SURESH MENON

Our colum­nist con­fesses all the holes inthe roads are driv­ing him potty.

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The Cana­dian flag has a maple leaf, while New Zealan­ders are de­cid­ing whether or not to have the sil­ver fern on theirs. If my neigh­bour­hood had a flag, it­would have a pot­hole on it. The pot­hole is om­nipresent and om­nipo­tent – there should be a shrine for it.

But dowe know enough about pot­holes? Our school text­books don’t have a chap­ter on them, maths prob­lems sel­dom men­tion their geo­met­ric fea­tures, chem­istry texts lack in­struc­tions on car­ing for them, and his­tory books ig­nore their ori­gins.

This is a strange la­cuna in our ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem. How­did pot­holes orig­i­nate? Here’s one the­ory: pot­tery mak­ers in 15th-cen­tury England would take ad­van­tage of the ruts that wagon wheels gouged into roads. Look­ing for a cheap source of raw­ma­te­ri­als for mak­ing clay pots, the pot­ters would dig into the ruts for the clay de­posits un­der­neath. Those driv­ing wag­ons over such roads re­ferred to them as pot­holes.

That sounds just cred­i­ble enough to be false.

Here’s an­other the­ory (and I lift it from a dic­tionary). Orig­i­nally, a pot­hole was a ge­o­log­i­cal fea­ture in glaciers and gravel beds, from Mid­dle English pot ‘a deep hole for a mine, or from peat-dig­ging (late 14th cen­tury), now gen­er­ally ob­so­lete, but pre­served in Scot­land and north­ern England di­alect... Ap­plied to a hole in a road from 1909’.

That sounds just false enough to be true.

Pot­holes are spe­cial. They are masters of dis­guise. At the hint of an ap­proach­ing of­fi­cial, they turn in­vis­i­ble. A hard-work­ing of­fi­cial trav­elled 25km look­ing for one but no pot­hole pre­sented it­self. One sym­pa­thises with the of­fi­cial. It’s like go­ing to a tiger re­serve and not spot­ting a tiger.

Pot­holes are such an in­te­gral part of our lives now that it feels cruel to leave them to fend for them­selves. I am plan­ning to start a cam­paign – adopt a pot­hole. Cit­i­zens should be en­cour­aged to main­tain the pot­holes in their area. In a year’s time, they could be el­i­gi­ble towin the best pre­served pot­hole com­pe­ti­tion.

Soon we might need to hold an auc­tion so peo­ple can buy the pot­holes they will nur­ture.

Per­haps, like the craters on the moon, we could name our pot­holes. Politi­cians and lo­cal author­i­ties could thus be im­mor­talised. Af­ter all, a pot­hole could be a statue in re­verse.

I am plan­ning to start a cam­paign–ADOPT A POT HOLE. Cit­i­zens should be en­cour­aged to MAIN­TAIN the pot­holes in their area. In a year’ s time, they could win the BEST PRE­SERVED pot hole com­pe­ti­tion

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