This article is dedicated to all the Vidya Mandir teachers – Leela Sampathkumar, Saraswathi (Amma), Gomathi, Alamelu Gopalan, Kanaka and others who taught the Man from Madras Musings some of the songs referred to in this article. It is also dedicated to the LKG batch of 1969 who sang along, and as they did not know much English then, made up the lyrics as they deemed best.
”The Lord said to Noah there’s going to be a floody floody” thus began a song that The Man from Madras Musings learnt when he was a young cherub. He remembers singing it along with several other tiny tots even as a school marm played the piano. And the song came rather spontaneously to MMM’s mind the other day when it rained.
In the case of Noah, as MMM is sure most of his readers remember, the rain lasted forty days (fo-orty daisy daisy, as the song went for some reason) and everything became so muddy muddy (refrain – Children of the Lord). In Chennai, the rainwater, as you know, stagnates mainly in the plain. Not that there is much plain, what with the high plinths of multi-storey buildings, the deep excavations of the Metro rail, and the perennial road cuts done by the Electricity Department which in this regard is perpetually in a battle of one-upmanship with the Water Supply and Sewerage Board. Add to this the sand mounds created by construction activity and you have what geographers refer to as a land of high relief. No wonder the water charts its own course until evaporation removes it. And, so, at the end of the brief shower, everything was as muddy as in Noah’s time.
To get back to the rains – the animals in Noah’s time, if you recall another song, went in orderly rows of two by two, led by the elephant and the kangaroo. But the bipeds of Chennai chart their own rules. Never the most law-abiding when on the roads, they become firm adherents of laissez faire once it rains. To each one’s own, they declare, and rush in all directions. Suddenly lanes where everyone was going in three by three like the wasp, the ant and the bumblebee, becomes four by four resulting in a great hippopotamus getting stuck at the door, by which MMM alludes to those massive private vehicles referred to as SUVs which get by only on the power of their horn. Traffic snarls and accidents are the general result and it often makes MMM wonder as to why and how Chennai’s accident roster is not longer than what it is.
Father Noah who was a famous man, from what MMM remembers of yet another song from his (by which MMM alludes to his own and not Noah’s) childhood, settled down beneath the rainbow’s end. Later, MMM came to know that this meant Mount Ararat. The day it rained this was also perhaps what a minibus driver had on his mind. Having decided that he had to get to rainbow’s end as soon as possible, he raced over a flyover, shot over the boundary wall and landed his vehicle on the Metro rail construction below, from where it dangled for quite some time before a crane arrived to remove it. This caused another traffic build up chiefly because this became one of the sights of the city, with every man and woman wanting to take a look. It was a wonder that the Corporation did not sell tickets for viewing the suspended vehicle from which all passengers luckily escaped unscathed.
A lady whom MMM knows was catching an international flight the day it rained. Having reached the airport she was informed that departure was delayed by at least five hours. She decided to summon her vehicle back so that she could go home and return at the appropriate time. But what with all the chaos caused by the bus and its shenanigans the vehicle took two hours to reach home. And once there, it was time to leave for the airport again! Such things happen only in Chennai. When the animals began going eight by eight, Noah, if MMM remembers correctly, worried that the weight was too great. The same situation prevails here – our city, like Noah’s ark, is bursting at it seams and only God can give us a way out of the present mess.