Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXXI No. 10, September 1-15, 2021
Madras Week Musings
The Man from Madras Musings is quite sure that the Chief, wherever he may be, is all smiles. From conducting eight programmes each year for Madras Day, the old magazine did two better – hosting in effect ten programmes. It is just the kind of thing he would have loved though MMM is quite sure he would have disapproved of them all being virtual. Actually, that is not quite correct – one event was in what is known as hybrid format these days – some people attended it in person while others saw it online. All the events were well attended.
And yet if you were to ask MMM how he felt at the end of it all, he would reply that he was exhilarated and at the same time hugely fatigued. It is a moot point as to which is more exhausting – the live events of the past with those food riots, or the present-day virtual equivalents. If you thought that handling these online events was pie let MMM assure you that there is much more to it than meets the eye. And as they wind to a close, here is MMM, almost falling asleep on his laptop, giving you some of the highlights as they happened in the backroom.
In them old days, all you had to do was to organise eight events, put them out on the magazine, land up at venue, try to create order out of the chaos at the food counter, blow the whistle for the event to begin, glare at the stragglers who are still eating, introduce the guest, get the person to get on with the event, tackle questions, present gift, pay the sound, light and camera man and then buzz off home. Repeat the same night after night for next seven days. Your evening was truly packed, and the food gave you indigestion but beyond that you had the daytime to recover. It is not so simple in these virtual times.
You anyway do much of what you did in the old, real times and then you have to do a lot more. There is firstly the creation of the meeting IDs on the virtual platforms. Then you need to create virtual posters for all the events together and for each of the events separately. Speakers and audiences demand these things. If you send out a comprehensive poster several reply asking why not have individual ones as they may not be interested in all of your events. And then when you send out individual posters, several others ask as to why not send out a comprehensive poster as that way they can update their virtual calendars in one shot and be done with it. And so, you grit your teeth and send them all once again, whereupon several newcomers, who are not aware of your earlier experience, send you exactly the same messages again.
That does not end it all. There are some who prefer the meeting IDs and passcodes and there are others who want a hyperlink. And no matter what you send, there will always be some who will call just a few minutes before the programme begins saying they lost your messages and so could you please be a darling and send it all just now as they are seated in front of the computer to watch your show. There is also a variety of Luddite who no matter what happens cannot access your event. This is the kind that will call you repeatedly even as you are speaking online. You then go offscreen for a few seconds to answer just to get over the repeat calls and get to hear a whine that the person has done everything including entering the codes only to find there is an error. More often than not, this kind of person makes errors while entering numbers. And so, you send them a link. They then call saying they still did not get through. Could it be an internet connectivity issue you wonder and then stop short of offering to drive over with a dial-up modem to help.
Yes, virtual audiences can be demanding – in the old world this would be equivalent to picking them up from their homes, ferrying them to an event, feeding them there, making sure they are comfortable in their seats, periodically checking how they are doing and then at the end of it dropping them home again, listening during the car ride back as to how the event could have been better handled. There is an added feature – in the virtual world, you are on call at all times of day and night. One of the instances is the person that misses the event and messages you at around midnight to ask as to why the recording is not up as yet on YouTube.
Oops! There is one more – the type that calls you a week after everything is over to express annoyance as to why nobody had thought of informing the caller about Madras Week. He/she would have loved to attend but there was just no information anywhere. MMM ought to organise the publicity a lot better you know…
Zooming away to glory
If you thought that The Man from Madras Musings is making a mountain out of a molehill (MMM does not disagree with that you for otherwise how else can he fill this column?), let him assure you that the travails do not cease once the event has begun. It is necessary foremost to ensure that everyone is on mute so that the speaker does not have to compete with several pressure cookers whistling, dogs barking, domestics quarrelling and a TV set blaring from the house of one of the attendees. Unfortunately, that initial act of muting necessitates muting the speaker as well and you need to make sure that the speaker knows how to unmute. If not, you better prepare some cue cards even as the speaker mimes the rest of the show. You also need to ensure that the speaker knows how to share his/her screen in the event of a presentation. More often than not, this vital piece of knowledge has to be imparted online, in full view of the audience, several of whom, unable to resist the temptation to show off, will unmute themselves and begin giving instructions in parallel. To MMM such moments always bring to mind the image of a truck trying to reverse down a narrow street – every passer-by becomes a guide and some even bang on the truck to draw attention. There is much yelling and amidst all of this the truck driver does exactly what he wants. The only difference is that in virtual meets this is precisely the moment when the guest speaker has a meltdown and goes into hysterics.
One of the popular magazines of the city runs an even more popular video channel and has of late taken to putting up capsules on the city’s history. The Man from Madras Musings periodically checks it out chiefly to get a laugh out of some of the inaccuracies in it. The latest was undoubtedly the best so far. It was on the founding of Madras by the British, and lo and behold, it had a photograph (yes, and not a portrait) of the founder, Mr. Francis Day! That got MMM thinking, for after all, there was no photography in the 17th Century. It transpires that the picture was of a 19th Century civil servant of the same name in Madras city. In the long term MMM guesses they could all be one and the same person. For your enlightenment, MMM features the pic below.