If you are generally uninterested in politics and didn't know an important meeting of the ruling AIADMK was set to take place in Chennai on Thursday, then all you needed to do was pass by Royapettah in the heart of the city. Rows upon rows of large banners screaming the praise of Tamil Nadu's Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister abound for well over a three kilometer stretch leading up to the party headquarters.
Despite the fact that the Madras High Court has imposed a ban on hoardings and flex boards featuring living persons, banners of a beaming Edappadi Palaniswami and a humble O Panneerselvam were plastered across footpaths.
Worse still, if you were a commuter travelling on bus numbers M45A, 21, 5C, T29, M21V, A1ET, A1, 21C, 19E, or 1D then the bus stop on Avvai Shanmugam Salai had vanished for the day, becoming a closet in the back for the protruding banners out front.
The entry to the bus stop has been blocked to the left and to the front, with a small passage on the right side. However, if youâ€™re over 5-feet tall, prepare to be hit on the head by a banner outside the only entryway to the bus stop.
Senthil and Jeeva, two college students waiting at the bus stop are perching low to spot the buses. Altering a famous Tamil joke, they say, â€śWe donâ€™t know the bus, but the bus knows the bus stop!â€ť Chiming in, Usha, who has just attended a wedding along with her three children also jokes, â€śWell at least it blocks out the sun!â€ť
With heavy police presence along the road and no room for pedestrians, traffic moves at a snailâ€™s pace.
Speaking to TNM, one AIADMK cadre, sipping tea near the party headquarters on Avvai Shanmugam Salai coolly says, â€śYeah, we at least didnâ€™t break the footpath.â€ť
He is referring of course to the incident in June when DMK cadre had damaged footpaths along Poonamallee High Road.
But for a party that has been repeatedly slammed for the erection of illegal hoardings, the AIADMK seems to have learnt no lessons, forcing people to come up with their own coping mechanisms.
In November last year, K Ragupathi, a software engineer from the US who had returned home to Coimbatore to meet a prospective bride, died after he rammed into an illegal wooden arch erected for the AIADMKâ€™s MGR Centenary celebrations.