Party Elections – Chennai style

The Man from Madras Musings knew that something strange was afoot even in the wee hours of the morning. Considerable noise was making itself heard even while the road was dark. The steady thudding did not mean that MMM’s blood pressure had finally reached alarming levels, but that some political party workers were pounding together a makeshift platform or a scaffolding on which a ‘temporary’ (in the eyes of those who maintain the law) hoarding was being put up. Scratching noises closer to the window did not mean the cat was returning home after its night out but that willing hands were clambering up the neem tree to tie plastic coated festoons. That this was so got confirmed when a hair-raising scream was followed by a sharp hiss and a meow, in turn followed by a loud bump indicated that one of the feet that belonged to the willing hands had stepped on the cat as it lay on a branch. The cat had fought back and the party worker was now lying on the ground awaiting rescue by some of his cohorts. After all this sleep was well-nigh impossible and MMM decided to investigate and found that sure enough, a political meeting was unfolding in all its glory in the kalyana mandapam opposite MMM’s house. Only this was  a meeting with a difference- it was a party election.

Our party leaders may profess atheism but it has not yet percolated down to the grass roots. While the higher-ups were all correctly colour coded, wearing the obligatory whites with the necessary borders, the ‘tondan’ and his female counterpart were obviously a confused lot what with this being the season for various pilgrimages to shrines that demand certain colours in clothing. It was a colourful group that came in to vote.  Some of the men wore ochre dhotis while others sported a deep violet and yet others a jet black. Women wore saries ranging from red to a cadmium yellow. If the get-up (not to be confused with set-up which is a Tamil word with other meanings) was colourful, so was the language, with friendly comments being bandied about on family relationships in each other’s houses. Anyone would imagine that we are the most incestuous society in existence. Almost all those who came to vote had cell-phones and kept talking into them. And the dialogues over the phone were no less colourful.

Colour was also provided by the red sprays with which the entire neighbourhood was decorated. MMM is not referring to any Communist party here, but if the party workers had come as an electorate, they had also come to expectorate and to MMM, watching from a window, it was as though a competition in spitting was in progress. There were evidently two disciplines in this spitathlon–who could spit most often and who could spit the maximum distance. The former group relied on short bursts and aimed at the nearest spot on the ground while the second group took in deep breaths, formed a V with two fingers around the mouth and aimed for the farthest target possible.

By 10.00 am, a vast horde of motorcycles and cars (mostly of a variety that rhymes with valise) had blocked most of the road off. Those caught inside houses could not leave them even though they may have had urgent engagements. The police that stood watching advised those who complained to have patience and not get excited. It was bad, said the police for everyone’s health. Traffic that usually went by MMM’ road also got diverted adding to the chaos.

At 11.00 am, the local leader (often referred to as the pista though MMM has never found out what that dry fruit had in common with our eminences) arrived. He was greeted with the bursting of crackers. One of these was actually a series of smaller fire-crackers which was unrolled as a sort of carpet on the road. A passing party worker noticing that MMM was looking at the goings on explained that it was a 1000 wallah. From the noise it made and the duration that it went on, MMM could be forgiven in imagining that it was a 10000000000 wallah. The leader incidentally, had two cell-phones, one which he used to make calls and the other, kept with a flunkey, in which he received calls. The leader having voted and left, once again to the deafening cheer of crackers, polling as they say continued briskly.

By afternoon it was not so brisk, what with several of those who came in briskly now tottering alarmingly. Enquiries by MMM revealed that all this had to do with the refreshments served on the occasion. Perhaps the food was too heavy but many of those who came to vote chose to sit on the footpath opposite MMM’s house cradling their heads in their hands. Yet others chose to sleep away the feeling. By evening all was over and a further burst of crackers revealed that the leader had won. There was only one contestant anyway.

Combining duty with pleasure

The other evening MMM and his good lady went off to Island Grounds to witness the inauguration of a public event. The highest and mightiest in the land were present and not surprisingly, security was tight. MMM had to get off the car at quite some distance from the venue and instruct his driver to go to the designated parking lot and wait. The event, and mighty enjoyable it was, being over, MMM and lady began the process of trying to find the car. The cell-phones were all jammed owing to security and by the time the signal was restored, MMM’s driver was not answering his. The good lady was quite convinced that the driver had run off with the car but MMM not prone to such alarums and excursions decided to find the nearest police booth from where public announcements were being made. And it was here that he met policemen who make all the difference and restore MMM’s faith in the force.

First was the smiling face which received MMM at the entrance and asked as to what the issue was. No problem said the face, they would announce MMM’s car number and driver’s name and as the broadcast is also made at the parking lot, he should soon be here. (“If he is there”, this from MMM’s good lady). It was at this time that MMM got to see the angel who was in action at the microphone. “Driver of car number so and so” said the angel. “Where are you sleeping? Or are you playing cards under a tree? Come here at once.” MMM had scarcely ceased chuckling over this and even the good lady appeared mollified, when a noted dancer arrived asking for her car to be announced. The angel apparently knew who this was and so announced, “Where are you driver? Your madam is standing on one leg. No, the other leg. Now, madam is dancing due to tension.” And so it went on. It was a performance par excellence. When the angel found too many people at the gate, waiting for their cars, even as the VIP vehicles tried to make their way through, it came up with another gem. “You are all VIPs to us. We don’t want any VIP car to run over you. So please move over to the kerb”.

After a while, MMM’s driver turned up. Immediately the microphone boomed, “Aha! So there you are! You look nice and refreshed just as your owner is all tense over your disappearance”. All this brought a nice touch to what could have otherwise been a dreary chore and that made all the difference. If only all of us were like this.