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Vol. XXV No. 11, September 16-30, 2015
Looking back on Mad Rush Week
Yet another successful edition of Madras Week has wound to a close and everyone is singing its praise. From Ambattur to Zion Colony, Madras Week is the buzz. The Man from Madras Musings also joins in this raucous chorus of joy.
MMM and his good lady (also known as She Who Must be Obeyed) did the rounds of the events and it must be acknowledged that the audience numbers are growing, year after year. While MMM restricted his role to chiefly gubernatorial tasks – shaking hands, smiling graciously and, if strictly demanded by duty, occasionally kissing babies – his good lady was more the careful observer and possessing as she does an eye like Mars, to threaten and command, little escaped her attention.
Chief among these was the behaviour of some of the people who came to eat at the lectures that ye olde journal Madras Musings organised. As to their eating habits and plate grabbing tactics MMM will say little, as he has waxed eloquent on the subject in the past to very little effect beyond a letter or two from irate readers who consider such mass feedings to be among the publication’s activities. If the highest in the land can offer subsidised food in their names, why can Madras Musings not give it free is their opinion. MMM does not wish to quarrel with them on this and respects them for their views.
But to get back to the point at issue, namely what the good lady saw. Hovering around the food riots that were happening at a venue, she found one attendee doing rather well with the liquid refreshments. And by that MMM does not mean the bar, for we at Madras Musings stay clear of the stuff that cheers, but plain water bottles. The hotel that hosted that evening’s programme had opted to put out bottled water instead of filling glasses and one of the guests had decided that this was where he should stock up a month’s supply. He was loading the bottles into a rather capacious bag while MMM’s good lady chanced upon him. Not a word was exchanged as MMM was later given to understand by those present, but such was the power of MMM’s good lady’s eye that the man meekly put all the bottles back on the rack and sauntered off, no doubt to focus on the knives and forks.
The next evening featured yet another event, at a different venue. This time, too, MMM and his good lady were in attendance. And this time, she caught another man, stuffing his bag with tea bags! These too were disgorged after the good lady had bestowed her X Ray vision on the modern day Raffles.
Sad though such occurrences are, MMM would go with the Chief’s point of view, namely that such events are organised for everyone, irrespective of their table manners, to participate and so it cannot be just for those who know how to behave like gentle folk. And let MMM tell you here that some of the latter too are not above helping themselves to a coaster or two when it takes their fancy.
Who would have thought our own stinky river would emerge the hero of Madras Week? Yet, this was undoubtedly so. Journalists jotted entries on it, talkers talked, walkers walked and cyclists cycled along its banks, all with a view to bringing focus on its pathetic condition. It only now remains for a film star or two to adopt parts of it. Success will then be assured in its clean up. Presently, The Man from Madras Musings is of the view that it was those who were tasked with the clean-up who cleaned up big. How else do you explain the complete lack of results as far as the river is concerned?
But let us pigeon-hole the Cooum clean-up for the nonce. What MMM wanted to write about was an event that was held at one of the oldest libraries of the city, which also stands on the banks of the river. The speaker for the evening was a person whom MMM had known practically from the cradle, and so MMM too was present. The weather was sultry and during much of the presentation MMM’s friend sweated profusely. At the end of it all he asked the audience if they had any questions when an elderly gent, who had all along been rather restless, stood up and launched into what promised to be a long story on the life of a famed dubash who after death became a philanthropist. It almost gave MMM the feeling that there were two speakers that evening. It was in vain that the organisers tried to catch the pretender’s eye and get him to sit down. But he, like the Ancient Mariner, was immune to it all. On and on he went. This was until someone dropped something or the other with quite a loud noise in the vicinity. The speaker paused and MMM, realising that this was where he did some good to society at large, prised the microphone from the budding Demosthenes, thanked him profusely and brought the event to a close.
A similar situation was witnessed by MMM at another event, which focussed on the Emergency of the 1970s. Here too was a heckler of sorts, into whose soul the iron appeared to have entered in a big way. Halfway through a rather erudite summing up of the Emergency by two senior journalists, he stood up and began to deride them for not mentioning anything about the death during the Emergency of ‘Sitty Babu, sitting yumpee’. It took quite a while before MMM realised that the man was referred to a sitting legislator who died under rather strange circumstances during the Emergency.
But all this paled into insignificance besides the behaviour of the wife of a retired bureaucrat. One of the programmes, involving a famed actress, who was present in person to hear an actor-turned-film historian speak on her film career, was scheduled to begin at 7.00 pm. The hall had filled up by 6.30. The better half of the retired bureaucrat walked up to MMM and demanded that the event begin at once. She had to go for dinner she said at 7.15 and so it would be good if MMM advanced the starting time so that she could hear a good part of the presentation and yet be home in time to receive guests when they arrived. MMM refused politely and the event began as scheduled. What intrigued MMM was that the lady in question stayed on till 9.00 pm when the programme ended. What happened to her guests is what MMM would like to know.
The banner reproduced below was put up with good intentions, but MMM was amused by the Madrasian English.