Mid summer’s daydream

Marina Beach in Chennai was perhaps the most peaceful spot in the entire State when a series of bombs exploded in Kovai a couple of months back, killing over 60. I even remember it to be overflowing with humanity, even when tons and tons of explosives were unearthed or were accidentally discovered, just a stone’s throw away from it. It had remained unaffected when explosives went off in three trains leaving the city. It had been oblivious to the caste clashes in the south and for that matter, it had retained its calm even during the hey days of the gun-toting LTTE. Come to think of it, Marina beach had always been peaceful, even during the three wars with Pakistan and also throughout the two world wars. So, going by Marina beach standards, it should have always been god’s own promenade all through the passage of evolution and civilization, a haven of peace and pristine well-being of man and material.

But alas, all the world is not Marina beach. For that matter, not even Tamilnadu, which is home to this poor man’s Miami, Marina Beach. It is but a short strip of shore, where the only violent act is the relentless battering of the sand dunes by the foamy waves, not to speak of the consistent harassment by the Sundal vendors, that is blissfully unaware of the unseemly happenings a few hundred yards inside and as we learn now, maintains a deceptive calm that can put even learned Special Secretaries off their guard. But, then we, in the hallowed city of Chennai, are by no means taken in by the innocuous serenity of the beach. Though we throng the venue by the droves to beat the humidity and cool our heated souls and exterior, we are by no means naive to the reality of Ayeshas on the prowl. We know through our painful experiences that the pleasant sea breeze that smothers your body and soul is just a consolation and a god-sent relief from the perennial prospect of hot air being generated by the hidden bombs if and when they go off. Given such a situation, it is indeed an unmitigated assault on the collective common sense of the terrified people of Tamilnadu to aver that all is well here. On the contrary, it is certainly apparent that all was not well with the Central team which had conveniently glossed over all the central issues.

We in the media are quite update to the very last second on what Veerappans are upto, but are unfortunately always kept in the dark on what the authorities, central or state, have up their sleeves. Brigands and bomb-happy secularists never hide their intentions and go about implementing their divine calling ‘religiously’, but men in positions of power, be it in politics or the bureaucracy, seldom wake up in time to the evil designs of the society’s dark underbelly. And if such culpable negligence is not enough, they follow it up with an even more disconcerting display of complacence and nonchalance, despite hard facts and harder realities staring them in the face. If such infectious derelictions, which is the hallmark of the rationalists who infest the State secretariat, has also afflicted the honoured visitors from the Capital, then there cannot be a greater danger to people, peace and polity. A clean chit to the murky scenario that prevails in the State only betrays a total lack of perspective and a singular absence of purpose, besides a closed mind on the part of the visiting officials. They have apparently relied on the glib sales talk of the secretariat mandarins, having found it unnecessary to stir out of the air-conditioned, mind-conditioning confines of a plush guest house, barring, of course, that fateful stroll down Marina. They had assumed that a visit to Kovai was unnecessary, probably because there are no beaches there. They had even felt it unwarranted to chat up to a few representatives of other political parties and a cross section of the populace. Indeed, when ignorance is bliss, Tamilnadu is peaceful.

An ordinary UDC or even an office secretary from any one of the Bhavans or Blocks in the Capital would have done a better job. On landing at the Central station, he would have first been introduced to the panicky state of affairs by the furore over an unclaimed suitcase in his compartment. The hitherto unknown frisking of body and boxes by the nervous railway police, would have enlightened ‘him about the jittery nerves of the harassed citizen as well as his protectors. The auto driver who takes him to a drab lodge in the city, would have warned him about the dangers of walking the Chennai streets with a suitcase in hand. The pot-bellied elderly man behind the desk at the lodge would have demanded to know his entire antecedents, and in writing, before he gave him a room in his building. And a few strolls in the by lanes and alleys of the city and not in the tree lined Besant avenue or the manicured lawns of the Marina, would have woken him up to the tearful, fearful and precarious state of affairs of the people of Tamilnadu, who are living on a veritable landmine of explosives planted by unobtrusive infidels under the very noses of the authorities in deep slumber. He would then have rushed to the nearest telegraph office to wire a crisp, but revealing one word message to the powers that be in New Delhi: Danger.

email the writer at [email protected]

Jawahar T R