Saying No to the Nightie
There was a time when this was meant to be slumber-wear. But the Man from Madras Musings finds that as far as this city of ours is concerned, several women consider it to be something that can be worn at all times of the day and not necessarily at night time.
And so as MMM goes about his Ariel-like responsibilities, namely collecting information on all that is strange and quirky about Madras that is Chennai, he finds himself increasingly bothered about the nightie. He notices that now women wear it while going on evening walks, shopping for vegetables, dropping children at school and even when visiting temples. He is not certain if they have separate nighties for wearing at home and others for wearing while outside but on this he is certain, these are not garments in which to be seen in public. Some women harbour the mistaken belief that a wispy upper-cloth that goes by the name of the dupatta somehow transforms the nightie into a sari or a salwar-kameez but surely is this not stretching your imagination a bit too much? MMM lives in mortal fear of the day when women may take to wearing the nightie to office.
Of course the nightie cannot be placed in the same bracket as the helmet but MMM is able to foresee a situation when a group of thinkers and those who have the welfare of the State at heart may file a Public Interest Litigation demanding the abolishing of the nightie as a garment that can be worn in public places. And then of course, given our State’s record in the matter of helmets, even with a judgement to the effect that it be banned, political statements may be made that will water down the whole thing. The end result? The nightie may thrive regardless of what is said, either for or against.
MMM can see a section of the distaff readership of Madras Musings rising in protest, calling him a sexist and preparing to burn copies of the magazine in public. Stretching his imagination a little more, he can see effigies of his being burnt as well. Discussions and debates on television will follow and finally, politicians will interpret the wearing of the nightie as a freedom of expression. And from there who knows, it may become a national garment as well.
Can the women of the city therefore nip the problem in the bud by adopting some self-discipline?
Going hand in hand with My Ladye
It is not often that the Man from Madras Musings has the opportunity to visit My Ladye’s Gardens, that oasis of peace in Park Town. But the other day he did call at that sylvan spot and was glad to see that the number of people strolling along the tree-shaded walks had increased manifold. A laughter community was rolling about in mirth, a group of flabby gents were trying their hand at badminton and some women had decided to go jogging in rubber slippers and saris. But to MMM it was the increased usage that mattered for it meant that the garden will be well-tended and there will be no talk of making it over into some concrete monstrosity.
That said, it saddened MMM to notice that all the name boards of the park had been dismantled. It appears that there is some move to rename this historic garden and if that is so, it must be objected to tooth and nail. If only we could find out who My Ladye was. MMM had always liked the four statues executed in the 1930s by the Madras School of Arts for this garden and keeps what may be said an avuncular eye on their welfare. He was glad to note that they were all there – Venus, Flora, Prosperity and Woman Writing a Letter. But that is all that he can say. They have been completely modernised. Gone are their art-deco pedestals and they now stand on granite (which can qualify as the State’s Official Stone Variety) pedestals that are completely incongruous. Their official names have not been inscribed on the new pedestals and so there is no way that a newcomer (unless accompanied by MMM) can identify Flora from Prosperity.
The statues have also been Kollywooded if the Chief will permit that expression. All of them have been suitably clothed, though Venus appears to have put up a spirited resistance. These rich raiments are in the best glorious technicolour tradition and given our cinema’s penchant for plump women, the Letter Writer about whom the Chief had once wondered if she was My Ladye, has been given a few spare tires on her back! Even worse is Subbiah Naidu’s fate. He was the Commissioner of the Corporation in the 1930s and was therefore enshrined in a plaster of paris statue in the midst of this bevy of women. He was always a uniform white but whoever-it-is-that-decides-on-such-matters has decided to colour him up. He now sits, with pale pink complexion, jet black hair and red lips, looking like some long forgotten portrait of a neighbourhood uncle. It may be MMM’s feverish imagination but judging from his expression, the old gent appears to be enthralled by whatever it is that Prosperity is doing. Titillated would perhaps be the mot juste.
Lastly, even though the statues are now on 5 ft pedestals, they are not in any way safe from the hands of graffiti-artistes and vandals. And Venus, given her tendency to be en-dishabille is a frequent target. When Appu decided to express his love for Meena, you can see where he has done it. MMM will not be surprised if Venus voluntarily decides to drape a sari around herself in the next few days. MMM hopes that Appu and Meena had a good day for it when they decided to tie the knot. And given Appu’s almost acrobatic abilities, Meena will surely be glad to have selected him, he will be a dab hand every time something is needed from the loft.
The powers-that-be have beautified the beach and also installed toilets in the sunken road, thereby encouraging the public to relieve itself in private. But that has not prevented those who are open-minded and completely transparent about their habits to carry on regardless. The Man from Madras Musings feels that the Corporation ought to employ bouncers who will bodily lift such people and take them to the loos.