Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXVIII No. 20, February 1-15, 2019
Up North, in the capital, the Beating the Retreat ceremony has just concluded and, along with it, the dust settles over the Republic Day celebrations. It is with considerable amusement that The Man from Madras Musings notes that denizens of Chennai’s art world have also beaten the retreat from the capital. In the past few months, so MMM learns, many of them had practically laid siege to that seat of seven (or was it ten?) great empires of the past. This was not with any desire to conquer, plunder and pillage as many invaders did in the past to that great metro but mainly to lobby hard for one of the National Awards.
When our beloved first Prime Minister came up with these awards, he had cautioned against their misuse. He could not have foreseen that several of his family would precisely do that. He also expressed the fear that hierarchy in the awards – Lotus Wealth, Lotus Jewelled, Lotus Bejewelled and National Gem – would give rise to a caste system of sorts, leaving to an environment of one-upmanship. This apart, our first Prime Minister also said these titles ought not to be used as prefixes to names by the recipients. All of these wise maxims have been given the go by.
The art world lives in a state of perpetual upward mobility, or at least hopes of it. Early in their careers, singers, dancers, writers and painters begin to lobby hard for the National Awards. Thereafter, once one has been received, lobbying begins for the next stages. It has come to be firmly established that Lotus Wealth is but a stepping-stone and none in their right senses ought to stop until Bejewelled status is achieved.
MMM is aware of two bitter rivals where the one who is Jewelled has crowed over the fact that the other is a mere Wealth. He also understands that the latter takes umbrage if the term Lotus Wealth is not prefixed to the name in all media announcements. And ever since Melody Sublime got the National Gem, everyone assumes that this too is available for the asking, or at least for the lobbying. The Methuselah of Carnatic Music, brilliant singer that he was and God bless his memory, harboured hopes till the day he died, well into his nineties. Two others, now also with the morning stars, one singing and the other playing on an instrument, practically camped in Delhi in the hope of achieving Gem status but that was not to be.
In the past lobbying too had its hierarchy, from Government officials to ministers. These are tougher times and the fastest route appears to be using the social media. Come November and MMM notices that the number of laudatory posts from artistes on anything and everything that the powers-that-be do in Delhi, ranging from complex economic issues to defence deals, increases exponentially, reaching a climax of sorts a week before R(ewards) Day. And then there is the breathless wait till the actual announcement, followed by howls of disappointment, gnashing of teeth at those awarded, and the going away with a deep resolve to try better the next year.
This year, the Dispensers in Delhi gave short shrift to the lobbyers from the music world, awarded one dancer, a drummer of the non-classical variety and a film actor who is better known for his terpsichorean abilities. Clearly making eyes at the powers-that-be via social media has come a cropper.
Money for the masses
Time was when rulers, when they felt like it, would set forth in procession, throwing fistfuls of gold and silver coins to the assembled crowds. In yonder capital city of a State that has since become two States, the erstwhile ruler would do this and his canny citizenry armed itself with upturned umbrellas so as to catch as much as it could of this money from up above. Now, our State too has done the same by distributing Rs. 1,000 to all ration cardholders. Clearly our State must be doing well and since we are a democracy, by inference, we too must be doing well.
The Man from Madras Musings is well aware that it was only in the last issue that our beloved Chief had written a piece lamenting over this largesse. Clearly the citizenry disagreed with the Chief and decided that if the Government was foolish enough to easily part with its money, then it was the duty of the citizenry to go and collect it. Which is why, on the day the money was distributed, serpentine queues were to be seen at all the ration shops.
MMM, realising that this was where he could get some easy grist for this column’s mill, decided to drive by a few of these outlets and he did note that while several of those who had turned up were clearly in need of the money, several more clearly were not in need of it. Prosperity was writ large on their visage, dress and deportment and you could see from a mile away that they were doing their best to make it clear to onlookers that ration shops were not places they visited on a regular basis.
Several others had been cleverer. They had got maids and chauffeurs to stand in for them in these queues. A phone call was made even as the stand-in inched closer to the counter and the actual cardholder then turned up, signed for the cash and walked away with it. Some pocketed the money while others distributed it as charity. Very few actually spurned the offer.
MMM made bold to ask an elderly lady of a prosperous family and who was not very steady on her feet as to why she took the trouble to stand in line and collect the cash. The answer was most impressive in terms of logic – she had always seen situations when the Government took money from her under various guises, such as penalties, taxes, statutory deductions and the like, apart from bribes she said. She had never ever envisaged a time would come when the Government would shower actual cash on the citizenry. And now that it had happened, she wanted to be a part of the celebration. Why not, MMM wondered. After all it is a poor heart that never rejoices.
The following advertisement was noticed by The Man from Madras Musings and he passes it on with no comments: 76 years pensioner own house middle class Indpt. seeks Chennai and around Educated Service Minded Problemless Women to look after with him.