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Vol. XXIX No. 10, September 1-15, 2019



Food for all during Madras Week

The Week is over and The Man from Madras Musings sinks back into his chair with a sigh of relief. The eight talks that Musings hosted went off well and were well attended. The speakers spoke, MMM mused, the veteran after-speech-questioners questioned and the food predators preyed. In short, a good time was had by all. At the end of it however, MMM is quite happy to get back to his routine. There are only so many hours in a life that can be spent seated on a hotel chair.

As always, even as Madras Week loomed large, MMM had begun to worry about the food question, namely how to keep the predators at bay. The pack, for those who came in late, comprises a set of people who charge at the food counters during the Madras Week celebrations and eat everything placed there – cups, saucers glasses and an occasional table cloth included. For his private amusement, MMM has mentally labelled and categorised each of these – gorilla, which has a huge mouth and a larger stomach and which keeps belching loudly after eating well, woolly mammoth – large and saturnine, which peers short-sightedly at food and then shoving aside everyone else reaches out for everything in sight, owl – slender and with huge spectacles and swoops down to peck at what is there, jackal – waits for others to charge ahead and then follows in their wake, clearing up everything that is there, vulture, which in sharp contrast to all of above is female and silently goes about her work, polishing the dishes, and the grizzly, which embraces all kinds of food, the only qualification being that they ought to be edible. To this, MMM now adds two new genus – penguin – a bird-like person always tightly packed into a black suit, and kangaroo – a woman who apart from eating well also put away significant quantities in a huge cloth bag, the contents of which MMM hopes were later given away to the poor and needy.

This year, with a view to controlling the food riots, MMM had instructed all hotels to offer only coffee, tea and biscuits. Five out of the eight complied and mammoth expressed its disappointment by grunting deeply before drowning his sorrows in a few thousand cups of coffee. But then came day five when the hosting hotel refused to listen to all of MMM’s entreaties and having cast him aside insisted on laying out food. When MMM reached the venue he was greeted with what appeared to be a scene straight out of the French Revolution. Foragers ran amok. Kangaroo was the item number of the evening, stuffing vegetable wraps into a bag, while water bottles were vanishing into another repository. She reminded MMM of Citizeness Defarge. The only aspect missing was the clicking of knitting needles. Order was restored only with the announcement that the talk was about to begin. This being considered by the predators as only the secondary and less important part of the proceedings, they continued hunting for food until there was none left. Days 6 and 7 witnessed the same unruly behaviour and then finally Day 8 saw order restored with just coffee, tea and water.

Penguin, of whom MMM referred to earlier, had another disconcerting habit – he asked questions in a fashion where he could always highlight his importance. Thus in a talk on healthcare he said he had been the key person behind the arrangements for housing for paramedics at the hospital chain named after the sun god. In a talk on a famed cine-villain of the past, he claimed to have been the protégé of the director who first made aforesaid cine-villain famous. Clearly penguin was a cock sparrow pretending to be a peacock.

Cashing in on Madras Week

There are small but sure signs that ye olde Madras Week is beginning to punch above its weight and is all set on the road to bigger things. The first indication was when Heir Apparent for Long and now Chief Minister in Waiting (for a long while), tweeted his greetings to the people of the city on the occasion of Madras Week. And there was a Minister who mentioned this hitherto unmentionable event by name and wished everyone on the occasion. There was also a once Power(ful) Star now in a phase of load shedding, who decided to make a grand appearance towards the end of one of the Madras Musings events, just to smile at everyone. Penguin, who it appears was in the know about the arrival, beamed at the the man and offered him his seat. This, the celebrity was not too keen on accepting – a sentiment that MMM fully concurred with. Given the quantity that penguin ate, it would have been risky to sit where he had roosted. And so old Power(ful) gravitated to the third row and sat there. To give him due credit, he listened intently to what was going on, even though there was just about five minutes of it left.

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At the end of the Q&A session, one of the celebrity’s acolytes rushed to MMM and presented his, the acolyte’s, card, rather in the manner of an ambassador presenting credentials to a monarch. With a low bow he then said that the Electric Star was here and so could MMM make a mention of him? Now MMM is too seasoned a veteran for all that and so he pretended not to have heard.

Elsewhere in the city, a television channel tried its best to get MMM to participate in a debate on whether Madras Week was at all necessary. MMM said he would rather abstain as he really did not see any reason for a long debate. If you liked the city you celebrated and if you did not feel up to it, nobody could force you to. That was not the point said the caller. There was a film director who had commented that those who really made Chennai great had “all been driven away from the city and others were trying to cash in and celebrate,” and so could MMM counter this. MMM decided that he would rather not. But it did make him wonder as to who these people who made Chennai great and who later had to flee were. Could it be the British? Or the Telugu-speaking people? MMM has no clue and he is fairly certain that the director had none either.

Lastly, did you know that posters were actually put up around the Chintadripet-Park Town area celebrating August 22nd as the day to honour Damarla Chennappa Nayak, the man whose son granted the land to the British and also lent his name to the city? While MMM is not so certain as to how old Chennappa looked, and in the poster he does resemble a wrestler, he is rather glad that the old man is being remembered. MMM also wonders as to whether this community celebrating the man could offer a suitable counter to the film director referred to above.

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