Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXXIII No. 7, July 16-31, 2023
It is amazing how in this Madras that is Chennai, political colours always have a habit of manifesting themselves. For all that our leaders claim to be devoid of any hue, the Man from Madras Musings notes that each one has his or her favourite colour and the administration makes sure that this shade manifests itself in as many ways as possible. Knowing that this observation may be too abstruse let MMM make it plainer.
There was a time when public buildings of the city were always exposed brick or brilliant white. You could easily identify them and that helped as the populace was largely illiterate. Then, with increasing levels of education, signboards of the blue enamel variety fulfilled that role. That was until we became prosperous. And then we had to say it with granite, and what was worse, of the polished variety. In this the party of the Pater Familias, whose Fil now fills the office of power, was the undoubted pioneer. Red and black granite became the favourite mediums of expression. You had to have it everywhere – steps, hallways, meeting rooms, and even monuments. It was all most challenging for the elderly, given the slippery nature of the surface and the games the two alternating colours of black and red can play on the ageing eye. MMM knows, for he has now reached that venerable age where he often sees two of everything, especially around the edges.
Pater Familias also had a liking for yellow, in which he began draping himself as time went along but mercifully, he did not insist on having buildings painted in that shade. Then came Mater Dei who swung from colour to colour. There was a time when she loved purple and brown and then there was green of a light shade. Suddenly our city administration found it had tons of green paint. Every flyover was daubed with it. As were public buildings. Even plate glass, another favourite in our city especially among the political and administrative class, was ordered in that shade. The idea apparently was that if you could not green the city you could at least paint it green. MMM too had his brush with the battle of colours. There was a public institution of the city for whose centenary he was commissioned to do a book. This was during the Mater’s final years. A most beautiful cover design in yellow was readied. The lower downs in charge of approval before the work was taken up to the Mater were flabbergasted. They asked MMM to change it to green and in place of the sun which had appeared on the cover as part of the sky they demanded that a photo of the Mater be placed. Fortunately the book never saw the light of day.
Which brings MMM to the present dispensation. Blood red seems to be the shade now. The other day MMM was driving along Chepauk when it hit him. The palace which is undergoing restoration is now blood red in colour. The Presidency College dome too is painted in the same shade. The worst hit is the PWD Guest House next to the PWD Building. This was always white but now someone has decided it needs to be in the shade that pleases. And so it is deep red. And mighty scary it is.
There is just one hope – the paint is unlikely to last. And with rain and sun is likely to fade to a more acceptable hue. MMM awaits the day when that will happen and what was once a serene stretch will cease to stun us with its new colour.
Think Global, Act Local was the first expression that came to the mind of The Man from Madras Musings. This hackneyed phrase used to be bandied about quite a bit when MMM was a junior executive in an advertising agency. At that time most people on the rolls had no idea as to what global meant and that included MMM. It eventually was shortened to glocal by Advertising Personified, who when he was not acting in plays was running the ad agency that MMM worked in. All of this came back in a flash. And it seemed to be pretty sage advice. But hang on, MMM realises he has jumped the gun and got on with the story without filling you in on the background. It is an old MMM failing, one that the late Chief often tried to correct.
MMM and his good lady, also known as She Who Must Be Obeyed were at an embassy dinner some months ago. The speeches had gone on for long and the stomachs of the audience were all collectively baying for the food on offer. In fact you could hear the growls – like a murmuring of an ocean. There were some others who were also fidgeting for the drinks, and the starters. Perhaps even the speakers soon felt the pangs for the talkathon ended and the host announced that the bar was open, as was the dinner buffet. The audience cleaved in two – one large and solid pack heading to the dinner and the lesser group navigating towards the booze.
MMM, not being of the imbibing variety, circulated along with his good lady, waiting till the buffet cleared a bit. This usually takes time for MMM has noticed that the first movers at such events are usually voracious feeders who are satiated only after numerous helpings. But this time it was all different. Large chunks of the first feeders were breaking away and coming to the drinks section, disappointment writ large on their faces. It appears that the embassy, good host though it was, had decided that the menu would be what was served back home. Of the local biriyani, curd rice, butter chicken and paneer there was not a sign. Even gobi Manchurian was absent. It was a blow. Evidently, none of those assembled wanted to try various kinds of nuts, unheard of vegetables and some strange sea creatures fried in palm oil.
There is no greater fury than a dining populace denied the food it wants. The crowd fell upon the starters with a vengeance and soon it had all run out. The boozers were left feeling cheated and began harrying the hotel staff to hurry up with further supplies of wafers and other such munches. But the staff, having clearly been instructed by the embassy to offer only so much, was not obliging. They promised quite a bit and vanished into the pantry, not emerging till the all clear had blown.
This did not take long. Realising that not much would be forthcoming, the crowd began to leave. Mutters of discontent could be heard, and the atmosphere was just right for the commencement of yet another global conflict. Fortunately, this being Chennai, a peaceful backwater, none of that happened. The invitees left, taking bottles of water as compensation. MMM is reasonably sure the embassy staff must have feasted on the piles of food left behind. It was perhaps an elaborate joke on the freeloaders or maybe it was a way of keeping costs down.
MMM and his good lady having prudently dined before setting out for the event were not so badly affected. On the way home, just to make sure that there were no pangs of hunger at midnight, a pit stop was made at Ye Olde English Club of the city. Mulligatawny was had and it came home to MMM that glocal had been perfected here long ago.