Life has not been the same for us since the 7th of June.
A large vegetable shop has established itself bang opposite our house! Now wait, don't you say “Life must be easier now.. you can put your kadai on the stove and run across to buy the veggies you may need for your curry” ! Please listen to my entire story...
The first hint of chaos was visible at 6.00 AM when we woke up to mantras being blasted on a PA system – the shop was being formally inaugurated. Then there were some shouts as a few workers from the shop tried to climb over our compound wall to pluck some mango leaves from the tree in our compound.
When I got back from work, I found that I could not get into my house – there were a line of cars parked outside our house, resting very conveniently under the shade of the mango tree I had mentioned earlier!! I had almost anticipated this- I asked the lady who was sitting on the passenger seat in one of the cars to move it away from our gate. She told me that her husband was inside the shop buying vegetables. “ It will not take much time. Only five or ten minutes more” she said smiling ingratiatingly. I glared at her and asked her to go inside and get her husband out NOW!!! She looked at me sullenly and asked why I was having a problem considering that I was not driving into my house or driving out of it. I had after all come in an auto can could easily walk in. That really got me!! I warned her that if she did not go in to call her husband I would deflate her tires ( and she had more than four on her person alone!!). So she scuttled across the road and got him out while I stayed at the gate making sure that the car was moved out.
But triumph is short lived as this incident continues to happen. Many times it happens when we are indoors or when we are out of the house – we are unable to stop this parking menace that has been brought about by the shop. We do not have a personal watchman unlike our neighbors who are residents of apartments –so we cannot take any preventive steps other than putting up a “ NO PARKING IN FRONT OF THE GATE” board which as we all know, in India means nothing!!!Then ,this morning as I was leaving for my walk, I nearly fell over something outside the gate – it was the Corporation dustbin which had been rolled right out to the front of our gate and was piled with vegetable waste from the shop. In fact the waste had been heaped so high that the bin had broken at the bottom strewing rubbish all around!! I had a good mind of wheeling the offending thing to the shop and emptying it there .. !
I have been speaking to my neighbors asking them whether we can jointly write out a petition to the corporation or the traffic police complaining about this problem. Strangely people seem hesitant about it! In fact when I asked them if they would sign a complaint letter they were very vague about their agreement!So, here I am fighting a lone battle against a problem that no one seems to be interested in addressing.
Actually, I am surprised as to how the authorities could allow a huge commercial establishment such as this to crop up in what is a residential neighborhood. There is a corporation designated commercial space near our house where there are number of shops. So how did this monstrosity find its way to what should have been a residence?
The city of Chennai is very peculiar in the sense that there are no designated market spaces unlike Delhi, Mumbai or even Bhubaneshwar. We see shops just about anywhere in this town.. Very soon I guess they would oust us out of our houses
While the shop is only one example, there is an older one of a political party office that is two doors away. Fortunately for us it is a “ dead” party so there is no menace from that end. However, every now and then the dead rise from their stupor –during the birth / death anniversary of the founder and the place is filled with cars and SUVs bearing party flags with speeches being made by thug-ish looking guys in white veshtis and shirts. Where there is a crowd like this, there is bound to be feeding and we have tons of used disposable plates strewn around that infamous garbage dump outside our house…
This open flouting of zoning regulations is increasingly becoming the norm. Our dear CM wanted to turn a beautiful library into a hospital… just because it was built by her predecessor! This building is located in an area which has a number of educational institutions – now tell me how would a hospital fit there? Of course, hospitals, apparently can be made out of everything – the Legislative Assembly building constructed by the previous government at a huge cost is now being turned into a children’s hospital!!!!! I don’t know the state of implementation of these orders but I guess there is some public interest litigation that has been filed.
Unfortunately, individuals like me cannot take recourse to public interest law because the civic consciousness in this neighborhood just does not exist- every body is afraid of clashing with “ rowdies” – yes sure these guys obviously have political clout to have got past the planning regulations so easily. It is also quite possible that they are thugs – because the nexus between politics and crime is very strong in our country..
I had once watched a ghost movie where an exorcist tells the family that lives in a haunted house’ Do not be afraid because ghosts feed on your fear” . I think it holds true for these political types who use our fears to build on their powers. Like spine less creatures we also vote them into power and then they continue with supporting lawlessness, flouting rules their own governments made!!!
Meanwhile, I request some of our neighbors in the street to boycott this shop so that we could put social pressure on it to close down. Do they listen to me? They nod sagely and say “Yes Yes” And then they look at me sheepishly while crossing the road with vegetable laden bags.. Now tell me who is having the last laugh?