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Chennai Corner

Chennai's student community, nerdy perhaps, could be the model for the whole country, but what happens to it on the "Bus Day"? What accounts for such a peculiarly unique "tradition" developing in the city?

Chennai Corner

Boys Will Be Boys?
"Those who dance on buses don't need power," said a disgusted colleague, referring to the fact that although politicians own as many as 252 engineering colleges (yes, 252!), they don't see degree colleges as nurseries for future politicians. Thus, unlike Delhi, Mumbai and even Hyderabad, where colleges are ruled by student unions and where the money spent in college elections would sometimes give politicians the courage to face the Election Commission, Chennai's college elections, if held, are hardly visible. "More often than not they are cancelled and there's hardly a whimper," says my colleague.

But it's on "Bus Day" that students let it all hang out and earn the wrath of the public. It's  a strange new tradition peculiar to Chennai and has become an annual feature. Ostensibly, it is meant to be the students' way of expressing gratitude to the bus crew and to mark the end of their college life.It involves boisterous college boys virtually "hijacking" a state transport bus that is on their route, decorating it, filling it up with raucous students -- with some on top, some even clinging to the sides and spilling out of the foot-board. As the bus weaves through the busy traffic, the students go berserk, in youthful loud and exuberant revelry-making. 

On any other day, these "yuvas" would be bundled into police vans and taken to police stations to work off their "spirits". But on "Bus Day" the police find themselves escorting them to prevent matters going out of hand-- huffing and puffing after such a hijacked bus. But what makes the students lose empathy is that onlookers don't enjoy the spectacle. Rather, they are more worried for their safety. Shop-keepers lose business because they bring down the shutters out of anxiety that these testosterone-driven youngsters might get carried away and vandalise their shops. Even the police wish this tradition away--after spending many hours in the sun waiting for a VIP motorcade to pass, the last thing they want is to pant after buses down busy roads risking life and limb. And since every self-respecting cop nurtures a pot-belly, they would consider themselves thanked if the students gave them a break from this extreme form of exercise.

Making Chennai Rock
Chennai's student community, except for the above aberration, are model youth. They are the kind who take part in science exhibitions, quizzes, debates, design cars and bikes that are environmentally friendly, have tête-à-têtes with visiting Nobel laureates--nerdy perhaps but certainly the kind parents show off to friends and neighbours.

Two weeks ago, Chennai students rocked as Saarang 2008, IIT's annual cultural fest got underway. Many would say it's a good tradition that the city celebrates since the days when Saarang's precursor, Mardi Gras, was held where nerds strummed guitars and felt a bit like Bob Dylan must have felt at Woodstock that gave the world flower power and buzz phrases like "make love, not war."

But Saarang over the years has turned into a platform for musicians wanting to hit big time. It also features those who have made a name for themselves in the music world. This year, India's heavy metal band "Perestroika" and international band, "Firebrands" performed. Thanks to a new feature, "Short Film Making", Soundarya Rajnikanth also got to market the animation film she is making on her father called Sultan: The Warrior.  The film is expected out at the end of the year.

Usually it takes an incident to enforce the rule of law. But the long arm of the law only reaches out depending on who is on the other end of it. For instance 16-year-old Achal Khemka--described as Chennai's answer to Sanjeev Nanda who is embroiled in Delhi's BMW case--only surrendered a week after police claimed it had "clinching" evidence that he had run over and killed three persons and injured nine others allegedly in his aunt's Mercedes Benz on December 13. Within a couple of weeks,  a teenager dashed a vehicle against the pavement -- his father had left the engine running and stepped out to do an errand. In yet another case this week, a 15-year-old boy took his father's car out for a joyride and dashed against a median at Koyambedu, a busy road junction. It's frightening to think that in three years, this youngster will have a legal licence to run amok.

Rules Of The Road
It's a rule that was always there--the kind that even enforcers were indulgent about breaking. After all money talks. But as of last week-end, all pubs and bars shut shop at 11 pm and did not even allow anyone in after 10 p.m,  The licence issued by the Prohibition and Excise Department, the licensing authority clearly says that all bars and nightclubs should be open between 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. "But the deadline is usually an eyewash," says a popular nightclub owner whose cash registers rang louder everytime he let patrons stay much after 11 p.m, Now the police has wised up or has decided to flex its muscles. One way or another, party goers better get used to early nights.

The next thing the police should do is emulate Bangalore cops who, armed with breathalysers, ambush you on the road and make you blow into them. A cousin who lived dangerously in his youth is the epitome of a responsible adult--on a recent visit, he had two chhota pegs and fled before 10.30 p.m. Apparently, that is the benighted hour when men in uniform bring out their breathalysers.

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