There was a time when the Man from Madras Musings, young and romantic, wistfully looked at those with fan followings. How would it be he wondered, to be chased by paparazzi, be asked for autographs and receive fan-mail in the hundreds. But with age, a receded hairline and a waistline that threatens to get out of control at the slightest excuse, MMM realises that he is happier without it. But here, in this city of ours, MMM realises that there is no escaping the tyranny of the fan clubs, even if the idol of their worship is someone else.
The other day, MMM was driving along with nary a thought on his mind other than his own idol, the Chief. But he could see that traffic was slowing down and it came to a complete halt just in front of a cinema theatre where fans had congregated to celebrate the release of the latest film starring their chosen hero. The frontage of the theatre had been completely covered with what could possibly enter the Guinness Book of World Records for being the largest piece of vinyl fabric. It depicted the hero in various poses, now shirtless, now running, now grinning, now grimacing and here and there jumping in and ripping the stuffing out of hundreds of villains. In case you wondered if this was King Kong, MMM assures you that at a couple of remote corners he was also depicted doing some kind of jujitsu with a girl thereby indicating he was good at light romance as well and therefore not simian. In front of this “field of cloth of vinyl” (with due apologies to Henry VIII), stood a towering cut-out of who else, but the hero once again. All around stood the faithful, awaiting the signal for worship to begin.
Busloads of fans were arriving at the gate and there was a posse of law-enforcers, both government and self-appointed, trying to regulate the ebb and flow. But chaos as always ruled. Music from the idol’s past classics blared and the worshippers were dancing to its beat, melody being non-existent in any case. Then a couple of probably a chosen inner circle began climbing a scaffolding that was flanking the cut-out. They were armed with what looked suspiciously like milk sachets and on closer inspection proved to be nothing else but. Having reached the pinnacle, they chewed off the edge of the sachets and proceeded to bathe the cut-out with milk. This was the signal for several standing below to anoint the hero’s nether regions with more milk as well. Not being able to get close enough to pour it on the cut-out, they simply pressed the sachets which squirted the milk with nozzle-like action on to the idol.
This having been done, garlanding was the next step. Huge floral garlands were hung on the sodden cut-out (ugh!!). Camphor was lit and waved after which worship was concluded. Everyone departed, happy and satisfied. MMM’s chauffeur informed MMM that now their spirituality was sated they would be going elsewhere for ‘spirit’ual uplift. All this at 11 in the morning! Talk about elevenses and no wonder we are a spiritual country with a spirited population, always on a high.
MMM moved on. But on his return journey, he could not resist taking a look at the theatre once again. Being rather full of what can be termed the milk of human kindness, the cut-out had bent forward almost in an attitude of benediction. As for the vinyl, it was being neatly cut into small pieces and taken away by scores of the less-privileged. Enquiries revealed that they served as water-proof covering for huts. At least someone benefited from it all.
A Learning Exercise
The Man from Madras Musings is quite clear about it. The Chennai Corporation has only mandated that all shops and establishments need to have their names written in Tamil script. They have NOT asked for English or other language words in the names to be translated into classical Tamil. But that has not deterred quite a few from swinging to the extreme right, so to speak. An establishment named Born Babies has now a signboard stating Piranda Kuzhandai. So here are a few words that you may need to know next time you go shopping.
Nagalagam – Xerox facility
Viraivu Unavagam – Fast Food
Pandaram – Store (MMM is rather puzzled about this. He knows that store in Sanskrit is Bhandaram and Pandaram in Tamil means a mendicant. So how does all this add up?)
Kulir Panam Arundagam – A cold-drink/soft-drink bar, not to be confused with bar which is Madu Panam Arundagam.
Araikalanangal – Furniture
Varaiarukka Pattadu – Limited (as in Pvt. Ltd)
Perundu Niruttum Idam – Bus Stop (this is not to be taken seriously if you use buses. Certainly the bus drivers do not taken cognizance of such signs and stop anywhere they please).
Mugavanmai – Agency
Pani Kuzhaiyam– Ice cream parlour.
What would Pizza Hut be? While the translating of Pizza may keep language specialists involved for some time, Hut is fairly straightforward.
MMM is of the view that you would be better off investing in a dictionary in any case.
Re-Renaming of Roads
The Man from Madras Musings, to quote an old poem, wonders much and sorrows more over this entire re-christening of roads. And nothing puzzles him more than the problem of Ellis Road. You would not be far wrong is stating that MMM is spending sleepless nights over it. But if this is his condition, what about the city’s civic body? MMM can picture the hard-working souls who man the place going around in a frenzy, debating on what should be done. Among the list of road names that were to be retained was Ellis Road ostensibly because he was a Tamil scholar. The original Ellis, after whom this road was named is NOT FW Ellis, the scholar of Dravidian languages. As correspondence in this paper has shown, it commemorates Francis Ellis, a member of the Council of Fort St George in the 1690s who was known for sharp business practices. Francis Whyte Ellis, whom the Corporation seeks to commemorate, came much later on the scene. The Corporation ought to clarify that in retaining the name for Ellis Road, it is in effect rechristening it. MMM recommends a news release to the effect that F Ellis Road is now renamed as FW Ellis Road. MMM also suggests that in order that people don’t mistake the Corporation as being partial to a man who was sharper than a serpent’s tooth and more twisted than a corkscrew, the signboards for the road ought to read “FW (and NOT) F Ellis (Dravidian Scholar and not Member of Governing Council) Road” Confusing? But that appears to be the whole purpose of the exercise anyway.