strolled in. The orchestra boomed, the Principal and faculty beamed and everyone else bared his teeth. The event got underway with the rendering of obligatory songs. One of these, which MMM suspects to be a recent one on the college, was quite dreadful and seemed to go on forever. MMM’s attention wandered and he began to note a rather loud conversation behind him. One of the VVIP’s assistants was asking a teacher about the names and claims to fame of other people on the stage, all of which he was noting down religiously. The duo came down the line to MMM and then the assistant asked the teacher as to who MMM was. The answer was ego-flattening to say the least. MMM, said the teacher, did not count for much and the VVIP just needed to recognise his presence by mentioning his name and that ought to do. It was then that it dawned on MMM that the VVIP’s speech was being drafted by the assistant even as the song was being sung.

By the time the last bar of the song had been rendered, the speech was handed over to the VVIP, who having glanced at it summarily put it away for the nonce. The college staff then began the process of introducing the VVIP to the audience in the most flowery terms. The term purple prose would be an understatement but MMM understood that this was the norm of the day. After having been sufficiently introduced, the VVIP stepped forward and began the speech, which was one of those anywhere, anytime, standard format varieties. You could get away with such declamations at any event ranging from a wedding to a funeral. But as it began, MMM was keenly watching to see how the VVIP would manage with the list of ‘dignitaries on the dais’ as the expression is. The speaker breezed past most of them but speechwriter had not alerted his boss to the fact that there were a couple of Englishmen on stage with the most French sounding of names. On arrival at these, the VVIP paused and reflected for a moment. And then having drawn a deep breath pronounced them in some fashion and moved on. MMM turned to look at the visitors from overseas. They did not appear to care. The heat of the afternoon, the noise from the orchestra, the cacophony of the invocation and the general stage wait had created a sort of coma in them.

Post the VVIP’s speech, a scuffle broke out behind MMM. The assistant was trying to explain to a teacher and an alumna that the VVIP needed to leave at once. After all the speech had been delivered. The teacher was, of course, all willing to let the VVIP go but not so the old girl who stated in no uncertain terms that the VVIP needed to stay, release the book, suffer the other speeches and then leave. And so the long evening wound to a close. But not before a group of students and teachers raucously sang the National Anthem. In MMM’s view, this most melodious song is best sung in a chorus and yet the troupe managed to make a mess of it. It was in many ways a fitting end to the event.

19 years after Madras became Chennai #MadrasWeek2015

August 12, 2015

It was on July 17, 1996 that our city officially changed its name from Madras to Chennai, the legislation coming into effect on August 1 that year. Nineteen years have passed since then and this may be a good time to see what has been achieved by this.

Madras Musings does not hold any brief for either of the names, though our publication still sports the old one on its masthead. At the time of the makeover, it was argued that Madras was a colonial hangover while Chennai was a Tamil word. It now appears that neither of these assumptions may have been correct though the city is no closer to any clear historic evidence in support of which name is the older.

Leaving all that aside, it is rather ironic that a name change that was made to reflect our Tamil pride and local area identity coincided with a time when our city decided to become international in its aspirations. Just look back and think – in 1996 there was one flyover in the city, no shopping malls, no multiplexes and hardly a couple of fast food outlets. Internet was in its infancy if at all and cell phones were huge brick like structures, which you thought about several times before using, given the exorbitant charges. International travel had not yet taken off – it was only the very rich that made it abroad.

Some aspects have not changed. We were in the throes of a great water scarcity then, as we are now. Despite laws against them, our political class needs posters, hoardings and banners as and when they set foot on our roads. But a lot has changed since then. What have we lost? In 1996 we were not as close to infrastructural collapse as we are now. Our garbage output, our poor air quality and our road accident figures did not then put us on top of the national charts. We had pavements – 1996 was when flyovers broke out like a rash all over the city, remember? Our traffic has become much worse despite the flyovers, by the way. And our buildings were then not glassed-in, energy-hungry structures as they are now.

Nowadays, social media usage is extensive. Even our police have begun accepting complaints on Facebook. Another positive fallout of social media is an increased awareness of social issues, energy, environment, heritage and culture issues.

Our work ethics and patterns have changed as well. Today, Chennai that was Madras has two layers – an indigenous population that is ensconced in desk jobs or is aspiring for it, and a large community of migrants that have taken over all the manual elements. Construction workers, waiters at restaurants, hairdressers, ushers at theatres, cooks, carpenters and chauffeurs all speak alien languages and have managed to settle in. Several have learnt Tamil rather well, and most of our local people have had to learn Hindi to an extent to communicate with these people. Tamil chauvinism went out of the window when conversation with the service class became more important.

What happened to the local people who were providing these services before? Have they all moved upwards? Not entirely. A large chunk has happily given up working, given the twenty years of freebie culture that successive political regimes have thought it fit to bring in. With everything from cows and goats to laptops being available on tap, why work for them? Unfortunately, our city also tops the record on alcohol consumption. It does not need a mastermind to explain the connection between the freebies and the drinking habit.

What does all this have to do with the name change? Nothing at all! The city has grown and changed entirely based on market dynamics and economic trends. Which is why nothing really was achieved by changing the name.

Madras Musings Lecture Series for #MadrasWeek2015

August 10, 2015

Following are the details of the talks/debates/panel discussions and presentations that Madras Musings will be hosting during Madras Week 2015 (16th to 23rd August 2015)

Aug 16th Sunday – Stand up comedy on Chennai by Evam team – The Park – 5.30 to 7.00 pm

Aug 17th Monday – Chandu Nair leads a panel discussion on developing mobile apps for the city – Crowne Plaza (formerly Park Sheraton) – 6.30 to 8.00 pm

Aug 18th Tuesday – Mohan Raman speaks presents the various facets of Sowcar Janaki, followed by an interaction with the star – event in collaboration with Cinema Rendezvous – Hotel Savera – 6.30 to 8.30 pm

Aug 19th Wednesday – Being women doctors and women in Chennai – Dr Uma Ram and Dr Sharada Srinivas in conversation – GRT Convention Centre, T Nagar – 6.30 to 8.00 pm

Aug 20th Thursday – A Musician’s Madras – Sanjay Subrahmanyan in conversation with Sriram V – The Park Hyatt, Guindy – 6.30 to 8.00 pm

Aug 21st Friday – Emergency in Madras – Veteran Journalists Swaminathan and S Murari in conversation with Sushila Ravindranath – Chamiers, Chamiers Road – 6.30 to 8.00 pm

Aug 22nd Saturday – The River in the City – DH Rao shares his experiences of travelling up and down the Buckingham Canal – Amethyst, Whites Road – 6.30 to 8.00 pm

Aug 23rd Sunday – The Rise and Fall of the Tamil Magazine – Presentation by Maalan – Hotel Westin, Velachery – 6.30 to 8.00 pm

The events are open to all. No invitations or passes are needed. The timings include half an hour for refreshments before the actual event. Look forward to seeing you all.

How can we help maintain #ChennaiMetro?

August 5, 2015

The inauguration was long delayed as was the very process of commissioning. Some heritage buildings have been sacrificed and so have, very unfortunately, some human lives. A couple of contractors turned tail and abandoned the project midway. What is in operation is merely ten kilometres of the promised complete track, and the fare is high. Yet, the very fact that our city has a running metro rail service is undeniably a matter of pride for all of us.

The question is, will be prove worthy of it? Or will it go the way of all public utilities – the bus transport, the suburban service and the MRTS – all of them operating in a humdrum fashion with poor maintenance, rickety rolling stock or vehicles and a public that cares two hoots about their upkeep and often contributes wilfully to their damage? Please, can at least the Metro be treated differently?

Here’s how things can be different with the Metro

For starters, we wholeheartedly support the authorities in their decision to disallow any eating of food in the carriages. At least one of the city newspapers has taken umbrage over this and has reported on it as though it infringes the rights of the commuters. What has been conveniently overlooked is that this is the rule in most metro services across the world. The shut in nature of the facility is not conducive to food wastes remaining on board and this has to be prevented.

The provision of public conveniences at railway stations has always been low in the priority of the railways and their maintenance is avoided as a subject. Suffice it to say that the railways fare poorly on both counts. Given this scenario,it is a matter of concern that the Metro appears to have not made sufficient provision for toilets. The authorities have taken comfort in the claim that most international Metro services and that includes Delhi, do not have such facilities in the trains or at stations. We agree with that. But what has been forgotten is that most Metro services abroad have toilets placed, and maintained by, the local civic body, just outside the stations. This has not been planned in Chennai.

We assume that like all similar public transport services in India, the Metro will also soon have unionised staff. These must be prevented from pasting posters and painting graffiti on the walls of the stations. This has sadly never been put down in any of the other transport services and it is quite ironic that the staff could deface their own property with such nonchalance. If the Metro prevents this, it could be quite a feather in its cap. The same goes for preventing political posters and graffiti as well.

We know that it is fashionable to claim that ours is an inclusive society and so vendors and hawkers need to be provided space. That may be truer of traditional areas and services such as those attached to temples but let us not forget that the Metro is a modern creation that does not provide for vagrants, vendors and hawkers anywhere across the world. These elements need to be kept out of the service except as passengers

Lastly, how do we get our beloved public to toe the line on discipline? The Metro needs to get tough on vandals. It has to utilise the security and surveillance cameras that it places in the trains to detect acts of wilful damage. If the authorities are prepared to be indifferent and let such acts pass, then we are soon going to have a massive problem on our hands.


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