Empty roads courtesy Pongal holidays bring back memories of old Chennai

Chennai: There was only one thought on Chennaiites’ mind this extended Pongal holidays – we have the city to ourselves! With lakhs of people – the official figure is more than 7 lakhs, if you are a stickler for details – leaving the city to go to their native place to celebrate Pongal, the city seems to be breathing light.

All my family and friends who have been taking out their vehicles in Chennai in the past few days, have been flush with joy. “This is how our city should be,” was their collective sigh.

One friend claimed that he made it from Kodambakkam to Madhavaram in flat 20 minutes. He was grinning from ear to ear at his accomplishment as there was no tension during the ride.

“Do you remember scenes in black and white films that featured Chennai? With just a few cars plying on the roads? It was like that,” he made it easy for me to understand.

Chennai traffic had, indeed, eased up. That is for sure. The number of two-wheelers and cars had come down considerably during the long holiday. The roads were almost deserted and getting from one place to another was a lot easier.

An empty road of Chennai during
Pongal holidays.

Most kayendhi bhavans (roadside eateries) have shut shop. They were dependent on people from other districts – roughing it out on their own – to keep their business running. Or else, they themselves were from outside Chennai and have gone back home for the holidays.

Could it be that the Bhogi morning was a lot clearer because of the mass exodus? Your guess is as good as mine.

All that is fine, but just wait till our native cousins return. That morning, when the holiday ends and everybody decides to return to the city, would become a nightmare. Chennaiites would be rushing to work and those returning to the city would have similar ideas.

Though the government has given five spots for buses leaving for various districts, the returnees tend to jam all the roads. GST would be the worst hit and it has a ripple effect on areas as far as West Mambalam.

The enjoyment of a relatively less crowded city is tinged with this worry of how to tackle the Monday morning bumper-to-bumper traffic. There is no way out.

R Chitra