The Man from Madras Musings was strongly reminded of Hansel and Gretel. Those two intelligent children, if you recollect, had marked their route into the forest with pebbles and had thereby managed to return safely much to the delight of their father but to the distress of their stepmother. Standing at a crossroads at Anna Nagar, MMM was of the view that he too ought to have done the same. But hang on, MMM can see that you, dear reader (to borrow from Jane Eyre), are confused. What is MMM coming to these days, you wonder, and rightfully so. After all, these are not the Meanderings of a Misguided Man.
To put everything into perspective, let MMM begin from the beginning which, as the song had it, is a very good place to start. MMM had to be at Anna Nagar and, so, off he went. He dodged a few trenches, all courtesy Metrorail, drove under the “heritage” Anna Arches, which are still standing thanks to historically aware people and, presto, there he was, in Anna Nagar. This is not really a locality that MMM visits all that often, but his impression of the place was always one of broad roads and tree-lined avenues. Not any longer, MMM sadly noted. The broad roads are now much narrower, thanks to massive construction activity of the Metro or Monorail or a flyover or some other public transport facility which is going to make our city truly Chennapore. As for the tree-lined avenues, they are all debris-lined, as every second house is in the process of metamorphosing into a multi-storeyed complex, complete with a certain number of b, h & ks and also swimming pool, gym and clubhouse. Enough to make the place Madrattan.
But MMM digresses, always a known weakness of his. The crux of his story is the return journey. His errand completed, MMM prepared to make his way back. It was then that he thought of the siblings Hansel and Gretel and realised a moment later that even they would have been flummoxed, for Anna Nagar now operates through a series of complicated one-ways, where the way up is not the way down and never do the twain meet. MMM felt more like Abhimanyu, the Mahabharata hero who knew how to enter a certain enemy formation but not how to exit from it. The civic body that claims to run our city (or are the Police responsible for the signboards?) had thoughtfully placed several signboards at various places to guide those driving around Anna Nagar. ‘Keep Left’ said one, another admonished MMM and others of his ilk not to mix drinking and driving. A third informed MMM that speed thrilled, but killed. But as to how to leave Anna Nagar there was not a single sign or it missed MMM’s eye. He was later pointed to a couple of signs that gave directions, but these were so small that it was impossible to make out what they were stating, especially while driving.
MMM had to resort to stopping at every junction and ask for directions. This was much to the irritation of those in vehicles behind who, it appeared, were in a tearing hurry. Amidst the honking MMM could barely make out what passers-by were telling him, but he understood enough to drive on. MMM crossed several of Anna Nagar’s famed residential blocks and as he was passing Block X it dawned on him that Z should surely be the last block and after that he should be out of the maze. But he did not know that Anna Nagar was the grid which was the inspiration for Microsoft’s Excel.
After Z there began AA, AB and so on endlessly. A wrong turn near AA (or was it AB?) brought MMM back to where he had started. He had to stop for directions once more. Finally, after several lefts and rights and ups and downs, he could see the twin arches in the distance. A wave of fondness for the two heritage structures poured over MMM. He wishes them well and hopes that they will stay on forever, to guide those lost in Anna Nagar.