On Red Riding Lights and Snow White Hoods
Babudom, as the Indian bureaucracy is referred to, has triumphed yet again. The Man from Madras Musings alludes to the recent directive from the High Court that red-lights being flaunted from the roofs of government cars had to be removed forthwith if the users of the vehicles were not entitled to them. The steel frame that holds our country together (as is often said by its admirers who are invariably members of that glorious service) was shaken. It also MMM learns, affected babudom’s chauffeurs even more and many it has been revealed threatened to put in their papers for they could not imagine driving a vehicle without a red-light (preferably revolving) on the roof. “What is this but the end of civilization as we know it?” they asked. “Tomorrow they may even ask us to obey traffic lights!!” And as no babu worth his salt can imagine driving his own vehicle, particularly without a red light on the roof (preferably revolving), everyone affected put on their thinking hats to ponder over how to save the light on the roof. And thus they came up with a winner of an idea.
So what if we are not allowed to use the red light, they argued. We can still retain it and all we need to do is to cover it with a white rexine hood. That way, the lesser mortals on the road (read pedestrians and policemen) can still realise that a government vehicle is on its way and react accordingly (the former by scuttling away in fright and the latter by saluting like an automaton). And thus it has come to pass. MMM notices several government vehicles now going around with a small projection on the top that is nothing but the red light now demurely covered with a snow-white hood. MMM also learns that those who still miss their red lights drive around in the privacy of their gardens with the hood off and the red light on (preferably revolving as well). Among this heaven-born community, there are some anxious souls who worry about the fact that those on the roads may not fully grasp the significance of the white hood. What if a pedestrian chooses to cross at leisure or (inifinitely worse) a policeman were to stop the vehicle at a traffic light? For the benefit of these less intelligent humans, these considerate men and women have large metal boards on their vehicles, some of them bigger than the number plate. These boards announce to the wide world the status of the personality being carried forth in the vehicle. Words such as Commissioner, Director, Chancellor etc bear down on you as you rather timidly try to drive your own vehicle. MMM would like to add a few more status definitions to help matters along. What about Grand Panjandrum or General Factotum or even, to take a leaf from Gilbert and Sullivan – Grand Poobah?
Has your candidate come calling?
And so the elections are around the corner. Or are they? That at least is the doubt that is plaguing the Man from Madras Musings. Of course, by the time MMM’s faithful following reads this, the elections would be over and everyone will be all agog for the results, but the low level of campaigning in the city has taken MMM by surprise. He has asked around and all agree that there has hardly been any campaigning, at least of the kind that used to happen till a few years ago.
Lets face it. This time we have had no graffiti or posters on walls (and for those who are wondering, MMM DID demolish his compound wall just before the campaigning process began), no rallies that blocked traffic for a few hours, no loudspeakers and no street-side meetings complete with song and dance sequences from popular films. Is this what is called an election campaign? The general theory is that the Election Commission has come down heavily on everyone concerned. But MMM believes that there is more to it. The political parties in his view, believe that the city voter and particularly those who belong to the middle and upper classes are of no consequence. What would the promise of a colour TV, a laptop or a wet-grinder mean to them? And where would they keep a cow or a goat? On the other hand, offering such things to a rural voter or definitely one from the masses would help and bring the proposed beneficiary to the polling booth on election day. Which is why all parties have focused on the mofussil and not on the urban population. And that brings MMM to the multi-million rupee scam, sorry, question – are urban voters being taken for granted? And the answer to that is a resounding YES.
There was a time MMM remembers when candidates went calling from house to house. Their followers would er… follow and give slips of paper which apart from giving details of their candidate would give you details of your voter identity number and directions to your polling booth. And on polling day, though it was strictly forbidden, they would even send cars round for the ailing and elderly to make it to the ballot box. MMM in particular remembers a grand-aunt who made it to a 100 and almost till the last year of her life, made it a point to vote. Candidates would vie with each other to get her into their car. She would take her time, select the best vehicle, get in, go over to the booth and cast her vote which would invariably be in favour of the Grand Old Party, no matter in whose car she had come. Then she would return in some other candidate’s car.
This year, not a soul came to MMM’s. And they did not call at his neighbours either. At least now MMM knows his place in the scheme of things. He could have done with a colour TV.
The Chief has consistently been reminding the Man from Madras Musings that he (MMM that is) ought to visit some of the museums in the city and improve his (MMM’s) mind. And so off MMM went to the museum that belongs to a hoary institution of the city. The staff that manned the place was most suspicious for they had never received a single visitor after the day of inauguration (which was several years back). It was only after giving them the name of a prominent personality who had worked for the same institution in the not-so-distant past that MMM could gain entrance into the air-conditioned portals of the museum. Even then, at least one docent (if you could call him that) staff followed MMM everywhere asking a number of probing questions as to MMM’s profession and his credentials. It appeared to MMM that the man was suspecting him (MMM ) to be a modern day Raffles. The visit having come to an end in due course, MMM was informed that the curator would like to meet him and so could he please step into first door on the right? MMM did and found it to be a toilet that was none too clean either. He came back to ask the correct way and was assured that he had to go into the toilet and open a side door. Feeling rather like Alladin, MMM followed the instructions and presto, was blessed with a vision of the curator. A brief and cordial conversation followed and then MMM left. MMM has been to museums abroad where the exit route is through a souvenir shop. That an exit almost via a toilet was possible had not occurred to him.