Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXVII No. 3, May 16-31, 2017
Dear DeMo from Delhi (sorry Chief, this fortnight’s column begins with the same obeisance as the last but The Man from Madras Musings cannot help it) is all for Government offices changing their ways if his speeches are to be believed. MMM who belongs neither to the loony left nor the bovine sorry divine right, takes some and leaves the others but in this matter he is one with DDD, namely that Government offices need to change their ways. And what little experience he has had of them leaves him (MMM and not DDD), with the view that they cannot get any worse. MMM is not sure about you guys and gals out there but he tries to avoid going to any Government office as far as possible. The seats will always be in short supply as will be drinking water, ventilation and, of course, toilets. And the older MMM gets, the more he finds he needs all of the above, right through the day. And it was therefore with a sinking feeling that MMM heard his good lady (also known as She Who Must Be Obeyed) announcing one morning last week that he (MMM not DDD) had to be at the registrar’s. There was some property being either bought or sold, MMM forgets which.
It was in vain that MMM suggested that his good lady handle the matter herself. She has, in his view, a way with Government offices that MMM can only marvel at. A tout or two will invariably tackle what are known as pourparlers on her behalf and by the time she arrives, everything will be well handled barring the beating of drums and blowing of trumpets, not to forget the shouting and cheering. MMM on the other hand, on the occasions that he has been on his own to such places, has invariably hung around for hours in numerous queues only to have the officer concerned tell him that he (MMM) had forgotten to bring document number 393 section E which as is well known is mandated in rule 543 (xiii) subsection 67 (amendment F) and without which all Government machinery will grind to a halt. And so can MMM come back again with the document, duly signed by a gazetted officer in triplicate?
The visit this time proved no different. The office was located exactly where any right-thinking architect would have placed the latrines in a public building. The only light possible came via electricity as did air. The number of people waiting to see whoever it was outnumbered the available seats by a ratio of 2:1. The corners were all rendered red by years of betel juice being spat at them. The counters had notices warning visitors to not use cell phones. But either this was a mere formality or everyone other than MMM was illiterate, for the place was abuzz with calls being made and received.
It was 10.00 am and there was no sign of any officer or clerk. Enquiries half an hour later revealed that everyone had gone off to attend a wedding of their colleague and the office would begin functioning at 11. A clock, that was far ahead of everything else, showed the time to be 1.00 pm. MMM reflected that this could be the time of the previous day. The staff trickled in eventually, at around 11.30, all of them looking well fed. Some of the staff had brought their children along. The summer vacations having begun, this was their idea of taking their children out on an excursion. The children duly sat on the chairs meant for their parents and each one began to play with a cell phone, completely ignoring the others in the room. But that did not prevent the lower orders in this office from trying to befriend the children, no doubt with a hope to curry some favour with the parents later. The offspring later moved off to a room that resembled the Black Hole, not that it mattered to them as long as the cell phones received signals. MMM also noticed that the children were seated there in exactly the same order of precedence as their hierarchy and seniority-obsessed parents. Work began by 12.00 noon. MMM finished his business by 1.00 pm. The only improvement he noticed was that thumb impressions were now taken digitally and not with the horrid black ink that like Lady Macbeth’s spots could never by wiped off.
For all those who rejoiced at the announcement that the red beacon on Government cars is a thing of the past, The Man from Madras Musings brings sad tidings. It was only in the last issue of Madras Musings that MMM had speculated on the possibility of Babudom finding some means or the other to perpetuate their importance. And, boy, have they succeeded!
The bureaucrats have gone in for provisions in the fine print, of which as we all know, they are past masters. Red beacons are still permitted on police vehicles and ambulances. Since our leaders and officials cannot be seen going around in the latter, they have taken resort to the former. By that MMM does not mean our beloved bosses are now going around in police cars. What they have done is to get a posse of these vehicles, all of them with beacons flashing, serve as outriders to their humble beacon-less vehicles. And the effect is pretty much the same. In fact it is even better because what were lone vehicles sporting a red beacon have now become entire convoys with screaming outriders.
The other day MMM was driving along somewhere in the city when his reverie was interrupted by a prolonged hooting of the horn and a series of wails as though an ambulance was trying to forge its way ahead. MMM moved his car to one side only to see a police patrol van charging forward. Several protectors of the public weal were inside and all of them to a man glared at MMM, indicating that he ought to have known better than to block their progress. Immediately behind this came one of those large SUVs that have become synonymous with our political class. Crouching inside was a well-known face, which was trying to look unconcerned with all the chaos that it was causing. Behind the SUV came another police vehicle, also flashing its beacon and wailing like a banshee. The trio then proceeded to push cars and pedestrians out of the way, jumped the traffic light ahead where a policeman saluted them for their act, and were lost to sight thereafter.
So much then for the beacon having taken away with it our VIP culture. Dear DeMo in Delhi and Extremely Precarious Seat closer home may as well screw the damned bulb back on.
The Man from Madras Musings is deeply concerned about the announcement that Chennai’s so called international airport will be a silent one from now on. Will that mean the falling tiles from the roof will be rubber lined so that they do not make a noise when they crash on to the floor? How can the passengers be warned of this menace? MMM recommends that the Airports Authority of India dispenses helmets for everyone.