Mad RUSH week

Another Madrush, oops Madras Week is drawing to a close. The celebrations are now confined to the son et lumiere programmes that the Chief has conceptualised at the Freemasons Hall but when the Week (or is it month) was in progress, you could scarcely make up your mind as to where to go and what to see. The Man from Madras Musings hurried along from sport to sport as he believes the expression is, though what with his loyalties being to this publication, he confined his attendance largely to the talks and walks organised by it. The Chief on the other hand, MMM was glad to see, was all over the place, now enthusing the cadres, here shaking a hand, there cocking a quizzical eye and somewhere else being the life and soul of the party. Watching the Chief, MMM realised was to get an idea of Churchill during the war years and heaven knows we have a war on, on the heritage front that is.

Elsewhere battles are being won by men going on fasts unto death but at the Madras Week events it would appear to be a feast unto the same end. MMM alludes to the talks organised by Madras Musings at various locations with each of them being preceded by tea/coffee and ‘light’ refreshments. Only the way some of the attendees swooped down on the food and piled it on their plates, you could scarcely call it a ‘light’ refreshment. If there were cakes, each of these freeloaders took twenty of them and if there were cups of coffee, they took five, or sometime six. Ditto with sandwiches, cutlets, puffs etc. The hotel staff was at its wits end at several locations, for scarcely did they bring in a replenishment when it all vanished, rather like the way it did in the classic film Maya Bazaar.

Watching them, MMM was convinced that they were all members of a secret sect that believed in charging ahead at food counters and each individual’s rise in the cult depended on how much he or she could snatch, pile on their plate and how quickly they could eat it. And considering that the same faces (or should MMM say mouths) were repeating these acts, MMM’s theory of a cult or secret society could not be too far wrong. Anorexics could be sent to them for counselling. Even the Chief, who is rather prone to look on such goings on with a benevolent eye, was moved to reprimand one or two of the more notorious ones. Each evening this was repeated, with the scene making MMM realise what it would have been like in locations such as the Kanji Thotti in the great famine years of the 18th and 19th centuries in Madras.

But there is always a higher force that watches over us and came a day when the venue was an establishment that was facing labour troubles. It was too late for a change of venue and it was decided that to go ahead. And no food was served. Not even a drop of water. The freeloaders came, saw and could scarcely believe their eyes. Their jaws dropped open, their eyes almost popped out and they looked at each other with a wild surmise. The talk went on as scheduled though you could hardly hear the speaker, the alimentary growls of the freeloaders’ innards almost drowning out what he was saying. But to MMM it was the best evening of the week. Just watching the disappointment on their faces and the silent enquiries they were making to each other entirely through the language of the eyebrows was entertainment enough.

But of course the next day they were all back in action, at a different venue, and making up for the privations they had suffered the previous day. All this made one of the organisers sidle up to the Chief and enquire if the next year all light refreshments ought to be restricted to just coffee and biscuits. The Chief replied that in that case each man/woman (and here the female was deadlier than the male) would take 50 biscuits or so.

The Man from Madras Musings is now at an age when even a glass of water is sometimes a little difficult to digest. Watching these characters in action and marvelling at their capacity to ingest like ostriches, he feels that each of these should be induced to donate his/her digestive tracts for medical research, after they have eaten their last meal and called it a day.

Policing the Heritage Walks

The Man from Madras Musings learns from an organiser of heritage walks that it is now more or less mandatory to obtain police permission before conducting such events. The long arm of the law MMM understands is wary of any gatherings that exceed four in number. The process MMM is told, is not at all difficult and the staff is courteous in the extreme. But those that watch over law and order of our beloved city are unable to comprehend the concept of a heritage walk. Consequently, such events are classified under Fasts/Protests/Processions. And the law looks askance at events of that variety.

MMM is fairly certain that most of the rules and regulations that govern public gatherings were created in the era when Gandhi made bold to challenge an alien regime. And poring over the letter that gives permission for the conduct of heritage walk, he finds it couched in language that belongs to that era as well. Permission was granted with several conditions attached and one of these was that “TOMS TOMS” would not be beaten during the procession. It also categorically denied any right to the organiser to play any musical instruments. There had to be free flow of traffic it stipulated and the participants could not gather on the main thoroughfares.

While the tour went off peacefully with all these rules adhered to, what MMM could not help thinking about was that practically every other procession, be it a funeral, wedding or political, breaks every one of these rules. And so how is permission granted? And if it is granted under the same conditions, how is it that the representatives of the law stand silently and watch all these violations without taking any action?

The Black Box

Boxwallahs of Madras was one of the subjects slated for the Madras Week and it was one of the best talks with the Chief in conversation with two senior executives of British companies of the past. These covenanted officers were always known as boxwallahs.

The title however piqued the curiosity of several. The Man from Madras Musings received a call from a television channel enquiring if it was about the television. MMM could not understand the connection till his caller explained that it was after all known as the idiot box!