Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Namma Chennai Roads

It's funny now when i am thinking about roads why these lines intrude my thoughts.These lines which although were beautifully composed but was parodied upon in many laughter shows happening at the same time in the country. i can almost hear the distinct but very unique lisp which recited these for a pen commercial:
                                   "  Zindagi hai to khwaab hain
                                   Khwaab hain to manzilein hain
                                    Manzilein hain to faasle hain
                                     Faasle hain to raaste hain
                                   Raaste hain to mushkilein hain
                                   Mushkilein hain to hausale hain
                                    Hausale hain to vishwaas hai
                                      Vishwaas hai to jeet hai"
Of course the punch line spoilt it all when it was followed by...Kyunki ...fighter hamesha jeetata hai. THIS time i shall make no such attempts of translation for the simple reason that some words are just too perfect in their original form and any such would dilute the ethos of the message.Moreover i prevent myself in creating yet another one that sounds like a transliteration rather than an appropriate translation.
Maybe this was not used for a proper commercial.Maybe if these lines were recited before a cricket match between India and Pakistan it would have saved Javed Akhtar of the so many hilarious parodies and inspired the home team of a well deserved victory.Whatever!
 Maybe i just remember these beautiful lines because it talks of roads leading to destinations/goals.

Maybe i think of these lines because i am thinking about roads which satiated my wander lust when i was a newcomer and which shall soon don a new name.Wonder what is more important than the road themselves (which metaphorically stand for life itself ) that our leaders are deciding to change the names of these roads.In a way are they making roads any more glorious or do they have some hidden agenda?

True it is that roads do have a sense of history attached to them.The Grand Trunk Road was originally 'Sadak-e Azam' and was initially built by Sher Shah Suri says our history books.But we know it better as the British renamed Grand Trunk Road.So when this particular writer cries out,' Erasing History From The Chennai's Road Map' on the decision of the local Corporation of renaming the roads in Chennai i can only but second him in his thoughts.

So i gather that while celebrating the spirit of Chennai, our leaders and  the authorities that yield easily to their whims and fancies, want the names to change and adorn the names of the scholars who though certainly have contributed to literature and culture but have nothing to do with the conception, laying , building or improvement of these roads.Is it then justified when we sacrifice one for the other who in actuality was the creator of these passages that helped connectivity?Why can't new structures have these new names instead of erasing the existing ones?
If done with clear intentions this may seem to be a sound proposal only thing personally i have an intuition that some copy cats have no such original intentions but are are only following a trail that was created by someone else in some distant land in the country.
 In time roads all over the country will follow suit and the aftermath of this hectic renaming left and right after the chosen local scholars would only see public as clueless as before. Incidently this should not start name wars of some kind.Cause each group, region, community would want roads to be named after their chosen scholars who have represented them in their art and intellectual creativity.

i would rather that improvements are done on getting rid of potholes and creating commuter friendly roads and connecting the remotest villages with strong roads that don't get washed away with the first showers of  heavy monsoons...or get flooded in a way that commuting becomes an ardous and accident prone task.

Once again i am reminded of yet another one and this one by a popular humorous poet during the early days of the good roads movement, Sam Walter Foss.His statement in the entire poem,'The Calf Path' becomes moral when he says,"For men are prone to go it blind
         Along the calf paths of the mind,
         And work away from sun to sun
         To do what other men have done.
         They follow in the beaten track;
         And in, and out,and forth,and back."

The road like i said before symbolises life and associated with life, the freedom to live life as we wish to live.So when on the one instance we have  great poets like Robert Frost in his reflective mood telling us quietly in,  'The Road Not Taken', " ...I shall be telling this with a sigh
              Somewhere ages and ages hence:
              Two roads diverged in a wood and I-
              I took the one  less travelled by,
              And that has made all the difference."

On the other hand i have me, an ordinary person feeling nostalgic and wondering if Pilkington road, Phipps road, Constable road would mean anything less to me if their names were changed to the more scholarly sounding Tamil names.For 20 years back when i came to Chennai with my husband and a four month baby, these roads with their European sounding names led me everywhere i needed to go.Be it a stroll for my baby sitting snug in his pram or buying provisions.Be it the hospital or my child's first play school.
On these age old roads lined heavily with lush age old trees i met many lovely people, made new friends while walking and later happily drove along with family and friends.For me these European sounding names mirror so many wonderful moments and thus reflect many memories.My memories will remain the same and in them the roads too with their European/English names.

i may be sounding stiff but i feel that more emphasis should be placed on improving existing roads and the interstate system so that it becomes easier to wander when we want to escape a hectic city life.However since roads continue to be a major part and also represent the essence of our culture i guess i should stop whimpering and learn to accept the change.My immediate concern at the moment being that if i tell the auto fellow the new name will he be able to take me there or will he ask me for the old name?
Never mind! i say to myself as i  try to evoke that same sense of exhiliration, that same sense of light heartedness as Walt Whitman in his,'Song Of The Open Road' evokes...
"Afoot and light- hearted i take to the open road,
Healthy,free,the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever i choose.
Henceforth i whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,
Strong and content I travel the open road."

And thus this freedom that he talks of, i extend this freedom to the freedom that i have for myself to remember all those familiar roads with familiar names as i experienced them when i was a total stranger in this new land.
My personal discoveries on these roads...will and shall remain with me as well as their names and it does not matter to me if Harrington road shall now be known as Bharathi road...and so will others because from my experience in these 20 years Mount road is still known as Mount road even when it's name was changed to Anna Salai.

Now the best song an everlasting classic on Roads always is this song by John Denver.There is another one though another classic by Beatles called,'The Long And Winding Road' but this one will always remain my favourite .So here it is 'Country Roads Take Me Home' by John Denver.

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  1. you are absolutely right.. pilkington, phipps, constable road these will be etched in my memory till my last breath... took me down memory lane. haha sweet post :)

  2. @Aakaash Thank you sonna...and i know and understand this feeling of sweetness which is the feeling of nostalgic memories down those roads.:)

  3. The same is the case with roads in Mumbai. Many were british given names which sound elegant and popular till now. Most of the main roads have new names which are hardly remembered or used. As you rightly said, we have to put all out effort to build new roads making sure they withstand extreme monsoons that are prominent all over India. New names for new roads should be the name of the game. Hope some of our decision makers are listening.

  4. @Tandarin Thank you so much now and also when you helped me with my soul expression.
    Blogdosts like you keep my spirits high and i feel like sharing so much.
    i Feel so good. :)

  5. yeah ! you are right . i too believe that roads are like human beings. they too leave a trail behind .

  6. @Gauri thank you and that's so beautifully said...start blogging...:)