The most difficult hurdle to overcome about Chennai is the barrier of PROCEDURE, which are strewn all over the place. It is not difficult to find a procedure, which seems irrational at the first look, but the deeper one gets into the procedure one understands that these procedures are not only laid down but implemented scrupulously- to start with!
For example, to get a ticket for a first day show of any Rajini starrer is nigh impossible- unless one has diligently pursued the procurement of the ticket in advance. So, for the movie SIVAJI (SHIVAJI for the glottalized Sanskritwallahs!) I was accompanied by my family and we made our way to the entrance after jostling against a sea of crowd consisting of of lungi wearing boisterous young men, middle class families and all other types. When we reached the entrance the crowd was segregated gender-wise and me and my wife, who were united in a Holy Matrimony by God, were parted to take different queues. The next was the metal detector but before that the frisking! So i was frisked and the frisker feels the cigarette packet in my trouser pocket and tells me to take it out. With no sense of compunction i take the cigarette case and tell the frisker triumphantly that I do not have any matches or lighter! To my utter surprise the frisker tells me to drop the cigarette box along with the contents in a cardboard box set a little away from the frisking point (in Chennai they do not believe in providing tokens for your belongings and securing them- especially cigarettes- that is the moral text there!). Just before getting into the cinema I had bought those cigarettes, so that at midnight i do not have to go hunting for cigarettes after the movie was over. The crowd behind me was milling and i had no time to get back to my car and leave the pack and get back. My sons were egging me to do as told. I had a quick peep into the cardboard box and saw a whole lotta cigarette boxes lying therein. Of course those who had dropped were not fools- the inner voice which works in flashes told me. Yet the innate smartness gathered through association with the Chennaivasis and reading gave a counter idea – You are just required not to take cigarettes into the cinema, and you are not getting the same back- so just pull out all the 20 cigarettes and twist them into tobacco lumps and dump them, so that even these friskers and their cohorts would not be able to benefit from those cigarettes.
So in one swish i pulled out those cigarettes and in the anxious view of the frisker, twisted the cigarettes and with all the gusto of a man performing a ritual on a new year’s eve towards initiating a resolution, i crumpled the cigarettes and threw the lumps inside. The frisker was having a disappointed look, whereas some of those in the queue were happy and even said, “Good sir, those fellows just want to steal our cigarettes that way!” I felt a sudden brotherhood surging in my heart with those sympathizers.
Coming back to the thread of PROCEDURES OF CHENNAI, it is only the matches and lighters which are required to be dropped, so that none has access to any material which could be used for nefarious purposes. Even in aircrafts, where the security requirements are stringent, there is no procedure for not taking cigarettes, but in a cinema hall, the management had prescribed a rule to not only deprive an exorbitantly excise paying individual from enjoying a smoke in the interval but denudes him of cigarettes he carries for future use. Suddenly, like in the NDPS Act, tobacco possession becomes an offence! So cigarette is a CONTRABAND item. The only way to overcome the rule is to deprive the benefits that “might” accrue to the friskers and other low level personnel of the hall, and also show like a defeated army regressing to backward positions after destroying the assets in its possession.
This procedure laid by the cinema hall conductors was an overkill of the objectives to be met for the proper conduct of the screening. They had taken advantage of the crowd and the situation to impose and implement a procedure.
Likewise, in Chennai, at every level one can find all kinds of procedures laid down for any progress in the matter. These will have to be viewed as a barrier and complied with or ‘jumped over’. The biggest barriers are the MORAL PRESCRIPTIONS which are strewn around and if the weak hearted stumble upon those, they are discouraged from pursuing their objectives. But those who have sufficient experience in the Chennai ways adeptly jump over or make a by-pass to those hurdles and continue their journey. It is that mental alertness which is important and any amount of arguing will lead a man nowhere.
In certain other parts of our great country, when they prescribe a procedure which curtails the LIBERTY of an individual, the procedure is sugar coated to avoid the denizens from feeling that their “rights” are being curtailed, but not so in Chennai- they are BLATANT.
So in effect a Chennaivasi, has learnt all the procedures and keeps parroting the same, whereas the go getters know that the procedures are there merely to reduce the crowding and find means and ways to circumvent the irrational procedures.
So what happens in the long run is that every Madrasvasi gets to talk high moral norms but makes convenient choices for himself. The reader may be tempted to call that HYPOCRISY, but i beg to differ- it is learning to live life in one’s own terms but at the same time not offending the sensibilities of those who have nothing to do except by-heart the procedures!
Not for nothing the SWAMY’S HANDBOOK OF CENTRAL GOVERNMENT PROCEDURES ARE PUBLISHED FROM CHENNAI.
Chennai is not merely the Detroit of India but also the PROCEDURE CAPITAL of INDIA! Long live the procedures!