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

Vol. XXX No. 20, February 16-28, 2021

Short ‘N’ Snappy


Testing Times

The conquering hordes had massed at the gate and The Man from Madras Musings was wondering as to how much longer his good lady, also known as She Who Must Be Obeyed would maintain resistance. But then he better begin at the beginning for the benefit of his readership.

It all began at chez MMM when a visitor from England arrived. The actual journey itself had not been easy what with the UK being largely Unwell and therefore branded an Unwelcome Kingdom in recent months. MMM’s visitor had not enjoyed his journey – there had been repeated tests to undergo and having undergone them all rather in the manner of the moving finger in Belshazzar’s feast, he, that is MMM’s guest, had had to suffer flight cancellations, diversions and delays. He therefore arrived at the MMM residence with a general black hatred of all humankind. Having refreshed himself and told us his tale, he had gone off to rest, his mobile phone turned off.

Now, ours is a city whose civic body never sleeps. And sure enough, the frontline workers of the Greater Chennai Corporation, whose duty it is to seek out those who come from abroad and ensure that they abide by quarantine rules, were soon alerted by no doubt the Immigration Office about the arrival of one No. foreigner, namely MMM’s guest. They began to contact him on his cell phone and panicked when they found the instrument had been turned off. Faced with the prospect of a runaway visitor whom they must have imagined was a walking bank of Covid viruses, they decided to arrive at chez MMM and check if the visitor was really there or not. Which is when the doorbell rang and MMM’s good lady answered it to find a vast sea of humanity from the Greater Chennai Corporation massed outside.

The conversation then proceeded in the manner of a Pyramus and Thisbe play with MMM’s good lady on one side and the Corporation health workers on the other. They wanted to know where the visitor was and said that if he was not at home it would be their responsibility to inform the police about a quarantined man going AWOL. Fortunately for MMM, his good lady, and everyone else in MMM’s house, the guest was very much in residence and having been duly awakened from his slumbers, was produced before those who had come to inspect. Rather like visitors in a zoo peering through a cage, the Corporation staff gazed at MMM’s guest and at the rubber stamp on his hand that proved that he had indeed come from the UK that morning. They were they declared satisfied, but the arrival of the guest meant everyone in the household needed to be tested for Covid, which it would be their pleasant duty to now do. They turned to MMM’s good lady and asked her as to how many people were in residence.

It has always been the policy of She Who Must Be Obeyed to dissemble as far as possible and so she glibly declared that there were just two people namely herself and the guest. But the Corporation staff smartly countered by asking her as to who the bald gent crouching behind the pillar and watching the goings on was. This being MMM there was no option for him but to emerge and declare himself as a resident. The wretched man, as the old grammar book was fond of stating, was fully conscious of his position, wilting under his good lady’s glare. By then the prolonged chat with the Corporation staff had aroused the curiosity of just about everyone else in the MMM household and they had all begun to emerge. Soon there was quite a gathering on the front lawn. It was almost like a garden party. Chairs were produced and everyone including domestic staff was asked to assemble, the cook taking care that her young son was dressed in his Sunday best and also sported a black dot on his cheek to ward off the evil eye. The watchmen from neighbouring houses were all looking in and left only when the chief among the inspectors suggested in a loud voice that they too better get themselves tested.

Everyone was duly poked in the nose and the throat and the Corporation staff left warning MMM and household not to leave the premises for the next few days. The chairs were put away and people went back to whatever they were doing, everyone to a man and woman singing the praises of the Corporation’s staff. It was only when there was no news of the result even after a few days that people once again began wondering. MMM’s good lady decided to call the chief among the inspectors, he having helpfully left his number with her. To give him credit he did answer the call but as for the result he was rather vague about it. “Don’t worry, if you had tested positive we would have come right back,” was what he said. And so MMM and family live in hope.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

Those were the lines of a teaser campaign that ran several decades ago to introduce Superman. The Man from Madras Musings could not help reflecting on this when he saw the memorial of our State’s own Superwoman being unveiled. Mind you MMM must issue a rejoinder here that he did not share in the popular sentiment of the lady being a Superwoman but her followers made her out to be one and who knows, maybe she believed in it herself.

The powers that be have it that what is depicted is a phoenix, the mythical bird that rises from its ashes. MMM does not see any resemblance, not that he has ever seen a real phoenix, excepting the mall that goes by that name of course. Some have speculated that it is a modernist representation of a hen laying eggs. To MMM the structure does not look like anything other than a warplane just about to take off. This may not be entirely inappropriate, for the lady concerned was a fighter all her life. MMM also sees much poetic justice in all of this. The old man, he of rising son fame, had built what he thought was a lasting memorial to himself, viz the new legislative assembly and secretariat building. The mater dei of Tamil Nadu politics, namely the personality who now lies in eternal rest under the phoenix like plane or plane like phoenix, had once famously dismissed that grand edifice as a circus tent. It must have caused old man enormous distress though MMM cannot but reflect that even he, the old man that is, must have seen the logic behind such a description. Now in a comeuppance of sorts, the lady who fought against daddy, howdy and others has an outlandish memorial to herself. It is a pity the old man is not around to see it. He lies not far removed and may for all we know even now be quaking in fear over what kind of a memorial will come up over him. After all, it was he who began the practice of strange-shaped tombs, building the first of the series for his mentor also known as Elder Brother.

The above phoenix/plane was unveiled last week in what can only be described as a glorious ceremony, as befitting Gloriana herself. She would have loved the pomp and circumstance though what our frontline health workers thought of the crowds that gathered is another matter. As the newspapers are fond of writing, thousands lined the streets, as presumably did a similar number of Covid viruses.

And then, the memorial was ordered closed almost immediately after it was thrown open. The ostensible reason is that some more time was needed for getting some special displays added (if so why was it inaugurated at all?) but as everyone knows, the real reason lay elsewhere, somewhere near Bengaluru. MMM imagines that the structure is now being tested for ability to withstand a second set of three solid whacks.

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