Somehow I had forgotten to upload this


English as she is spoken


The Man from Madras Musings has a fairly roving commission as those of you who read his column regularly would have guessed by now. Like Puck, he flits hither and thither. And all the while he keeps gathering information for this column. And so it was that MMM found himself recently ensconced in a seminar on some software or the other. “’Ow does ‘e handle it?” asked the smiling and confident speaker as he, in the process of singing the virtues of his software asked a rhetorical question about a much harassed executive who does not use this product. And then he answered the question himself, as confident as ever. “He cannot able to handle it,” he said. MMM too, could to handle it. But there was more to follow. “That is the worriest thing,” said the speaker. “And,” he concluded with a flourish, “in not using this tool, the manager made the blunder mistake of his life.” MMM did not know about the manager, but if there was “blunder mistake” committed, it was by MMM in attending this seminar and getting a earful of English. Now before MMM’s Tamil loving friends label him an apologist for the British Raj and call for his removal from the post of roving dogsbody at MM (MMM can picture the hysteria building up – burning of effigies, protests, human chains, one day fasts, token fasts, fasts unto death and finally a walk out in the legislature), let MMM assure them that he is all for purity in any language. Let them not commit a blunder mistake in judging MMM.


But that was not all. That very afternoon MMM was at a shop that sold bathroom fittings. MMM asked for a selection of items and a very confident shop assistant came forward. “Myself Miss XYZ” said the beaming child. Having identified what MMM wanted she then did a quick calculation and presented it to MMM. Having reacted to it as though his hand had been bitten by a tap and he had been hit on the head with a towel rail, MMM, in Tamil, asked the girl to remove a few of the items from the list. After all, who needs Jacuzzi fittings in Chennai when we should consider ourselves lucky to have water from a tap? “I cutted this out” said the girl. MMM once again in Tamil asked for an item to be added to the list. “I putted that it in” said the beaming lass. MMM gave up. No doubt she had been told by her boss to speak only in English to customers. Communicate in English, he must have said, or you will be committing a blunder mistake. But MMM cannot able to appreciate such English.


Confiding about the imminent demise of English to a friend MMM was delighted to hear this story. The friend was recruiting girls who would be in the business tele-marketing and they had all arrived at his office. His assistant came in and in a stentorian voice announced that “all the call girls had come for him to interview and make his selection!”  Now that is the mother of all blunder mistakes. MMM wonders how his friend could be able to handle it.


Attached toilets


Although young journalists often refer to him in avuncular terms, the Man from Madras Musings is not all that old. But he remembers a time in the not so distant past when toilets were always at a respectable distance from the principal rooms in a residence or office. But such is the obsession (or should MMM say attachment?) to toilets and baths and the necessity to have them abutting the bedrooms or office chamber that MMM can be pardoned to assume that most people in Chennai have bowel incontinence. MMM hears of a house-owner with a bungalow built in the 1950s who has been desperate to let it out on rent, only to have most prospective tenants reject it on the grounds that there are no toilets attached. MMM also finds the other negatives listed against old buildings quite amusing and here are a few samples:


  1. Too big (now is it not correct to assume that a certain amount of living space is necessary for any individual?)


  1. Too many doors and windows (is Chennai not a city where you need cross ventilation and would you not like to use plenty of natural sunlight?)


  1. Requires upkeep and maintenance (is that not something that all residences and offices need? And does not the maintenance budget of a modern flat equal that of an old building?)


  1. Bathrooms and toilets are too far away.


And so we come back to the same point. MMM blames it all on the television culture wherein people are trained to answer calls of nature during commercial breaks. This naturally necessitates having a toilet close by. Though what is there in television serials that demands complete attention and concentration MMM is unable to fathom. The stories never move beyond a few inches and even if you spent a whole month away from them, you can pick up the threads in a few seconds. That is, if the actors playing the principal characters have not quit and a new cast has not taken their place. In which case you need a few more minutes.


To get back to the bathrooms and toilets, the obsession to have them as close as possible (stopping short of walking around with one of them attached to the person) has resulted in many old buildings being “remodeled” to include them at all odd spots. These then leak all over the place, causing seepage and thereby more damage to the building. If only we could come to accept that toilets need to be at some distance. But in a city where people relieve themselves at all places and at all times, such an attitude may be too much to expect.


Going back to school


The Man from Madras Musings assumed that there were few professions in the world where you were unfortunate enough to write examinations all through your life. But he understands from some of his friends that being a parent is enough. Come examination time and fathers and mothers of school going children are studying as much as if not more than their children. A father recently complained to MMM that he finds the going tough and while seventh standard was well within his reach, eighth has had him nonplussed. He shudders at the thought of higher education and hopes that he would not have to once again go through engineering if and when his children take to that discipline. “Courage!” said MMM. “What if it were medicine?” The father was not consoled. He feared that in the latter instance he would wind up as the guinea pig.