Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXX No. No. 12, October 16-31, 2020
Simply Perfect Baritone (SPB) passed away earlier this month and The Man from Madras Musings, who is one of his countless admirers, mourned his departure along with everyone else. The man leaves a void in the heart, largely because of his singing prowess and also because of the way he came across – an ever smiling, jovial soul. The timing of his passing could not have been worse – a pandemic raging which prevents most from paying their tributes in person. To us, as people, faced with a sea of troubles, SPB’s death is one more sling or arrow of outrageous fortune (that by the way, in case you are impressed, is not MMM’s own but a paraphrasing of the Bard of Avon).
It is but natural that a man who sang over 40,000 songs, set in several Indian languages, should have touched many. And a demand is now gaining momentum among these fans that their idol ought to be conferred the highest award the country can bestow – Indian Gem. Not surprisingly, there is opposition to this from artistes themselves.
You see, ever since Melodiously Sublime Singer was conferred this award ever so many years ago, musicians have generally begun to fancy their chances. And when the award was granted to a few others in the art, the buzz became all the more. MMM personally knows of at least three artistes, now all playing the harp up in the heavens, who during their lifetime tried their level best to be so honoured, only to be bitterly disappointed with officialdom proving unresponsive.
Melodiously Sublime Singer was in what Chennai would describe as another level – moving millions with her music, moving with grace among the titled and ennobled, having Lords temporal and spiritual fawning on her, and above all, giving considerable amounts in charity. None of those other aspirants had those qualities in the same quantity as she had. Now coming to Simply Perfect Baritone, while he may not fit all those criteria, did have plenty of attributes to be recognized as a national gem. His music was pan Indian and he had fans across the nation. After all, if the Lark (of) Mumbai could get it, why not our man? MMM wishes the move all Godspeed.
But what he is unable to understand is the pettiness among the artistes themselves in opposing such a move. MMM was quite shocked to receive an email purportedly written by a fairly well-known personality in the field of arts, questioning the validity of the move. The person, knowing full well the avalanche of scorn such a missive directly opposing the conferment of the award may provoke, worded the communication very cleverly. O who better than the late Simply Perfect Baritone for such a wonderful honour gushed the letter. It then went on to question the value of posthumously awarding people, when “alas, they are not around to enjoy it.”
Would it not be much better therefore to recognize people who are still around in the flesh and blood? And then, in order to quell any doubts people may have that this message was an exercise in self-promotion, the person concerned went on to state that he did not have himself in mind but was thinking more of X, Y & Z, all of whom in his view deserve such an award and are, “dying” to receive it so to speak.
But MMM, having spent quite a few years among artistes and their wiles was not fooled. A close look at the intended recipients of the mail revealed quite a few in the highest echelons of power. This coupled with the fact that the artiste had prefixed his name with a full panoply of titles, revealed that the whole letter was nothing but a sordid exercise in garnering publicity for himself and testing the waters for his chances of the award.
The Masked Avenger
Remember the month of March? Oh how halcyon all of those days seem. We were told that the battle against Covid would be won in 21 days, the numbers were so small that we were congratulating each other for bucking the trend and wondering about where those advanced nations had gone wrong in handling a pandemic that we had managed so well. And some lit lamps, and dutifully clanged pots and pans. But The Man from Madras Musings does not wish to dwell on those things. He prefers to move on, just as the man behind those activities and statements too has.
On the other hand, MMM would like to compliment a man whom he hardly knows but whom he sees practically every day during his morning walks. This person, judging by the prominent G painted on the number plate of his car, is clearly a Government servant and his outfit for walking is always white – a white T shirt and full trousers in white, with matching shoes, and no doubt, socks. In those rosy days of March, when MMM sincerely thought we were pretty much immune to this disease or could become so by drinking rasam and swallowing garlic, this man would wear a mask and whenever he spotted any one not sporting one, would lower his and bark out that the least the person could do was to cover his or her mouth.
He more or less became the terror of the locality and MMM for one, out of fear of being addressed by this person, began to religiously wear a mask. Soon the entire set of walkers was masked, and resembled a conference of surgeons. And for want of the man’s real name MMM began referring to him as the Masked Avenger.Time went on. The pandemic boomed and has since settled at a high in Chennai. You will not be far wrong in stating that it has come to like this city by the sea and is here for a nice, long stay. And the masks too have come to stay on our faces. In fact, MMM has become so used to it that he feels practically nude if he has to remove it. And whenever he sports a mask, MMM thinks of the Masked Avenger, partly in gratitude for his prescience and partly in awe of his evangelical zeal.
But of late, MMM has come to realise that his idol too is human and has feet of clay. There are days when MMM sees the man walking around with his (the Masked Avenger’s and not MMM’s) nose in the air, well outside the mask. It in fact juts out like a pennant on a ship. True, he does pull his mask up whenever he sees any of his former victims about; after all he does have a status to maintain as a reformer. Sometimes he has long conversations on the phone, with his mask down, when no doubt his open mouth takes in a whole lot of polluted air, full of microbes and water droplets. During such times he does not bother to pull his mask up, perhaps he is instructing whoever it is at the other end to wear his or her mask.
But the worst was last week when he actually emerged without a mask. And on noticing MMM advancing to take a closer look, he ducked into a side street and remained lurking there till MMM had moved on. It must be tough being a role model.
One of the most common queries The Man from Madras Musings receives these days is as to why the latest copy of Madras Musings has not been delivered. MMM wishes he has an answer, but he does not follow the postman on his beat, and he does not play postman’s knock, which if you recall was a favourite game with the late Chief. All he can tell such people is to keep an eye on their neighbour for they may be pinching the latest issues of the magazine. But MMM must admit it feels good to be in demand.