Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXXI No. 10, September 1-15, 2021
It has come and gone and The Man from Madras Musings is still recovering from it. There were ribbons to be cut, prizes to be awarded, speeches to made, babies to be kissed, interviews to be given, talk shows to be hosted, heritage walks to be conducted and at the end of it all, MMM is battered. Unlike the late Chief, MMM has never been much of an evening outer and he is happiest at home, curled up with a book. But Madras Week is a sacred trust and MMM would be loath to give it a miss.
It would not be correct to say that all the events were a chore – MMM truly enjoyed many. But there were some that proved more of a trial. There was one particular event that MMM would prefer not to recall. It was an invitation that could not be refused and MMM reluctantly consented to be Chief Guest. The venue was a college hall with no scope of any ventilation. To add to the stifling heat, there was video recording (for the benefit of those who could either genuinely not make it in person or were plain lazy) and this meant lights that were straight out of Dante’s Inferno. They bored into your body and had probably been repurposed from some X-Ray apparatus.
To top it all, this was one of those events where the introduction of the speakers (there were six of them) was a ceremonial – it had to be gone through twice – once during the welcome address and then again when the turn came for each of the speakers to torture the audience. MMM holds the view that these introductions are the most superfluous part of any event – most in the audience don’t care who has come to speak and only hope that they will not drone too long for the lunch to go cold. But here in this event, the introductions were gone into pitiless detail and wherever it was felt that the honoured guest did not have a sufficiently impressive curriculum vitae, some fictional additions were made. Thus it was that MMM got to know that he (MMM) had worked for much of his life in Dubai (he has been there twice) and had retired to take up writing as a full-time occupation (MMM shudders at the prospect).
By the time MMM’s turn came, the audience was becoming restive. Those in the rear seats had already begun to melt away. MMM stood at the podium and the next moment the entire hall was engulfed in darkness. The video light alone was not switched off and continued to blind MMM. In fact, it gave him the feeling that he was at an ophthalmologist’s and was being subject to a retinal scan. MMM protested via the microphone and then the lights came on to reveal half the audience had vanished under cover of darkness. It struck MMM as a rather good idea and he kicked himself for not having thought of this himself. Anyway, he delivered his speech in record time, just so that the remaining in the audience did not vanish as well.
It was then memento time. MMM was gifted with a box that he opened much later in the day. Out came a mug. Rather appropriate MMM reflected. Such events are a mug’s game and MMM never fails to fall for them.
There is an ongoing debate in our (not-so) civil society on whether freebies ought to be given. The Man from Madras Musings leaves it to the intellectuals to take a call, but he does know that a feeling exists among a certain section of society that those who work on matters concerning heritage are angels that work for free and can be summoned at any time to give of their best. For the sake of honour, it is assumed, is why people work on matters concerning history and heritage and so they need be offered no compensation of any kind.
MMM had just concluded giving a speech at some location and had been gifted with the obligatory mug. There was applause, largely from those who were glad that it was over and so the drinks could begin circulating. Others were eyeing what are known as short eats while yet others, who prefer their meals substantial were checking through the corner of their eye as to whether the buffet counter had opened. MMM was just packing in his laptop when there was a pat on his back, and he turned to see a gentleman of full habit as the expression is – he had clearly made it a practice of attending such events and imbibing and ingesting whatever was on offer. He complimented MMM on his speech and extended his card which among other things also mentioned that he was the honorary consul of Ruritania or some such nation. He then said he would be glad to meet up with MMM and discuss the possibilities of some promotional videos boosting the state of Tamil Nadu back at Ruritania so that investments from that country could flow in here.
A meeting was arranged and MMM on the appointed day duly went to the rather plush office – uniformed minions bowing and scraping and fawning on MMM as though he was the one visitor whose arrival they had been waiting for since creation began. MMM was ushered into the presence and then the hon. con. held MMM spellbound for an hour – on his various acts of generosity, on his largeness of vision, on the relative prosperity of Ruritana (practically a millionaire in every home and what’s more with a desire to invest in poor old Tamil Nadu if only MMM got his videos right) and a lot also about how he, the hon. con. was pally with practically everyone up top in our State- several names were dropped as well.
After a while, MMM realising that all of this was getting nowhere rather pointedly asked as to what was there in all these videos for MMM. The hon. con. swelled with pride – he lifted his index finger in the air and having seen that gesture on television before from a certain personage who has a fondness for appearing suddenly on that medium, MMM was fairly sure that what would follow would be a lecture on patriotism. He was not disappointed. Tamil Nadu, said the hon. con., expected every man to do his duty. The State demanded blood, sweat, tears he said. He also said it was MMM’s duty to ask not what the State could do for him, MMM, but he, MMM, ought to instead ask what he, MMM, had done for the State. And MMM ought to consider the prestige of appearing in such a video – the CM would be pleased, as would the Governor and who knows, even the PM. And had MMM considered – what about the impact on Ruritania? MMM could become a household name there.
MMM was not so moved. He simply stated a price for his presence on the videos and made ready to leave.
Such a price, said the hon. con., was sadly way above his budget. (What about the millionaires in Ruritania, MMM wondered). But did say that he would consider the matter and revert. He never did. Not that MMM followed up with him. Perhaps there has since been a coup in Ruritania. These things happen in them Baltic nations.