May 14; 6.50 a.m. A truck with a concrete mixer hinged to it is cooling its tyres at the Akkarai junction on ECR-OMR Link Road. Crouched in the rear part of the truck, young construction workers shoot aimless, nowhere glances while not fidgeting with their mobiles.
6:57 a.m. One of them rises up to his full height, and stands in an attitude of readiness.
7:00 a.m. Swiftly pulled, the barricades on ECR screech to the sides. The elongated vehicle sidles on to the arterial road and having covered barely 150 metres, turns into Lily Pond Main Road, a side road.
Every Saturday and Sunday, between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m., one side of ECR from Thiruvanmiyur to Akkarai (at regular hours, the side where tyres roll towards Thiruvanmiyur ) resembles a water-tight compartment that in some places receive the added protection of a high-quality silicone sealant. Free of the hum of engines, this side ticks to a raft of leisurely clocks. Take your pick: 20kph, 10kph, 5kph and lesser still. It hosts cyclists, joggers and walkers, and only cyclists, joggers and walkers.
The non-motorised troika lap it up. It is their time to get their back on the motorists. Usually pushed to the fringes, they now have half the road to themselves. They revel in this freedom. Togged up in their cycling gear, Senthil Kumar Ramalingam and K Ramakrishnan, both from Thiruvanmiyur, have turned around at Akkarai and are on their return journey.
They come across as gentle souls, and seem incapable of flinging […]