Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXXIII No. 9, August 16-31, 2023
It is that time of the year when a few people celebrate the city and an equally miniscule group criticises them for celebrating it. There is a third group that wants to celebrate but has no idea as to how to go about it beyond some vague positive intentions. A fourth and separate group, larger in number, thinks it has celebrated the city if it can post on social media suggestions on how to celebrate. That in essence is Madras Week. There are very few people like Very Dynamic in the view of The Man from Madras Musings. This Very Dynamic is a man with a mission. One of the co-founders of Madras Week, he has in MMM’s opinion, become the prime mover behind the celebrations. May his kind grow in number.
Among the positive signs of growing support for Madras Week is the increasing involvement of Government agencies. From a time when MW was dismissed as something colonial, the attitude has undergone a sea change. This is probably because of the man up top, who even while in Opposition always had the courtesy to greet citizens on August 22nd. Having once been Mayor, he has it is said, a fondness for the old metropolis.
Administration in India, as we all know, is driven by the person in power and it is no different when it comes to MW. The babus and others, having seen that Chief Ministerial pleasure can be obtained by celebrating MW, have begun deliberating on how to go about it. Unfortunately for them, planning begins around a week before D Day and comes to an end just on Madras Day eve or thereabouts. And that is when they decide to contact MMM.
This is not an attempt to boast but the claim is backed by numerous call records on MMM’s phone. As he has said earlier, when the Government decides to trace you, it does so with determination and usually succeeds. The reverse is not possible at all – just try contacting any Government department or bureaucrat. Anyway, the call goes out for MMM. Go seek him the senior poohbah must have said and so the juniors seek out MMM. Their idea they usually say, after the initial pourparlers are done with, is to conduct an exhibition of photographs of their respective department, to celebrate Madras Week. MMM responds by saying it is a very good idea and that they should do it at once.
There is usually a long silence after that, each waiting for the other speak. MMM who if he has a fault tends to be long and loquacious has since mastered the art of not saying more than necessary when it comes to dealing with the Government. And so he waits. The question that next usually pops up is where the department can source pictures of itself from. MMM answers by stating that surely the department has its archives which must be full of visuals. This is usually the case but what is also true is that nobody wants to go and look in some dusty chamber and trace the whereabouts of albums. It is always to be hoped that MMM would produce these visuals out of his hat.
The answers as to why the archive cannot be accessed follow a standard pattern. There was the great fire, or a flood, or a reconstruction of the building when much of what was there was lost. And so can MMM help.
There was a time when MMM did. But now he is older and wiser. He usually recommends that the department in question contacts the grand old newspaper of the city for photographs in its archives. This too is met with a predictable answer – the paper charges for access. MMM then asks if the department wanted to celebrate MW for free. That is usually the case and at this point the conversation ends.
The department somehow manages. There is an exhibition, usually comprising the same set of old photographs on the city that is forever circulating on whatsapp. It is customary to label it as a rare collection.
This is also that time of the year when random people get random thoughts on the city. The other day The Man from Madras Musings got a call. “I am a fan!” gushed the voice at the other end. “And this is a fan boy moment.” MMM wondered as to how these people manage to source his number, not that it is private or any such thing. He acknowledged the greeting and asked as to how he may be of help.
Voice – “We are doing a documentary of Sadras.”
MMM – “Very good.”
Voice – “We would like your inputs.”
MMM – “Okay.”
Voice – “We would like to take you to Sadras for two days of shoot…”
MMM at this point decided that he was not having any of this. He thanked the voice and said his time was not his own and that sparing two days at Sadras was not a luxury he could afford. Whereupon the Voice, having registered disappointment changed tack.
Voice – “Oh sir! You really mean you cannot come?”
MMM – “No.”
Voice – “Oh is that a yes?”
MMM – “No. It means I cannot come. Thank you.”
Voice – “Oh sir, that is so sad. I have another request.”
MMM – “Yes?”
Voice – “Can I borrow your collection of Mr S Muthiah’s books?”
Now MMM would rather shed blood than part with the late Chief’s books. He decided that the call was best ended at this point. He said no, and that he clarified meant no book in his collection was available on loan and that in particular meant the Chief’s works. And that was that. Voice and MMM parted, hopefully never to speak again. MMM has lost a fan but he can live with that loss.
What was it that the ancients said? – Books, Spouse, and Wealth, when gone to someone else can be considered gone forever. They were absolutely correct.