Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXVIII No. 23, March 16-31, 2019
And so the highest in the land arrived and gave a speech in the outskirts (and mercifully not in the middle of the city thereby causing traffic jams) of Chennai that was Madras. The Man from Madras Musings notes that he, the Numero Uno that is, reiterated his Government’s decision to rename Central Station after the iconic matinee idol turned politician who remained Chief Minister of our State for ten long years.
The general public has remained largely indifferent to the announcement – apart from the usual unproductive handwringing on social media that is. A friend declared to MMM that this was all political opportunism. Who says Anna or Kamaraj airport, asked she. People will just refer to it as Central Station, she opined. MMM does not agree. This was the same attitude when in 1996 Madras, a word of doubtful parentage became Chennai, a clearly Telugu word that suddenly was presented as Tamil. Today it is an accepted name across the State with just a few diehards like the Chief sticking to Madras. And so MGR Station it will eventually become. That has resulted in the second son of the archrival of MGR demanding that Egmore be named after his father. That too will come to pass. It all depends on electoral alliances and mathematics.
But all of this brought to mind an incident that happened several years ago when MMM, then a mere mmm, travelled by the old metre-gauge first class coach to Trichy, along with his parents and grandmother. The last named was the relict of a senior railway officer and had believed ever since that anything that went about on wheels over a track, together with all appurtenances including stations and staff, was her personal property.
First class cubicles of the metre gauge trains were rooms unto themselves. Four berths were arranged all around a central space. A bathroom complete with shower was attached and each cubicle had separate doors for independent access to the platform. We had barely boarded and deposited all our luggage, Grandmother’s being considerable, when a policeman came in and said that the neighbouring cubicle was to be occupied by the Chief Minister (yes, in those days CMs were like us people and travelled by train). We were requested not to get off the train at Trichy until he had left.
Grandmother fretted and fumed at this. In her time she had made trains wait, she declared. Who was this politician who dared dictate terms to us? Was this what we fought independence for? Grandmother viewed all Dravidian parties with suspicion and branded them as Communists, which term in her opinion defined all that was evil in politics.
Anyway, everyone went off to sleep and early next morning the train arrived at Trichy. Glancing out of the coach we perceived several of the party faithful waiting with garlands. Slogans rent the air. Grandmother had a vantage point, for seated on her berth she could see all the happenings. A short while later, MGR leapt off the train in the manner in which he would get off a horse in his films. The sloganeering became louder. Garlands were pressed into his hands. The great leader hated anyone putting them around his neck as they could dislodge his cap and wig. Grandmother glowered at the going on.
Suddenly MGR turned around. It is MMM’s theory that Grandmother’s eyes, like laser beams, were boring holes into MGR’s neck and so he looked back to investigate. He saw Grandmother and came bounding across – it was said he knew how to milk a situation involving any old woman. He beamed at her. He held her hand through the railings and pressed it to his forehead. The cheers were now deafening. He was then gone.
“What a handsome man,” declared Grandmother. “And a complexion like gold. It is a reflection of his innate goodness. And what charming manners.” A fan was born. MMM thinks his Grandmom will approve of the name change.
These are days when The Man from Madras Musings is invited to events galore and at each is presented with a memento. These can range from the downright ugly to the completely useless. Ranking high in these categories are worthless idols (oh where are those ivories and bronzes of yore?), coffee mugs of various shapes and sizes, cheap paintings, books that MMM would never read and, of course silk shawls. MMM is not certain as to when the last named became a part of Tamil tradition but then there you are. You can never escape a
And so, MMM, when invited these days, makes it clear that he does not accept any memento other than flowers and fruits. This instruction works on most occasions though some organisers do keep a shawl handy, just in case MMM changes his mind. He has however remained firm thus far. But a recent incident made MMM realise that fruits can cause considerable trouble as well.
The programme went off well and the time came to thank MMM for his speech. Members of the audience were waking up with a Where Are We kind of look and groping for their bags and walking sticks even as the organiser began a longish vote of thanks. At a certain point in this speech he said it was his pleasurable duty to handover a basket of fruits to MMM. He then extended his hand for the same and MMM stepped forward to receive it. Only of basket there was none. Someone has forgotten to get it. There was some mild laughter over this and profuse apologies from organiser. MMM waved it off.
The next day, MMM and his good lady, also known as She Who Must Be Obeyed, left for an outstation visit. On coming back, they were alarmed to note what appeared to be a foul smell emanating from the front lobby of the house. From under the door a sticky, red fluid was oozing out and it appeared a fit case for investigation by a sleuth or two. Fearing the worst, MMM opened the door to find a basket of rotting fruit. A note, from the organiser of aforesaid event, was pinned to it. Not finding anyone at home, the bearer had slid the basket in via a window and the heat of Chennai had done the rest.
The cleaning up took some time and the smell took longer to go. MMM had better stick to accepting shawls was the advice of his good lady.
The Man from Madras Musings knows that we live in a digital age but he was still not prepared for a Data Udupi Hotel down Porur way. He was chided by several friends for not knowing of it, this being a chain with outlets all across the city. A wag suggested that MMM ought to drop in for a ‘byte’.