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

Vol. XXXII No. 2, May 1-15, 2022

Short ‘N’ Snappy


When The Man from Madras Musings met None Such

The Man from Madras Musings is somewhat disoriented – he has lost a mentor, a good friend and a dispassionate critic. MMM refers to None Such (NS) who passed on recently, leaving a huge void behind. In the years following the passing of the Chief, NS was a sheet anchor, who while he never interfered with the content of Madras Musings, brought all his energy to bear on every other aspect, in particular its financial well-being.

How well MMM recalls that day when the Chief informed him, MMM, that he, the Chief, was going to take him, MMM, to meet up with the big boss. Even entering the office building was an event by itself – you had diverse people lined up all of whom waited on you as though that was their sole purpose in life. MMM was making the first of his many visits to the NS HQ but even then the receptionist identified MMM by name, bade him welcome and assigned an escort to take MMM up to the NS sanctum by way of a special lift. In an era when Google was unheard of, MMM wondered how on earth the receptionist recognised him, MMM, by face.

The lift having deposited MMM on the floor where NS and other top honchos roosted, the escort handed over MMM to another, and departed. MMM is now not sure if he saw the man move backwards after a low bow. Now it was the turn of escort 2 to take MMM forward – he was then handed over to escort 3 who ushered MMM into a waiting room. This had magazines and newspapers neatly arranged, with the pride of place being given to MM of course. From this room you got a panoramic view of the city. It fitted the mental image MMM had of NS – a kindly but sharp-eyed hawk who watched over everyone. After a while an escort 4 appeared and after the usual stately bows like an ambassador presenting credentials to a monarch, MMM was asked to follow and then we were in the sanctum proper. The Chief made the introductions and MMM met up with NS for the first time. He, NS that is, was an arresting presence, seated behind a huge desk. He was brandishing a ruler, which he laid down when discussions began – only he took up doodling in right earnest – he always drew cubes, which he shaded patiently. MMM was later informed that this was NS’ way of focusing. He also came to know that the sheet was crumpled up and thrown away after each meeting and a fresh one supplied for the next meeting.

Cartoon of N. Sankar that appeared in MM, Vol IV No. 14, November 1st, 1994 long before he became associated with the magazine.

He pressed an unseen buzzer and a door opened to reveal a minion who having padded up silently whispered into your ear if you would prefer coffee or tea and if so of what kind. The sudden appearance of this apparition took some getting used to but over the years MMM got to know the many on duty very well. And the coffee was always good – it had to be. That then was MMM’s first meeting with NS and from then on, he made several visits to the sanctum, always with the same ceremonial. It never varied. But the discussions were anything but predictable. You never knew which aspect of MM there would be questions about and over the years, MMM realised he had to be on his toes. If not, there would be a caustic comment or two, followed by NS retrieving the data required, from his faultless filing system – both mental and physical.

Getting calls from the Boss

Very early on in his interactions with None Such (NS), The Man from Madras Musings came to realise his, that is NS’, awesome powers of tracking you down. This was done by means of a secretarial/ receptionist network which managed to get all your phone numbers on to its register and this included those of your immediate family members as well. And when these secretaries tracked you down they always made it sound as though speaking to you was the greatest joy in life. How could you not melt immediately? You then stood up from your seat and waited for the call to be put through to NS, after which conversation would happen. Not getting through was never an option and the formidable team of people somehow got to you. MMM often wondered if they were sleuths in mufti. Over the years he developed the habit of informed them in advance when he travelled so that they did not fret at MMM’s disappearance.

But as MMM got to know NS better, he actually began looking forward to the calls – these would be great fun especially if it was about an issue of MM that he, NS, had just laid his hands on. Some article would have triggered his memory about some related topic and he would want to relate it. Or he would have noticed some mathematical error, which was all too common particularly if MMM was acting as editor. He would want clarifications on some coded names that MMM had referred to. Those were occasions when MMM saw the true NS – a benign and even sentimental man behind that cold and forbidding exterior that he carefully cultivated.

“Enna Sir,” would be his standard opening if he had called to indulge in some fun. But MMM knew it was serious business if he addressed MMM by name as soon the connection was made. Then MMM had to be ready with all the information that could possibly be asked for.

As technology improved, NS took to leaving voice messages and some of them MMM has saved. In particular he savours the words of praise that NS left on the voice mail shortly after the issue dedicated to the Chief’s memory was published in 2019. It was the first that MMM handled on his own and these words from NS meant a lot to him.

Being Collection Agent for MM

For all his exalted status as a captain of industry, None Such was a man who considered it his duty to get corporate sponsors for MM. The Man from Madras Musings has seen him go after prospects, sometimes even embarrassingly asking them if they could not afford to support such a worthy cause. And if there was a delay in payment from any donor, he would not hesitate to make a call. He was that passionate about the well-being of the paper.

An era has ended with the passing of the Chief in 2019 and now NS. MMM and MM can pay tribute only by ensuring that the high standards that those two envisaged for the paper are maintained.

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