Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXVII No. 14, November 1-15, 2017
The greatest composer in the world of Carnatic Music is at present suffering the celebrations associated with the 250th year of his birth. The Man from Madras Musings uses the word suffer guardedly, for the travails of this personality are nothing compared to what a deceased nightingale had to go through when her birth centenary was observed a year back. Melody Sublime, as she was known, would have become Misery Supreme had she been around.
But to come back to the composer. This was a personality who held up a mirror to society, laughed at their foibles, and, above all, detested praising anyone of the human variety. It would be assumed that a program-me associated with his memory would have adhered to some modicum of simplicity. But evidently nobody has learnt from his teachings. As to whether they learnt anything from his music is also a moot point, but MMM will not go into that.
It was a programme to celebrate the 100th staging of a play on the composer’s life. When MMM states life he uses the term loosely, for this is a personality whose time on earth appears to have been extraordinarily miracle-prone – Gods descending on terra firma at all odd hours without so much as a by your leave, idols resurfacing in rivers, dead men waking up on hearing a song, burglars being chased away by mysterious bow-wielding warriors and what not. MMM is pretty sure that the above play was no different. But then he had received several invitations to attend the stagings all of which he had missed and so he decided to go for the 100th.
The programme said kick-off was at 6.30 pm and so MMM was there, his good lady in tow. Seats in the front row were found by a kind usher. The curtains went up to reveal a full row of VIPs seated on stage. It was then that MMM realised with a sinking heart that the play would be -preceded by what is locally known as ‘Felicitation’. And since there were six VIPs, it meant at least half an hour of delay. MMM was prepared for that. What he did not expect, and which smote him like a thunderbolt only when the proceedings got underway, was that each speaker was -going to take 15 minutes. And the burden of each one was to praise the others assembled. And praise them sky high. Each one was compared to a divine being and one unfortunate, though not in any way due to his looks, was -compared, for want of anything better, to the monkey God who jumped across the Palk Straits. Then a speaker began picking out certain people in the -audience for praise and that went on for a goodish bit of time. In between everyone -presented everyone else with mementoes (you know the Tamil standard – a gopuram-shaped wooden whatnot with a -silver roundel on it). And to think this was a play about a composer who mercilessly -lampooned those who praised mortals.
There appeared to be no end to the speeches, even though the initially enthusiastic applause had begun to taper off rather sharply and later came to be replaced by a deathly and resigned -silence. An hour and ten minutes later, MMM’s sciatic nerve, which he considers to be the best indicator of whether a programme is worth sitting through or not, began urging him to get up and leave. There was a lull in the proceedings as one speaker had just taken his chair while -another was preparing to grasp the mike. MMM upped and left, rapidly followed by his good lady. Shakespeare put it all rather aptly – Exit hurriedly, pursued by bear.
It all began rather innocently enough – the Adhaar, a new identity card. The Man from Madras Musings like everyone else, went, stood in queues, got himself photographed, had his fingerprints read and came away with a sense of quiet satisfaction. And then a few weeks later the card itself came, all shining and bright, with a photo of MMM looking like one of those people whose pictures you see at police stations and areas where the public congregate, with a WANTED or MISSING legend attached. MMM then filed it away and forgot all about it.
And then it began – the tortuous process of linking this Adhaar to just about everything. The gas registration was the first off the mark and MMM had his card linked, feeling all the while that he was contributing to nation-building. He began receiving calls asking him to surrender his gas subsidy and he did it willingly. After a few weeks came a call that he had to link his bank account(s) to the same Adhaar card. MMM did that too, though it must be admitted not so willingly, for the very thought of establishing contact with a bank fills MMM with a nameless horror. They have a tendency of coming right back at you with forms that you need to fill in and then sign in triplicate, apart from affixing yet another signature across your photograph. Somehow this last never works for MMM, the ink dries up the moment it touches the photo and all he gets is a scratch. But the linking did eventually go through.
Thereafter came calls from Mutual Funds – asking for MMM to link his Adhaar card to them, failing which, though it was not exactly specified, all hell would break loose. And so MMM obediently did the same. Now the cell phone company has woken up and is demanding the linking of MMM’s number to the Adhaar card.
MMM has now begun to live in daily terror of further demands for the linking of Adhaar. Will it become necessary to use the Adhaar to open the front door at chez MMM? What if the lights and fans do not switch on without the waving of the Adhaar in front of them? And from there to water closets demanding the flashing of the Adhaar may be but the next step.
Strangely, for a card that is to be perpetually in use, it is physically quite flimsy. -Compared to the hard and laminated driving licence and the initially laminated but now hard PAN card, the Adhaar is rather reedy. And because it has to be carried about on your person all the time, what with it being asked for at all kinds of places, it is unlikely to last long. MMM’s card is already frayed at the edges and -because it is also quite crinkled, MMM’s face as -depicted on it now has a rather debauched look about it. The worry as of now is how to make the card last as long as MMM does.
The Man from Madras Musings is quite sure you would have noticed it – the way the smog rolled in on Deepavali night and managed to penetrate the house despite windows and doors being kept tightly shut. That night the TV channels reported on high pollution in Chennai and crowed about how metros such as Delhi were far better off. What everyone -forgot was that Chen-nai -celebrates the festival a day ahead of most parts of India and so the next day, our air cleared up while the rest of the country was under a cloud. Clearly, this is another -instance of what the Chief keeps saying – Chen-nai (only he calls it Madras) is where modern India -began.