Friday, May 19, 2006

More from Chennai - in this case, politics and public transport numbers. Every five years, the buses in Chennai have their titles changed. As somebody who has used the sterling Metropolitan Transport Corporation (the agency that runs the city's buses) for a long time, I've watched this 5-year tamasha played out twice already.

This is the game: When I used to travel to school, I used to take a bus - 7F. The government changed in 1991 and the bus became 7J. While the change was initially puzzling, we got used to it in no time. It was quite interesting to watch buses all across the city take up strange titles - Js and Rs as suffixes become extremely popular. The names didn't need a lot to figure out - J was the initial of the then chief minister and R was the initial of her mentor, a late chief minister who is invoked by all and sundry in this state as their icon.

I saw the numbers switch back to the less politically inclined suffixes, e.g. A, B, C etc., when power changed hands in 1996, and then change once again to J and R in 2001. Given the perfect correlation between politics and bus numbers, I anticipated a change after the new government came into power in the state last week, and voila - when I landed in Chennai three days ago, what do I see, but the familiar A, B and C!

I felt a part of a world more secure, where I know what to expect from the governments I elect into power. Not good roads, not clean water, not uninterrupted power, what I expect are consistent bus numbers - consistent with party policy, that is. And the government unerringly delivers on that, in less than a week after getting power. Such sense of purpose and ability to execute in a constantly fluctuating world has to be a good sign.


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