N. Ramakrishnan
N. Ramakrishnan

N. Ramakrishnan writes on infrastructure, renewable energy, cement and automobiles, and, of late, entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship. Ramki is passionate about journalism; loves nature, reading, bird-watching, photography, politics and urban development.

N Ramakrishnan

Madras nalla Madras...

| Updated on March 09, 2018 Published on June 22, 2013


So went the opening line of a memorable Kannadasan song in the 1967 Tamil film Anubhavi Raja Anubhavi, sung in the movie by the wonderful comedian Nagesh. Literally translated, it reads as “Madras, good Madras.” Nagesh, a villager, comes to Madras (as Chennai was then called) and finds himself completely at sea and everything chaotic and confusing.

You can’t blame him, really. Even one who has lived in the city pretty much all his life would feel the same way Nagesh did in the movie.

There is absolutely no administration of any kind – garbage is piled up all over; there is hardly any pavement for pedestrians to walk on; no one obeys traffic rules and if you are one who scrupulously waits at signals or does not switch lanes, you are bound to get shouted at by everyone else, all of whom seem to be in a tearing hurry to get to their destination; open manholes and drains pose a serious threat to life and limb, yet no one cares; television cables hang limply from lamp post to lamp post; buildings come up in every nook and cranny – even to the naked, untrained eye they seem to violate all possible rules, yet the authorities turn a blind eye. And, you have at least two large open sewers – the Cooum and the Adayar. We are all proud of them, so also of the beach, which day in and day out is littered with garbage of all types.

All this in a city that would astonishingly like to believe that it is among the top international cities.

There must be something seriously wrong with Chennai’s residents – those who call it their home for ages or those who have recently moved in. No one cares. No one bothers. If there is one quality that is well and truly a Chennai hallmark, it must be apathy. Barring the stray protest – more an objection – when the then government decided to construct a new Secretariat in the Government Estate, pulling down hundreds of majestic tress that had withstood the ravages of nature or a heritage structure is put to danger because of construction on the metro rail, life for everyone else goes on as usual – each one cocooned in his or her own life, turning a blind eye to what’s happening around – the author included – and letting things go their way. I would attribute all this to a lack of pride and a sense of belonging or owning.

Madras may have become Chennai. But, pretty much nothing else has changed. The city has become dirtier, noisier, more lawless, more congested, more apathetic and more of an overgrown village.

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Published on June 22, 2013
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