Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXVIII No. 3, May 16-31, 2018

Short ‘N’ Snappy


Tom-toms over a thanneer pandal

The Man from Madras Musings is a light sleeper and was woken up by some strange noises in the middle of the night. His first suspicion was that it was a burglar. Now MMM is no poltroon and unlike others who would have drawn the sheets over their head with the hope that whatever it was will go away if they kept quiet, he decided to investigate.

Trying in vain to quieten his heart which was booming away like the cannon that used to sound 8 pm at Fort St George at one time, MMM stealthily approached the source and realised with some relief that whatever it was, was not in chez MMM but somewhere on the street. He looked out of a window to see a horde of lotus party workers, who like their national leader, probably sleep only for a couple of hours and were therefore up and about at this ungodly hour. These flower people, if you go by their symbol, were busy erecting flags along the entire road. The noise that MMM heard was the clanging of the metal flag-posts as they were being driven into the ground by breaking the concrete footpaths.

MMM went back to sleep and when he awoke next morning found the entire street awash with bunting. The whole area was saffron, rather in the manner that the national leader would have liked to happen all over the country, though MMM is not sure that this is a good thing. At intervals of a few feet were special banners, round in shape and design – so that they occupy the maximum surface area and create the greatest possible difficulty for those trying to walk around them. In each of these roundels were featured, not national leader, but the local one, whose name translates to Vernacular Melody or Local Song. Below each roundel was a pithy word or phrase that in the view of the party faithful described some attribute of Vernacular Melody. “Life’s breath,” said one, while another declared her to be a “Heroine” and a third hailed her as a “Gem”. Maternal attributes were markedly absent, these having been appropriated by another, now no longer with us.

On seeing all this, MMM wondered if it was Vernacular Melody’s birthday. But he then noted that there were no posters hailing her in other parts of the city. He assumed that it was his immediate neighbourhood that had turned saffron and left it at that. But by noon, action had hotted up. Drumbeats sounded and a small group of people was trying to be all over the place, thereby making it appear that there was a huge throng waiting to cheer Local Song. And then, with a flourish, the leader appeared. She went up to a makeshift kiosk even as the small group went into what looked like a state of prolonged ecstasy. Vernacular Melody then made a speech extolling National Leader, for that is mandatory, and, in his name, declared open the free water-dispensing service that her party had sponsored in MMM’s  locality. She also emphatically stated that it was but a question of time before the lotus bloomed in our State. MMM doubts this, for as any local knows, water is a very important factor for such an eventuality. Perhaps that is why this kiosk was being inaugurated.

The event, for which the faithful had been up since midnight, was over in a few minutes. Local Song, unlike National Leader who can talk on any subject and blame it on what happened in 1947, is no  orator. The flags were removed, as were the banners. What remained was the bunting, which, over time, will get entangled in lampposts, electric wires and trees.

Next day, MMM went up to the water-dispensing kiosk. There were posters aplenty and a water can that was empty. But its purpose had been served by way of due publicity for its inauguration.

Following the yellow

And so, cricket moved out of Madras that is Chennai, to a far away town. It left behind a desolate stadium, whose perpetually empty I, J&K stands can now take solace in the fact that the others too were equally bereft of people. But then, you really cannot keep people away from what they want and so you now have this situation of cricket fans going by train from Chennai to a faraway town just to see the matches. Rather reminiscent of the old days when special trains were run to events in areas in the mofussil, this concept too has proved popular.

The Man from Madras Musings is, of course, not a sports fanatic and so left to himself would not have stirred, but not so his good lady, also known as She Who Must Be Obeyed. It was necessary to express solidarity with the boys in yellow, she declared, and her wish being MMM’s command, off they went, not by train but by flight.

And MMM was glad he went. Not only did he get to see a cricket match, he could also feast on the local variety of mango, which has a Portuguese sounding name. Having satiated himself with that king of fruits, MMM tagged along with his good lady to the stadium, which rather like the fruit referred to above, was awash with yellow. You could have imagined that you were in Chennai. The audience had a liberal sprinkling of men and women from Madras who added to the Chennai feel. Conversation flowed in Tamil and some cheered loudly in that language too. The man who body paints himself in yellow each time the Chennai team plays was also present and many of the locals made a beeline to get themselves photographed with him. TV cameras focused on him as well and it is quite amazing the way he too, like the cricketers, has become a celebrity.

The crowd could have been almost entirely from Chennai, given the way it behaved. The successes of the boys in yellow were cheered to the hilt with ear-splitting whistles, waving of flags and blowing of trumpets. So too was the fall of wickets of the opposing team. And when that team scored some minor triumphs, there was a deafening silence broken by some sporadic applause. It was almost like a gathering of Montagues forced to applaud something done by the Capulets.

All the gaiety and fun had MMM wondering if those who protested in Chennai against the holding of matches did not pass up on something that was good. Cricket does not appear to have lost and it is still being played in the name of Chennai, though at a remote location.


By declaring the Chennai airport as a silent one, the Man from Madras Musings notes that the authorities have only made it noisier. The staff of various airlines has to use its full lung power to shout out all its announcements. It has almost become like the Koyambedu market, where costermongers yell out to call attention to their wares.

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