Tuesday, 24 January 2017

The Republic of Marina

The kids had demonstrated to perfection the Gandhian method of peaceful protest. An ordinance legalizing the sport of Jallikattu had been promulgated the previous night. When I started for my run that day, my thoughts were similar to that of a Bull let out to face a crowd of testosterone raged youngsters. I was not sure if endorphins were enough motivation or I should have temporarily kept aside my Gandhian qualms and had a few quick stiff ones!
The ‘Occupy Marina’ movement had virtually relegated the police, politicians and reel heroes from their midst. The youngsters had given a stellar example of how to implement Swatch Bharat, the young man riding a Corporation garbage lorry proudly adorning the protective gear made a lasting impact compared to all the celebrities ceremoniously wielding the broom for the media cameras! The volunteers regulating traffic without use of power or challans, but, just a cheery smile set the bar high for their counterparts in white who have tarnished their profession by demanding bribes not far from the War memorial! That the conventional politicians of all hues were rattled was best seen in the way the leaders of a popular political denomination trying to stop suburban trains were made to appear foolish by kids travelling in the train with me. They asked the protesters how they would reach Marina if the trains are stopped. The protesters beat a hasty retreat shamefacedly. Clearly, the rules have been changed by the younger generation!
Most telling image was that the who’s who of the state bureaucracy, who used to strut around pompously in the dress rehearsal of Republic day, were relegated to a side road in the Army area this year. The policemen who used to be brash with commoners were appearing suitably humbled. In my last loop near RBI when one traffic policeman with sporting a trademark paunch imitated my running, I took him on and said had he been more genuine and regular in his copying of my running, he would be more healthy and could get rid of his paunch. He had the final laugh when he said that I do not seem to have conquered my temper despite Gandhian wear and regular exercise. Guess, I was feeling emasculated by the crowd of youngsters shaming the entire state machinery (not that anything could hurt more than the top civil servant of the state having been caught with a stash of money recently!)
In my last loop near Napier bridge I was stopped by a posse of determined policemen who absolutely refused entry to me on to the Marina beach road. I tried Gandhi, then anger, but, to no avail. I cursed them that may they be relegated further away from the public discourse for their insensitive behavior to an old man for extending his run by four more kilometers by asking him to take an unfamiliar and alternate route. Little did I know that the young man in uniform was doing his duty and preventing me from getting embroiled in the police protestor tussle on the Marina.
In my opinion the victory coming so easily made the youngsters feel that that had bid low and could have asked for more. Having won the ‘Right to Fight’ the bull, were they doubting their ability and the bulls will to fight? My take is that we as elders have failed to define virility and manhood to this generation of Pokemon chasers that they had to go as far as Sangam literature to resurrect Bull taming. My prescription would be taking to running to woo a girl as well as staying as a united family!
All in all let us celebrate the youngsters at Marina for validating Gandhian methods, even if for a doubtful cause, hoping that they would come back with worthier causes. If nothing else, I am sure it would give pride in work to the many sanitary workers, humility to the police and the powers that be! Long live the Republic!

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Taking the Bull by its horns!

With the battle for the ‘Right to Fight’ raging and the crowds of youngsters taking to my running arena these last two days (and nights before I am told!), I have been riding the horns of dilemma. Though the subject is hugely topical and emotional, the fact that the Bull for whose well being and virility everyone seems to be speaking for, I wanted to speak up for him. My interest in bovine matters is of recent origin, after I turned Vegan and realized the withdrawal symptoms    after voluntarily abstaining from the species better halves nurturing offering. The crowds on the Marina beach are largely peaceful and the interest of youngsters in matter agricultural is heartening. Gandhiji with his head bowed would have appreciated their means of protest, but, the ends seem suspect.
The stated reason for the popular uprising is defending our culture and virility (the Bull’s I meant!). With all the emotion and heat surrounding the topic, I have not been able to understand about how letting they play ‘Taming the bull’ for once a year would make the vanishing breeds survive. The problem of dwindling native species of the male kind is ominous in the days of the sperm banks and IVF even for the males of the human kind! What chance does lesser mortals in the foreseeable future of designer babies!
On a serious note, the imported breeds being preferred by dairy farmers, because of their much superior (even if unhealthy(?)) yield, over native bulls is all too familiar like the hybrid and GM seeds threatening the native seeds. The solution would be to work on the growing awareness of superiority of things ├ôrganic’! Governments and NGO’s should support preservation of native breeds and sell the produce (even if costlier on face value!) to discerning buyers. Animal husbandry department of the government and enterprising and educated dairy farmers would be a key to this. To promote local and native produce can be marketed as promoting nationalism and patriotism (which is the flavor of the season!). The anger and emotional energy aroused by the issue of ‘Jallikattu’ should be channelized to sustain and nurture their interest in farmers and farming.
Only recently in the Hindu Literature festival held over the previous weekend, the fact of largely docile Indian public in the face of queuing for days for cash after demonetization was suggested for a wider sociological study for what makes us Indians so docile, sure enough, the empire struck back so bullishly vindicating their virility!
As a result of the all night vigil on my run route, I have had to reduce the number of loops on the Marina with the longer part of the run being relegated to the Fort and military area. My unusual dress or the lack of it, I feared, could be the proverbial read rag to the bullied youth! I need not have worried, they gave me a rousing cheer when I crossed them and I felt like in the home stretch of Mumbai marathon which I had recently ducked in keeping with my abstention for commercial events!
Enough on the bulls, as I feel that even if it is the steed of my namesake lord, which with their better halves have hogged lot of footage even to the exclusion of matters concerning the human beings. Biscuit (my aggrieved pet due to this partiality!) has not had his limp on the right foreleg not being reported in the press. Then, there is the minor issue of the pain in my right knee which threatens to break my routine runs. We both have decided to soldier on even if limpingly and at the time of going to press, we both are better!

Though I wanted to restrict this post to matters Bullish, but, the chance encounter the day before cannot wait for my next blog. I usually take my final (and a longish!) break near Gandhi statue before my return trip. A man accosted me opposite the DGP’s office. He asked me about my father and, without even waiting for a full reply, said that he is the grandson of freedom fighter VOC! I know any amount of pride in my grandfather’s accomplishment could have been no match for his lineage. I have seen the movie on VOC and Sivaji’s proud visage in that role came alive to me. He said he spoke seven languages and broke into a rousing song (I confessed that my Tamil was only passable!). He had his right hand amputated from below the elbow and he claimed to work as a security guard. The pride in his voice and his sincere face told me that he could be telling the truth. I was reminded of V Sriram, the Hindu columnist who writes about Madras Miscellany every week about lesser known facts of the city, who spoke in the recently concluded Litfest about the stellar ladies of Chennai of yore. I think if this reaches him, he could test the authenticity of the man’s claim and we should help the descendant of the freedom fighter, who staked his all for the country’s sake, so that even if his genuineness is proved we could help him as he seems to be in bad ways! There never is a dull day when I take to my run in the morning (a creaky knee notwithstanding!)  and with such VIP acquaintances any furlough could be costly!

Sunday, 8 January 2017

The morning after

I knew that the runner crowd at Marina would resemble the scene of the Library at my college after the day of the exam, yes I am referring to the Chennai Marathon which attracted a record number of runners yesterday. The decision regarding whether to run on the day of the marathon when major part of my route coincides with the marathon route was a dicey one and if my station duty the previous night and the much maligned punctuality of Indian Railways saved me from the dilemma.
True to expectation the route today was bereft of the trademark yellow Tees’, but, the usual walking crowd and an awesome weather did not disappoint me. My puppy friends near the Marina swimming pool who have been playing hide and seek in this New year kept faith with my regularity and punctuality and gave me a rousing welcome.
The crowds continue to throng outside the final resting place of the demised CM Amma even after more than a month having passed since her death. I am tempted to take a break and visit her Samadhi, but, I am hoping to get a private audience after the crowds subside. The entrepreneurial spirit of the tea vendors has set up a few vends on cycle near the place. They tried tempting me with their fare in the first few days, but, now they have now switched to ribbing each other about running with me. Even though there have been question marks over her means, but, the unabated crowds thronging her resting place makes me rethink the Gandhian adage of means being as important as the ends!
The other epochal event since I last went to press was the ‘Note ban’. I have swung widely about whether it was good or bad during the 50 day period it has played out. The crowds outside the ATM’s, I cross during my run, have dwindled, but, whether it is lack of cash in the ATM’s or the appetite of the public is not clear. The cyclone Varda did steal the thunder from mundane matters like cash and flattened many trees in its path as the trial by elements in month of December of this chosen city continued. The devastation caused to the communication networks compounded the miseries of the cashless people. The gnarled remains of trees still lying, with the civic authorities running out of places of disposal, present a sad scene. The view from my 5th floor balcony gives a clear view of the famed cake and apparel joints across the road, the foliage thinned like the receding hairline of a middle aged man.

Coming back to my morning run today, the kids near the Monroe statue stopped me and asked if I participated in the marathon run the previous day. I told them my usual answer that I do not pay for what comes free!  The usual crowd of army runners and the kids on skates around the Island ground gave me the feeling that it was Business as Usual!