If you called someone in Chennai a “Poromboke”, chances are that you’ll end up offending them. A “Poromboke” in Madras bashai is a good-for-nothing person who loiters around aimlessly. Yet, here’s a song from Kaber and Tenma, featuring “The Temple Monkeys”, that reclaims the word.
“Poromboke” land refers to open spaces that belong to the government.
The satirical song serves as a quick explainer for what happened in December 2015, when the city of Chennai was flooded. While it was a natural disaster, much of the damage was caused due to encroachment, especially of water bodies, and unplanned construction.
“Poromboke” land, the song says, is not for you or me, it’s for everybody. It’s this land that turns into a lake when it rains and it’s essential that it is left as it is. People who have sold “Poromboke” land and built buildings on it do not care for the consequences of their actions. In the end, when the water reaches our steps, the song suggests, all our activities will come to a grinding halt. Unless the “Poromboke” saves us.
During the Chennai floods, the natural drainage systems, primarily the Ennore Creek, were choked and the high volumes of water that had collected because of the incessant rains drained out very slowly. This is what led to the large scale destruction that the city saw.
Read more about the Ennore Creek and how it was killed here.