The Man from Madras Musings, in his pardonable complacency often thinks that he has seen it all. But the city’s politicians keep teaching him new lessons. This ensures that MMM remains nimble and he is eternally grateful to them for this. The other day MMM happened to be doing what he does best – going about town and collecting information for this column when what should he see but a huge vinyl hoarding being erected. What was this for MMM wondered. A birthday perhaps? Or to greet a leader who was dropping in at a wedding/house-warming/turmeric bath (those who don’t know what this is are advised to dip into MMM’s archives)/birth/ear-piercing ceremony (not in terms of decibels alone)? But MMM guesses were all proved wrong. The latest was to celebrate the coming into the fold of a new member. Apparently the latest entrant is not that unknown an entity and so the leader of the party which had scooped him in had decided to celebrate it in style.
All along the road hoardings, buntings and banners had come, showing the joinee embracing the leader whose creed he had decided to henceforth follow. One of the larger hoardings even had a minute by minute agenda of what could be called the forthcoming political nuptials. It involved several speeches praising the joiner, the joinee and the joined after which perhaps leader and follower were united as man and strife.
Watching all this MMM could not reflect upon the way he joined the Chief several years ago. That was an event that was enveloped in an almost Masonic secrecy and tomblike silence. No hoardings, no speeches, no buntings or banners. MMM now knows what he has missed in life.
The Man from Madras Musings has often wondered as to why they are called parking- lots. At least in Chennai, that would be a misnomer. Parking-none would be the most appropriate term. Take for instance the space outside this old and venerable chain of departmental stores named after a queen of the hills. The other day MMM’s good lady announced that she had to shop there and MMM was conscripted into service to act as chauffeur and so rather reluctantly along he went. MMM has never been comfortable with shopping and has generally assumed a rather airy attitude that such mundane items as soap, toothbrush and toothpaste are delivered by the stork. And every once in a while the good lady shakes him into reality.
The parking-none outside this store is as wide as a handkerchief and as long as a loin cloth. And fronting as it does one of the busiest thoroughfares in the city, any delay in trying to get in means you hold up traffic behind you for miles on end. The good lady had already vanished into the shop, after imperiously commanding MMM to “park and then follow” but he could not even obey the first word in her instruction.
Even as MMM tarried and pretended that he could not listen to a rising crescendo of toots, klaxons, musical jingles and air-horns, an angel in the shape of a security guard arrived. He began encouraging MMM with word and gesture to bravely nose into the parking-none. The space inside appeared to MMM to be barely enough to park an old tube of toothpaste but aided and abetted by the guard he squeezed through and parked his vehicle between two others. The only catch was that the space on either side was just a micron or two and so there was no scope for parking and then following the good lady into the store, unless she had meant MMM’s astral body.
Having decided to spend time in the car MMM took a look around and was amazed to see that parking was in two rows, one fronting the store and the second directly behind the first row. How did the cars in front get out when they wanted to, MMM wondered. He was soon to know. A few moments later the guard arrived and asked MMM to reverse as the car in front had to leave. This meant backing on to the busy road. But the guard was a man of blood and iron and he thought nothing of stepping high, wide and plentiful right into the midst of the traffic and cowing every vehicle there into submission. The cars parted and MMM reversed. There was just enough space for the car in front to make its way out. The guard sprung into action once more. MMM had to fill the breach by moving his vehicle into row 1 thereby leaving enough space for a vehicle to park behind. And so it went on. Never a dull moment and full of nerve wracking suspense. That not a single vehicle bumped into another and got its bumper scratched by the huge boulders littering the pavement could be termed only as an Act of God (or Guard).
The good lady returned shortly thereafter and rather sarcastically asked MMM if he had had a good time idling in the car while she had been lugging laden shopping bags hither and thither. MMM wondered if idling was the appropriate term. The car had worked overtime and so had he. As for the guard, he was really the most overworked individual on the spot.
Peace and Goodwill
The suspense before the verdict was unbearable according to the electronic media. Now in case you are wondering as to which verdict the Man from Madras Musings is referring to, he is sorry he cannot offer any further explanations. There was only one verdict, THE verdict. But to MMM, the build-up was a period of peace, perfect peace. This is because the Government banned all bulk SMS and this meant no nuisance messages at all odd hours of the day and night. Of late these marketing messages have reached a kind of peak when it comes to their frequency and if you are not being enticed to buy land at some god-forsaken place, you are being asked if you would like to join as a typist-cum-secretary at some office involved in export-import. But whilst the verdict was awaited, all was peace and quiet.
The day after the verdict, our politicians appealed for more peace and quiet but that was lost on the message bearers. At around 5.00 am the next day, MMM received a message asking him if he was interested in uniting in Golden Matrimony. “If yes, reply with an S,” it said. “And if not, please excuse”, thereby cunningly avoiding any scope that was there to sue the sender for causing disturbances at unearthly hours. And soon the messages became a flood.
This was followed by our politicians breaking loose. MMM knew that life was as usual when a group of white-clad thugs, all of them with rather intimidating smiles knocked on his door the next day. They were conducting a public-feeding to celebrate the verdict they said. And they wanted “noble patrons like MMM” to contribute to the feeding of at least 100 people, each being priced at Rs 40. And how many such people did they plan to feed? At least one lakh came the answer from the leader who had rather cunningly wedged his foot into the door and was all the while pressing it harder to make an effective entry. And where did they hope to find the space to feed so many asked MMM. That held them for a bit. But in the interests of continued local peace and harmony MMM decided to fork out money. Haggling was conducted spiritedly and we settled that 10 people would eat, courtesy MMM.