Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXX No. 18, January 16-31, 2021
A December evening was drawing to a close and a group of friends had gathered at chez Man from Madras Musings. His good lady, also known as She Who Must Be Obeyed had earlier that week declared that she had had enough of COVID restrictions (had not we all?) and it was high time we began meeting up in person with friends. She was, she said, sick of all these virtual get togethers. In matters concerning his good lady, MMM is one with Rudyard Kipling (remember “but the head and hoof of the Law, and the haunch and the hump is – Obey”?), a poet and writer whom he does not otherwise admire. And so it was that a chosen few were invited and after dinner the conversation somehow drifted to weddings – how everyone had survived a year without attending any in person and how if all went well, it would be possible to attend a few in the new year. The topic then morphed into wedding gaffes and one and all present agreed that the one mistake that practically everyone had committed was to attend the wrong wedding.
Mind you, this was not always in error. In MMM’s college days, the hostel overlooked a historic church whose vast compound was often let out for weddings of all religions. Many of MMM’s fellow students (and here MMM must say he abstained) wore their best and gate crashed. Some of the burlier specimens even had the bridal couple touching their feet for blessings and they were all agreed that the food on offer was far better than that available at the hostel. Having come to man’s estate as the expression is, hardly anyone would dream of barging into a wedding uninvited but wandering into a wrong marriage ceremony was quite common.
MMM’s favourite story is of an expatriate couple in the Madras of the 1960s, who had been invited to attend an Indian colleague’s daughter’s wedding. They donned their best and drove off to the venue and were given a rousing welcome. They were lovingly escorted to the front row and had a soft drink pressed into their hands. It was only after they had settled in did they realise that they could not recognise a soul, including the bride and her parents. Realising they had made it to the wrong venue, they then hastily beat a retreat, much to the surprise and distress of the hosts who had been delighted with the prospect of two white skins landing up. The bride and the groom’s families had assumed that they were guests and special invitees of what is known in legal terms as the party of the part.
MMM narrated this tale with gusto and it was received well by the assembled guests but one of the invitees came up with an even better story. She and her mother-in-law got ready to attend a wedding, bouquet of flowers in hand. They reached the venue, were duly escorted to the dais, and there they handed over the bouquet, posed for the obligatory photo and were then escorted to the dinner. They had not seen anybody they knew but assumed that those who had invited them were busy elsewhere. They had the dinner and having accepted the bag of betel leaf and nuts were just walking out when they realised that the wedding they had to attend was in a different part of the same complex. They decided that it was best that they at least registered a token presence and so began walking towards the correct venue when they realised that the bouquet had been handed over to the earlier bridal couple. MMM’s friend said she was in half a mind to nip back, explain the mistake and retrieve the bouquet when wiser counsels prevailed and the two decided to just go in, greet the correct couple and leave. After all they reasoned, they had had a good dinner at the earlier venue and the bouquet was in some ways a compensation for that.
Apart from going about meeting people, the Man from Madras Musings has had to travel as well. Thus it was that last fortnight he had to visit the city that was once known as the Manchester of the South. This has always been one of MMM’s favourite destinations. Sadly, what with this pandemic he had stayed away for more than ten months, feeling rather like Peri who if you recall stood disconsolately outside the Garden of Eden.
Over the years it has been a tradition of sorts that each of MMM’s visits to the place begin with breakfast in the company of a dear colleague, at the same restaurant. And each time the meal is had at the same table. And MMM and colleague have been invariably waited upon by the same lady. A short, stout, motherly woman, in her sixties maybe, it was always a pleasure to meet her. She had an imperceptible way of making sure you were comfortable, your dishes arrived on time and the coffee was just right. All of this was done without intruding in any way on the conversation that MMM and his colleague were having.
Arriving at the restaurant this time and waiting for his colleague to come, MMM was allocated a different table which was disconcerting enough. And there was no sign of the lady. He kept looking out for her. These are pessimistic times and MMM assumed the worst. The best he could conjecture was that she had retired or had been settled by the company owing to her age. Lots of the ‘elderly’ had been put out to pasture this way.
MMM’s colleague came and the breakfast was had, followed by coffee– it was just not the same. MMM was going to accept it all as a sign of the times when like a radiating power she appeared. It was all MMM could do to prevent himself from going up to her and giving her a hug. With a view to reducing exposure the management had moved her to billing (kudos to them) she said, and all was well. Then her eye fell on the coffee – “Does it not need more decoction?” she asked. How did she know? But she did. This was asked for and when it was added, the coffee was just right.
All was well. God was in his heaven, or rather that manifestation of divinity that works as a motherly waitress at a restaurant in the Manchester of the South was going strong. There is little more to ask for. All is right with the world.
The Superstar, so the Man from Madras Musings notices, has opted out of the race even before it began. But World Star has his hat in the ring. And as his name also means Lotus Smiles, MMM assumes that the Lotus Party is smiling at him as much as it is supposed to be smiling on Tweedledum and Tweedledee, who are the two leaves of another party. In the matter of the last named, MMM notices that Tweedledum has stolen quite a march on old Tweedledee, for the latest batch of newspaper advertisements extolling the achievements of the party has got only one face, which is of Tweedledum. As Romulus did unto Remus, we now find our State being taken forward by one great leader. As for the Rising Son party, MMM notes that the grandson is also rising, while disgruntled brother down south is showing signs of uprising. The chief son is at present sporting a new toupee. As for the Grand Old Party, it appears that it will not be dealt an even hand. In the meanwhile, moolah and freebies have begun raining down on the people. Santa Clauses this time are expected to be around till at least mid 2021. So let us extend the festive season and be of good cheer.