The mills of God, so The Man from Madras Musings is informed, grind slowly but they grind exceeding small. There are some who have expressed the same view about our judicial system, but MMM does not want to get into that controversy. He would, however, like to add a third institution that works the same way and that is our own Tamil Nadu Electricity Board which, for some strange reason, now goes about under an alias – TANGEDCO.
The divine mills were brought rather forcefully to MMM’s mind when he was driving down a thoroughfare that is his regular beat. In the past, this was a tree-lined avenue with discreet bungalows tucked away on either side. Since then the trees have come down, while the houses have grown taller and taller and now appear to be tumbling on to the road. What was once a four-lane road is now just two lanes thanks to the number of cars parked on the sides as the buildings inside have no space for them.
All would have still been well had not TANGEDCO muscled in one day to relay cables. That at least was the official reason given out, though it is MMM’s view that this body digs roads just for the fun of it, rather like a British Prime Minister of yore who cut down trees for exercise. To be fair to TANGEDCO, they did give sufficient warning. Enormous steel bobbins, each around 15 feet in diameter, and all of them having electric cables wound around them, were suddenly rolled in and randomly distributed all along the road. They remained there for days on end and the residents of the area soon came to consider them local scenery. Posters were pasted on them, children played around them, and men in urgent need of a tipple or two went behind them. Those wanting to answer calls of nature were more open and used the bobbins as convenient props.
There came a day when TANGEDCO decided that it had aired the cables long enough and they could now be pushed underground. The activity began one night, long after everyone had gone to bed. The next morning the locals found the entire road dug up along the sides. No car could enter or leave any building. Some alert watchmen on duty had hastily erected pedestrian walkways of sorts. But to ford these you had to be in prime physical condition and also a trained acrobat, as they were nothing more than a pole or two. Walking on them was a tough act and beneath was a yawning chasm. One false step and you joined the cables below.
As MMM drove by he noticed considerable action on the road. The secretaries of the various residents’ associations were in confabulation with TANGEDCO officials. They wanted to know as to how long they would need to be confined indoors. To this there was no answer. It was most likely that the man in charge of laying cables was not the appropriate authority to reply to such queries. Work proceeded sporadically thereafter. Every aspect of the cable laying was manual to the extreme – the bobbins had to be rolled, the cables unwound and laid, the roads dug and filled in. An army of labourers toiled when they felt like doing it, doing which was seldom, and the work continued for days. The residents took to using public transport and those who could stay indoors did so.
Then came a day when the work was over. True, the road was in a pitiable state, full of mounds and depressions but at least the cars could be taken out. Everyone heaved a sigh of relief. But the jubilation did not last long. A couple of days later, a group of men from the Chennai Metro Water and Sewerage Board were seen prospecting the area. MMM predicts more action.