Saturday, May 28, 2005

The Great Wall of Chennai! :)

Centuries ago, the Chinese built the Great Wall of China. Centuries later, "Great Wall of Chennai" was built. Pretty similar to the original wall, this new wall runs thorugh the length and breadth of the city. The Chinese built the wall around their world, and we built our wall all through the city. Although not visible from the moon, the wall is quite visible from any road in Chennai. Snaking right through the centre of the roads of Chennai is a about 3 feet tall "wall" that divides the traffic into "going there" and "coming here" streams.

I miss those ledo styled concrete stones that were kept in long lines right in the middle of the roads. They were so much more active and so much more nearer to our life! Over any given length of the Chennai roads, they would appear out of nowhere and then disappear as abruptly as they had appeared. I think, the traffic wardens use complex algorithms based on solar and lunar positions to identify the exact location where they should start the concrete block based medians, where they should end it and also the the line that they should be laid on. That the line has no apparent relation with the roads width makes my beliefs more confident! And didnt we love its flexibility? If the stones were placed in the location where we wanted to tak a right turn, we could just stop our vehicle , move the stones out of the way and create an intersection right there! Whic other place in the whole world provides such easily customisable, such end user friendsly and such flexible traffic management system? And instead of appreciating the same, we destroyed the system!

I also miss those rollable steel structures that were used as slightly higher movable traffic medians. Apart from providing the same advantages as the ledo concrete blocks based traffic divurgance, they also provided amazing advantages in creating the speed blocks with maximum ease. They are like the shirts which can be worn both ways.. Come the hustle bustle of the day, and you could place this huge structures in the middle of the road parallel to the road and they would be your friendly traffic divulger. Come the peace of night, and you could rotate these structures at right angels to form the wide, speed barriers that cover almost the whle breadth of the road and make u mandatorily reduce speed.

I have heard that the London museum has an Autorickshaw in display. I think that we should have these flexible modular traffic management systems also displayed there. After all this invasion by this 3 feet wall has made these systems extinct from our lives! And i wonder what we have accomplished with this non movable system. But the great mind behind this construction had not stopped working. It hadnow found a way to use the wall top! There were water lines places all through out this median, soil was placed on them and attempts were done to grow shrubs and flowers on these walls. The first time i drove to office seeing this, there was a small smile on my lips, no not of satire, but of a small dream that i thought was finally coming through. Imagine being able to drive through chennai with a green shrub right next to you all through the roads! incredible, doesn't it sound? The sight of couple of guys actually fixing the hoses on the water taps and actually spending time irrigating these vegetation sprouts showered my dreams with more hope and more optimism. Another thing that dawned on me was that we wouldn't have to worry about people running helter skelter across roads now and we could drive in much more ease!

Time and the endless spirit of the Chennai people was soon to prove me wrong. The will power of Indians are not something that could be curbed by this small wall. Soon people resumed their normal life. They still cross the roads where they want to, just that instead of stepping over the concrete stones or slipping through the steel beams, they started to climb over the great wall of Chennai. And, so life is back to normal in hennai. Driving was as difficult as ever, the vegetatation on the great wall, an excuse for greenery and people still cross the roads where they want to!

Today morning, when i was coming out of the stainz away laundry, i saw two kids standing at this side of the road, with a confused look on their face, looking atraight across the roads. When i followed their gaze, i was slightly taken aback. There was this guy on a motor bike who was standing on the other side of the road, close and aligned to the great wall, ( parked int he middle of a busy road) gesturing these kids to run across the road, scramble on the great wall and then curt across the road to meet him. Lets look at the audacity of this guy - He himself was stationarily parked on his bike in the middle of the road, and was teaching the young minds to cross the roads where they want, instead of asking them to come round.

I think we should grow cactus on these embankments all around the city. It would serve two purposes, one- would save the water that is being sprinkled on the excuse of shrubs every day and two, it would atleast visually discourage the indians who look at the wall not as a hurdle but as a challenge!

One thing is for sure. We find newer ways to encourage our creativity. I am sure there are a lot of us who have creatively found out new ways of crossing over the great wall and i guess, at the botto of it all, it is this undying spirit that makes India what it is. The most potential and yet undisciplined country that the world has :(