Cockroaches on wheels

The Man from Madras Musings has only a vague recollection of the Testaments New & Old, but he does remember that the pharaoh was visited by a plague of locusts. MMM supposes that in his times the pharaoh must have been the largest employer and today who has that honour but the Indian Railways? MMM is not too sure if the locusts plagued the pharaoh’s carriages but sure enough, the railways are plagued with if not locusts, at least cockroaches.

That is what MMM found on a recent journey from Chennai to Coimbatore. It was an AC 2 tier compartment and by the time the passengers had boarded, they found that their berths were already occupied by creepy crawlies. And the ratio of cockroaches to berths stood at least at 100 to 1 making it therefore quite a crowded coach. Magazines and newspapers were brandished and some of the squatters were squashed but the remaining nimbly hid themselves in the various crevices and nooks that our railway coaches are amply endowed with. Some of the passengers (the human variety that is) impatiently called for the coach attendant while others yelled for the ticket examiner. Both the august functionaries arrived and pleaded inability to do anything about it. And then it all boiled down to what we are all very good at – adjusting to the situation. But while the two-legged variety was willing to live and let live, those with six legs were not. As night advanced, the cockroaches came out to play and made merry.

MMM is all for adjusting and expressing love for flora and fauna but he draws the line at being crawled upon. There was nothing to be done but to remain awake the whole night and be alert for any attacks. And there were plenty of imagined sensations, particularly after the lights were switched off and a few intrepid souls went to sleep. MMM was amazed at their carefree attitude. Some even slept with their mouths open. Imagine if one of the cockroaches was to make bold to peep in! After all mosquitoes are known to do that.

As MMM brooded silently far into the watches of the night, as he believes the expression is, he realised that the cockroaches were but a recent manifestation and rats have been residents in railway coaches for a longer while. Knowing that cats are generally willing to eat rats and lizards are partial to cockroaches, it may be best that the railways begin rearing these two predator varieties. And when they are anyway running Palaces on Wheels, why not a menagerie on wheels as well?

She yelled to conquer

The Man from Madras Musings was recently invited to a high profile event where two musical stars were to perform together. Mails were sent in advance ‘soliciting’ MMM’s gracious presence and phone calls were made, all of which gave the impression to MMM that the organisers were dying for his presence at the concert. And so on the appointed day off went MMM to the venue only to find a scene that was more or less akin to the storming of the Bastille. The auditorium was full and yet a huge crowd was demanding to be let in. The organisers were peering out of the doors once in a while and dragging in whomsoever took their fancy. It was in vain that MMM tried to contact over the cell phone some of the (presumably) pretty young things with dulcet voices that had done the inviting but they had all switched their phones off. And so MMM cooled his heels in the verandah of the auditorium for a while. It was then that he noticed a parallel drama of sorts unfolding on the steps of the auditorium. A small audience that was ever growing was standing in an informal circle around a woman who was exhibiting high dudgeon. “What do these people mean,” shouted the lady, all the while gazing at every one with fiery eyes. “I have come all the way from Besant Nagar for this kind of insult,” she screamed. “At the Music Academy I have a seat reserved in my name,” she shrieked, giving an extraordinarily good imitation of Kannagi at the court of the Pandyan King. MMM half expected her to tweak off her left breast and fling it at the auditorium to set it on fire. But before that happened, one of the organisers appeared and led her in. Such histrionics being beyond the capability of MMM, he was left to his own devices and that meant going home and so to bed as Samuel Pepys said. This was the second instance in recent months that MMM was witness to woman power. The earlier episode was of course that of the woman legislator of Bihar who said it all with flower pots. For those who missed that, a good clear clip is available on you tube. 100% entertainment is assured by MMM.

A gargantuan idol for the Elephant-headed god

“We have come to you for donation,” said the man whom the Man from Madras Musings knew slightly. MMM wondered what the cause was. Some widow remarriage or an orphanage requiring funds perhaps he thought to himself even as he fished out his cheque-book. Having made the payment, it struck MMM rather belatedly that he had not asked what it was for and if he informed his good lady that he had parted with money for causes unknown there would be hell to pay. And so MMM asked and was informed with a bright smile that it was for building a Ganesha idol entirely out of kozhukattais, the sweetmeat that the deity is so fond of. “Last year we made it out of laddu. The previous year it was out of coconuts and the year before that out of grass. Each year, the Lord appears in a dream and informs us as to what he wants to be fashioned out of and then we execute his wishes.” No wonder the world is in such a mess thought MMM, what with God now focusing on strange ways to aggrandise himself. Must be getting on in age.

And where was this confection to be put up asked MMM. The man mentioned one of the busiest intersections of the city. “We always seek police permission,” he added. “They give it readily and also provide full security.” From what wondered MMM. Ants, perhaps. And does the police have a choice anyway? But what of the daily commuter and the road-user whose life will definitely be disrupted because God wants to park himself in the middle of a roadway? Don’t they have a choice as well? And does not God seem entirely to behave like a modern-day politician? He has also collected money, demanded security and also cornered a public spot and disrupted traffic. There was a time when a public celebration for this festival was deemed a historic necessity. Times have changed since then.

What happens to the creation when the festival is over asked MMM. “We immerse it in the sea.” Would it not be better if the eatable is given away to the poor assuming that it does not become rancid by then, asked MMM. “How could we do that?” came the answer. “And don’t you know, it is good for the seawater to have some sugar content to be mixed in it?”