Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXX No. 5 June 16-30, 2020
An Elegy on the Success of a Presentation
Around six months ago, O what a happy time that was, the Man from Madras Musings was invited to give a presentation on Making Money in Madras. This was to a group of financial advisors and MMM had 45 minutes. In his usual fashion MMM put together a set of facts about the city and its financial history – these were top of mind facts – and fashioned a story. To MMM, making a presentation is all about keeping an audience engrossed, entertained and informed. He does not believe that it is necessary to hold forth at length on any one fact and bore the audience to death. He also deems humour to be an all-important ingredient and adds huge chunks of it in all his sessions. It is bad enough that life is so fairy tale at all times that it is quite Grimm and it does not make sense to make an audience that has taken the effort to listen to you feel even sadder after your speech.
The presentation went off well, the audience laughed at the right places and MMM took his bow and waddled off to the exit. He was informed that the recording would soon be up on social media and he nodded rather absently. MMM though active on several online platforms rarely ever goes back and views stuff by himself. For one, MMM always detects several errors in what he said and secondly, he hates the way he looks on camera. The visuals are invariably taken from the wrong angles, or perhaps there is no correct angle in the case of MMM.
Be that as it may – the talk was duly shared online by the organisers. For the first few days nothing happened and then one of those celebrities with millions of followers chanced upon it, liked it and was kind enough to share it on his profile, encouraging others to see it. The talk went viral thereafter, at least it did from MMM’s point of view – when your following is in four digits and you suddenly notice one of your talks zooming off into seven digits in terms of viewership, it is going viral as far as you are concerned.
The bouquets and brickbats began pouring in thereafter and MMM accepted both. The errors and omissions were relentlessly pointed out, which MMM agreed to and these messages only went to confirm what MMM had all along felt about these video uploads – they are up forever, errors and all and there is no way you can correct them. At least when it comes to print or online texts, you can add a correction or two. But what took MMM by surprise was the multitude of messages all reflecting caste feeling and hatred.
The ‘most evolved’ were the least pleased. The horizontal among them was cheesed off that the verticals had been given prominence and the opinion was that MMM despite being a horizontal himself was currying favour with the verticals with whom he was close enough already. The verticals were not too happy that others whom they despised, which encompassed practically the rest of the world, had been mentioned in the same presentation as them. Then came the next rung – the traditional business community – which felt that it had not been given enough prominence. You MMM, thundered one, spoke of us for just three minutes and thirty three seconds and you never mentioned so and so, such and such and him and her, not to mention brother whathisname. On the other hand, you dwelt for 12 minutes on thug so and so who did not deserve a mention at all. All of this he said was because MMM came from a particular community, on which he had dwelt for seven minutes.
MMM was still reeling from this onslaught when the politicals waded in. Treasure House of Compassion was not mentioned at all complained the Rising Son Party and speculated on why MMM had dwelt on Matinee Idol of Two Leaves. Once again this was because of MMM’s background – patriarchal, upper class, snobbish and reflective of his roots. And so it goes on. The only one that MMM could really appreciate was a post that declared that MMM was a mere peddler of trivia. This was so true. In a 45-minute presentation if that that trivia got across it was more than enough. It was not as though MMM was defending his PhD thesis.
BLM = ELM
Given the above background, it was quite amusing to the Man from Madras Musings when he began receiving or should he say was bombarded, by messages from much of the same kind of people referred to above, sharply criticizing the recent happenings in the United States of America. When we are ourselves such a divided society, how are we qualified to comment on what is happening in a faraway land? Is our house any better? Sadly, it is not.
It is very easy to sit in the comfort of our homes and pass judgement over what is happening elsewhere. This is of the same type as one variety of Non Resident Indian, whose only job, safe in the confines of his/her home in some foreign land, is to post remedies on all ills of the country of origin. And it is often the same kind that posts the most poisonous messages preaching religious and caste-based hatred. The ones locally based are no different – here again much of the posts on social media depict hatred of one kind or the other. For instance, the sharp spikes of the COVID outbreak in Chennai city are still being blamed on one community’s religious meet. These are also the same people who still fail understand what is it that makes a migrant labourer want to go home. In their view, these people came here on their own volition and therefore need no support to get back.
MMM realizes that by bringing this up he is pleasing none – the right will brand him derisively as Woke – someone superficially concerned about racist issues- and also accuse him of being pacifist. Their one solution is to be rid of all minorities, who in their opinion if allowed to exist, will one day become majority and dictate terms. That this has not happened in several centuries does not get into the thick skulls of these people.
The left wing too is not likely to be happy with MMM bringing this up. After all, MMM is a typical instance of a western-educated, upper class, upper caste person. It suits him to pretend to be supportive and so he does so. Moreover, is not his very concern or pretence of it an instance of his upper-class patriarchal attitude? Who needs MMM and his kind?
And so the argument goes on. In this situation where MMM is not going to please anyone, all he can say is that rather than going on about what is happening in the US and self-righteously express solidarity, it is best we sort out what is happening in our backyard, learn to tolerate and coexist and perhaps strive towards an understanding that ELM – Every Life Matters. Once we practice that, we can get on with passing judgement on what is happening elsewhere.
Last week The Man from Madras Musings had to visit an office on some work. He noticed that everyone wore masks and repeatedly washed their hands with sanitisers. A gun was pressed to MMM’s head and his temperature taken. He was asked to stand within a circle before his turn came. All of this was to the good and MMM was most impressed. Here was an office, he said to himself, which was setting an example. Then came lunch time. Off went the masks and everyone crowded into a room of around 100 square feet and lunched in close proximity, sharing what they had brought and liberally dipping their hands into each other’s lunchboxes. Old habits do die hard.