Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXVI No. 20, February 1-15, 2017
The Man from Madras Musings missed it all, just as he did the floods of 2015. Well not entirely. He was in our Madras that is Chennai during the peaceful and dignified part of the Jallikattu protests but was away when the peaceful sit in became a fairly chaotic break out. He will thus have a couple of chapters less when he pens his book titled The Various Challenges, that Chennai Faced in 2015/16, but he cannot help it. Talking about book titles, MMM hears that these days you can convert the most banal of books into a bestseller if you include a numeral in the title and, so, he perhaps ought to title his as The Five Challenges of Chen-nai. Three are the floods, the cyclone and the protests. The other two MMM leaves it to you, dear reader (as Charlotte Bronte would have said), to identify.
MMM understands that the city ran riot for the best of a day and that temper ran high. He was, as he said, not around and returned only at the tail end, when the all clear had been more or less blown. But he did get to experience the ripple effects of the trouble even in the not-so-distant place that he had gone to.
It all started at the airport where MMM was, all ready to get back to his beloved Chen-nai. The first sounds he heard on entering the place was a man loudly thundering on his phone that he did not care that Chennai was burning or whatever it was, but he wanted his sales targets to be achieved. The other end was obviously not interested so much in the sales target as it was in getting back home and, so, must have said something fairly truculent for this immediately heated up the man on the phone at MMM’s end. His voice rose several decibels and he said that with Chennai always facing some issue of this kind – floods, cyclones, state funerals, strikes, protests – how could any sane person do business in the city. He then looked at MMM for sympathy, of which he got none. Nobody messes around with Madras when MMM is around.
Arriving in Chennai (sorry, Chief, MMM meant Madras), MMM was hovering around the baggage carousel (and let him tell you that you need to hover for long in Madras to get any of your baggage), when he heard an obviously-from-the-north lady cursing our city and saying that ‘olways some probelem in this Medrose.’ MMM could have challenged that, for he too had resided up North and could count among his memories several violent clashes that disrupted life no end whilst he lived there. But he chose to keep quiet.
Emerging eventually with his baggage and scanning the horizon anxiously for his car, rather in the manner of Maria-na of the Moated Grange, MMM heard plenty more curses about our city. But what tickled him most was a man who obviously tired of waiting for his car, took offence at everyone else whose conveyance had made it to the airport. He muttered imprecations under his breath and, finally, unable to handle his frustration any longer, dialled his driver and asked him as to why he was so slow when everyone else had managed to break through the protestors and the barricades!
All said and done, our city has had a bad press in the past many months and it needs a quick clean up act, rather in the manner of the Marina from which MMM understands, -several thousand tonnes of -garbage was removed post the protests.
Your absence was noticed Chief and the Good Lady of the Lit Fest expressed her disappointment that you did not attend even one event in the celebration of books and authors that took place recently in our city. She took The Man from Madras Musings aside and asked him if you, Chief, have taken umbrage over something. MMM, you will be glad to note, assured her that such was not the case. He is also glad that this was indeed so, for he understands that you had intended to attend at least one of the gala dinners after you had dropped in at a wedding reception on one of the evenings. But what, he understand, shot your time schedule to pieces was the non-appearance of the bride and groom till well past everyone’s bed time and there you were, along with several others, clutching your gift and wondering as to what had happened. And so all is forgiven, Chief, and the Good Lady of the Lit Fest is happy and reassured. But you did miss something spectacular, Chief, for this year, in MMM’s view, the Lit Fest attained what is often referred to as a critical mass in numbers.
Talking about Lit Fests, they are breaking out everywhere like a rash. In the days of the Empire, no Indian city was a city unless it had a municipal market, a station, a college, a club and a law court, all looking rather like each other, apart from the Jubilee Memorial Watering Trough and statue to Lord Something-Or-Other. Now, our cities are incomplete if they do not host a Lit Fest. It is the next ticket to social standing among metros. While the one in Chennai is definitely a cut above in terms of its organisation, punctuality and the profile of speakers, it too has the same oddballs in the audience who appear to have nothing more to do in life than flit from Lit Fest to Lit Fest. It sometimes occurs to MMM that Lit Fests are nothing more than a national version of our city’s music festival where the same faces follow the same performers from venue to venue.
The cities that do not have Lit Fests are an insecure lot and efforts are on to get them on to the bandwagon. Anybody who is considered to be somebody is being roped in to organise one. Even MMM, Chief, (and don’t laugh at this), has been receiving requests. The other day, MMM was called to the telephone and the voice at the other end asked MMM to stand by to receive another call from a poet residing in the erstwhile capital of a princely state known for its culture, arts and, most importantly, the festival of nine nights. MMM stood by and was rewarded by a call from the rhymester. His city, announced the man, had no lit fest and could MMM help.
He, the poet, was interested in meeting up with a software billionaire from the same town, who in MMM’s view is a dreadful bore and a prat, who just because of his success in his business thinks he has a solution for everyone of our country’s problems though it must be said to his credit that of late he is rather silent. His wife writes books or, at least, thinks she does. MMM has read one and came away realising that he had till then thought otherwise about her writing abilities but was now wiser. And so, MMM had to disappoint the poet. The poet was somewhat sore about his town not being able to soar in literary lore. But then MMM could do no more.