Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXX No. 7, August 1-15, 2020
Window Man & Shop Man
Here today gone tomorrow is more or less the motto of the times. The Man from Madras Musings reflects on the number of people he knows who have fallen victim to the current pandemic and pays a silent tribute to them all. Yes, these are depressing times. You could almost be Samuel Pepys as he walked about London during the plague. The general gloom and doom has however caught on to such an extent that anybody who falls ill is immediately spoken of as a victim of Covid. Worse, there is a tendency to write off any and everyone who is afflicted by the virus, while statistics reveal just the opposite. Our city’s recovery rate has been really good, and as for the few who die, the reasons are generally due to pre-existing medical conditions or, in some unfortunate cases, heavy exposure to the virus.
Which is why this ghoulish delight that our city has been taking in composing obituaries for those not yet gone or well on their way to recovery has been puzzling MMM. The first was a master scientist, happily still with us. Those who hang on to MMM’s every word will recall that obituaries were penned on that great man and not all were withdrawn thereafter. Then came the news that a silk baron was terminally ill and then dead. Immediately the city’s professional mourners flooded social media with the usual writing – Oh-he-was-such-a-humble man,-he-recognised-my-greatness-the-moment-we-met kind of thing. Then the baron’s son-in-law denied the whole news report of the death. Silk baron was alive, though not well. So, Roving Mourners, Kindly Verify about sums it up.
All of this was nothing compared to the brouhaha over a shop that sold fried stuff via a window near the temple in Peacock Town. Known to all as the window shop, it was suddenly broadcast in most media that the man who owned the window shop was dead. Lengthy obituaries were written for the shop and its owner. And then two days later came a denial. The owner gave an interview that he was very much alive and it was his brother, who worked at a Government office by day and assisted at the shop each evening, he being the person who handed out the parcels to the clientele, that had passed away because of Covid. The obit writers were not exactly happy with this turn of events. Some felt let down and opined that the least the owner could have done, given the volumes of savouries they had bought off him, was to have kept quiet, and not brought the error to public notice. Others chose to simply deny the existence of the brother and insisted that it was the owner who had passed on, leaving rather like the Man in the Iron Mask, a changeling in his place.
A more thorough investigation revealed some new facts. Apparently, there were always two men at the shop. The one at the stove was the owner of the shop and he was never to be seen at the window. On the other hand, most people knew only the man at the window of the shop, he never having worked over the stove. Therefore most assumed that the man at the window owned the window shop, when actually this was not so, the stove man and not the window man being the owner. The window man, as we now know, worked with the accounts department of the Government. Therefore when media men (and women) saw the photo of the window man in the obit columns they assumed that the owner of the window shop was dead when all along it was only the man at the window, the real owner being as we now know being the man at the stove. Hence the flood of obituaries. But now there is greater clarity – the man at the window of the window shop is dead and he never owned the window shop. The man who owned the window shop, but who was never at the window, is alive and he plans to reopen soon. The million dollar question however is, who will now stand at the window of the window shop?
There are some however who chose to disbelieve it all. The man who stood at the window was the real owner they assert. But because he was working for the Government, he hid his ownership and let the brother hog the limelight, though not the window, they say. But as these are the ones who wrote the biggest obits, MMM chooses to disbelieve them.
Social Distancing, Chennai style
The Man from Madras Musings wrote sometime back about how in a certain office he found people wearing masks while going about their work and then took them off to sit in close proximity to each other while lunching. That set off a flood of stories from readers and one of these MMM is happy to share –
This organisation had ruled that anyone walking in had to have their temperature measured by the person at the reception and the readings recorded in a register. The problem was that the receptionist was frequently called away and during her absence, people tended to walk in and out. It was then decided that the front door be locked and a signboard put up asking people to knock. Two problems immediately surfaced – the glass door fronting the office had never ever been locked before, the steel shutters outside of it being lowered and secured at the end of the working day. The lock in the glass door was thus so full of rust that it had to be doused in oil to get it to move. It later transpired that it may be faster to fix a latch and so that was done.
All would have been well except that people who called at the office and knocked on the door hardly ever had anyone opening it. But if the receptionist was not at her seat nobody heard the knocks and so people simply went away. To overcome this, it was decided, and here MMM must say that it is perhaps only in Chennai that such innovative solutions can be thought of, that the door be left unlatched with a stool of around two feet height lurking just behind it. The idea being that whoever came in would push the door thereby knocking over the stool which would make enough noise to wake up the dead.
The only problem in this solution was that some people opened the door with such force that the stool went flying like a missile and hit whoever was in sight. It was decided that people dying of Covid was bad enough and so the company had better prevent casualties owing to flying pieces of furniture (MMM, always wanting to use an elegant phrase, has avoided writing flying stools there you will notice). A bright spark then suggested an electric doorbell, which was duly procured and installed. This it was found could be heard only if someone was at the reception, which was the original problem if you recollect.
Last heard, MMM learns that the organisation in question is on the lookout for a disused fire alarm which will be loud enough for all to hear.