The Man from Madras Musings lives just off an arterial road of the city. It is just not an arterial road but THE arterial road, for it is the route that has been taken by four out of the last four Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu to and from Fort St George. And in this august list, the present incumbent is also included. For quite some time now therefore, MMM has been witness to some daily drama. And it never fails to entertain.
Mind you, things have not always been the same. In then good old days, when Mater Dei was ruling over all of us, there used to be cantilevered barricades that were lowered to block traffic from the side streets. Pater Familias was less bothered and whizzed about without hindering traffic flow all that much. Tweedledum (of Tweedledee fame) was the least in people’s way to give him credit where credit is due. The police however do manage to get enough drama out of the present incumbent’s journeys as well.
Four times in a day, the police assemble in full force on this arterial road – MMM assumes these are when the CM leaves for office, returns for lunch, goes back to office and then returns home again. And when MMM says assemble, he means it in every sense of the word. The cops hold meetings under the flyover, which MMM assumes are briefing sessions on where who should stand. And then the force disperses to its various positions. The auto rickshaw drivers who wait for passengers are forced to move off the main road and into side streets. Why this is necessary when the convoy zooms past at the greatest of speeds is beyond MMM’s comprehension. There is also heavy usage of sirens, and these wail loudly and continue wailing presumably so that passers-by are alerted about possible blockages. Beggars and vagrants are summarily told to make themselves scarce and they promptly oblige.
Not so understanding are cattle and stray dogs. MMM cannot resist a smile each time he sees a set of bovines ambling along the road just when the drama reaches a climax of sorts. For after all was it not the present CM, who when Mayor had decreed that cattle were off limits within urban bounds of the city? And yet they are back, and how! Anyway, they present a challenge to the police for no amount of gesticulating, shouting, pushing and shoving gets them on to their feet. The animals appear to enjoy the fun and move just when the CM’s cavalcade is turning the corner. It is enough to give the police several panic attacks. Dogs are yet another matter altogether. Unlike cows which remain at one place, these dart to and fro and can be great risks and also be at risk if they collide with vehicles moving at high speeds. So these too are chased off the road.
The policemen on duty know by instinct as to when they need to stand to attention and so they pass the time of day chatting with the auto rickshaw drivers until the warning sirens begin to hoot. They then spring to attention. But the maximum theatrical effects are to be seen only at the junctions. Here stand a posse of policemen, all of them wearing snow white gloves, like so many debutantes lining up to be presented to the king emperor at a Buckingham Palace Garden party. They are dressed to the nines and what with the gloves and our weather, perspire profusely. In the meanwhile, vehicles are being stopped on all sides, albeit for a few minutes. But even within that time frame there will be one or two two-wheeler riders and a few pedestrians who try to cut across. These are addressed in the choicest of expletives, words that MMM stops to listen and enrich his vocabulary with.
The convoy arrives and the policemen at the junctions become all arms and legs. Gloves and shoes flash in every direction – saluting and stomping of feet happening like automatons. The cows behave themselves and the dogs are nowhere to be seen. The public holds it breath. The convoy passes and the sirens die out in the distance. The policemen at the junctions peel off their gloves. Those on the sidewalks slacken. The autos come back. Traffic moves. Dogs bark and the cows resume pondering over life. Life in short is back to normal. Until the next outing that is. MMM looking on at all this wonders if the police assume the CM thinks that they are always so smartly turned out, that the streets are always so spic and span and that traffic is always so streamlined. If only all that was to be!