Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXVIII No. 10, September 1-15, 2018
Madras Week is over. Or is it? The Man from Madras Musings has his doubts for there is no sign of the programmes abating. MMM is still getting invites for breakfasts, lunches and dinners where he is expected to hold forth on Madras, Madras Week, Madras Month and so on. At the end of all that eating, MMM is quite certain that there will be enough of him for two or three MMMs.
With that MMM draws a curtain over his speaking and eating engagements and goes on to deal with another subject – a heritage walk that he conducted at Fort St. George. It was a free tour, with prior registration being mandatory, this to be done by email. There was a record turnout both for registration and actual participation. Now why should the registration numbers not be the same as those who landed up you may well ask. But MMM’s experience has been that for free walks, the enthusiasm to actually turn up for the event, especially on a Sunday morning, is nowhere near the excitement displayed at the time of registering. In short, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. It was however gratifying that such was not the case in this instance.
MMM enjoyed taking the people around. But what gave him greater joy and much mirth, was reading the registration emails. Firstly, there was the title – variously written as Fort George walk, St. George Fort walk, George Town walk and in one instance – just George walk. One email just said Fort St. George Resignation. And then the mail contents – I am a group of one ran a particular email. Yet another had MMM puzzling for long over it. In fact, you will not be far wrong in assuming that the riddle is yet to be resolved, for it went thus – Please refer the flooring details as entry details for the Fort George Walk.
Some others decided that this was the best opportunity to display their writing skills. There were whole paragraphs describing all their other social engagements and how this Fort Walk clashed with it and so could MMM please consider doing it again on some other date? Kindly advise admission and registration procedure went yet another, when all of that was already provided in the announcement itself. But what took the cake was a phone call. The whole conversation lasted 15 minutes or so and MMM will just give you a précis.
MMM having answered the call heard several false starts thereby indicating that a very diffident voice was at the other end. It eventually mustered enough courage and asked if it was MMM speaking. On being replied to in the affirmative the voice went silent thereby indicating that whoever it was at the other end was mulling over the matter. MMM was just about to hang up when the voice, having revived, enquired if this was the MMM who did walks. MMM said yes. There was a dead silence again. But this time MMM did not hang up and was duly rewarded. The voice, said the voice, was in possession of a pamphlet that said MMM was conducting a heritage walk between 7.00 and 9.00 am at Fort St George on a particular day and it was for free. It wanted some clarifications it said. MMM asked it to proceed, wondering if it was about toilet facilities at the Fort. But no, the voice had other queries – was it true it asked that MMM was conducting a walk at Fort St George on a particular date between 7.00 and 9.00 am? MMM said yes whereupon the voice said it was glad for it had read as much in the pamphlet but was wanting to make sure. It then asked MMM if it was likely to rain on the day of the walk. MMM said he did not know. How hot would it be if it did not rain asked the voice, at which point MMM hung up. Incidentally it did drizzle just before the walk and an overcast sky made for a very comfortable walking tour.
As you are well aware, Madras Musings celebrates Madras Week by organising eight lectures, all open to the public and each held at a different upmarket locale in the city. The hotels and boutique restaurants give their venues gratis and out of the kindness of their heart also provide refreshments for free to everyone who attends. But this has over the years begun to attract a certain variety of freeloader who thinks that he/she has to stock up during Madras Week in the manner of camels to see them through till August next year.
The Man from Madras Musings has been at his wits end on how to deal with these pests. He is thinking in particular of Vulture, Owl, Raccoon, Jackal and Woolly-Headed Mammoth, all of whom go wild on seeing a buffet spread. Woolly-Headed Mammoth in particular has begun to pack things away in a bag to take home, no doubt to see him through the long Madras winters.
It was in pessimistic vein that MMM confided his troubles to his good lady, also known as She Who Must Be Obeyed. Having mulled over it, she came up with what was a winner – get the hotels to hand over pre-served plates to the attendees she said. The idea came to her on day 5 of Madras Week this year. Day 4 had in particular been very bad, with Owl managing to balance eight gulab jamuns, seven paneer pakodas and six sandwiches on a small tiffin plate.
The good lady’s plan was implemented on Day 6 and it went like a dream. The foragers were baffled. They withdrew into a shell and remained morose throughout the presentation. The next day saw them in reduced numbers. But the event on Day 8 was at a hotel known for its cuisine. And so they were back in full strength. This time they decided that after polishing off a pre-served plate they could stand in the queue once more. But MMM was too quick for them. Having noticed that they had already tanked up he made bold to ask them not to crowd around the tea service and take their seats. This was not to the liking to Bald-Headed Eagle, which vented its ire on MMM for not being hospitable. If this was the way MMM continued to behave said Eagle, it had no option other than to boycott Madras Week celebrations it said. It had, it said, been a keen supporter from day one, year one, but now there was a niggardly spirit that was creeping up that was completely deplorable. In the midst of all this, MMM saw out of the corner of his eye that Mammoth had managed to salt away some food in a plastic bag. The last word in the epic battle of MMM vs the foragers is yet clearly yet to be written.
The Police, so it seems, celebrated Madras Day in style. Or at least they gave us a gift for posterity that has The Man from Madras Musings still chuckling. On that day they filed an FIR against a political leader for unruly behaviour. The document stated that he had created a ruckus under the statue of Marilyn Monroe, which stood on the Island. They meant Sir Thomas Munro of course. Being an equestrian statue, Lady Godiva would have perhaps been more appropriate.