What makes a politician successful? It is the considered opinion of the Man from Madras Musings that you are nobody unless you have a prefix to your name. You become a somebody when you are referred to by this prefix alone and you become a bigwig the moment you have a string of prefixes, all of which are recited without ever referring to the personage and everyone knows who is being referred to.
Those lower down in the ladder have prefixes that denote towns of origin. This can be taken as the kindergarten in political schooling. And it is usually customary never to refer to the town by its full name as well. Thus Nagapattinam is always Nagai, Saidapet is Saidai, Puducherry is Puduvai, Tanjavur is Tanjai and so on. Then you graduate to names that denote professions – Professor, Writer, Lawyer etc. You would not be far wrong in mistaking it to be a convention of Parsis. And if you cannot think of any title that is suitable, you can never go wrong by addressing anyone as Doctor. That is a universal title of sorts. Though MMM feels that most of these honorary doctors would be better off as patients, especially of the kind where treatment is done by a doctor listening quietly even as the patient talks on, reclining on a couch.
The above prefixes are usually given to those who practice a white-collar profession of some kind. You also have those who come up the ranks. Thus you have prefixes such as ‘Welding’, ‘Pipe’, ‘Chain’ and also one that has for long intrigued MMM – ‘Leak’. Could it be League? Or does it indicate someone who deals with (or perhaps causes) plumbing problems? But let us not waste our time dealing with any of the above for they are all small fry.
The big ones are those who when referred to have to be spoken of in multiple titles. Some samples are – Beloved, Rising Star, Golden Star, Epitome of Excellence, Revolutionary Leader, Life, Elder Brother, Bead of the Eye, Unequalled, and also some weird ones (or should MMM say more weird ones) such as Arousal, Bliss, and Happiness. Reminds you of some objects of illegal gratification does it not? It is generally believed that leaders who enjoy these prefixes like a certain minimum number of these to be recited each time they are referred to and woe betide anyone who forgets a Beloved or two. Off with the head is the usual culmination of such gaffes. Apparently, even if the leader is not counting these, there are several around who watch out for such gaffes, take notes and ensure they are passed upwards to the rarefied echelons of leadership.
If you have reached this status, you can enjoy widespread powers whether you are in power or out of it. Wherever you go, you will be preceded by a certain number and followed by an equal number of vehicles. You will block traffic and cut-outs (of yours only), posters (of your face alone) and kiosks (again of you standing), will greet you wherever you turn. Ah! What a life. But you still haven’t reached the pinnacle.
That is when just one word is uttered and everyone knows who is being referred to. This by the way is in general conversation. Addressing these personages directly still requires the list of prefixes, preferably in the third person. MMM is speaking of names such as Artist, Mother, Professor, Respected Doctor, Chief (no Chief not you) etc. But then MMM is exceeding his brief ain’t he?
Let us hope that The Chief will publish this!
There was a time when the Chennai Corporation, having deluded itself into believing that from Chennai to Singai (Singapore that is) was but a step, laid down the diktat that posters were banned along certain important thoroughfares of the city. But none had contended with the fact that elections would one day come round for the councillor seats (oh the curse of democracy! If only those in power could remain indefinitely so or till death did them part) and what better way to canvas for votes than to indulge in poster wars? How else can you highlight achievements or failures in making a world-class city?
The Man from Madras Musings noticed that all regulations were given the go by. But be that as it may, he also had a good time learning the rudiments of poster pasting. Apparently what you need is a poster, a brush (larger the better), a pail of glue and a pail of cow-dung mixed with water. You then mount a cycle and go round town looking for walls that have not been already commandeered by those opposed to you. Then having found a suitable spot you unroll the poster and place them on the ground, face downwards. On the rear you slap the glue using the brush. You then paste the poster and stand back for a moment to admire your handiwork. Then you go off.
But hang one. Half a sec! Don’t run off without learning about what the cow-dung mix is for. For without that mix, any poster pasting activity is practically useless. Cows these days, so MMM learns, are partial to posters and have more or less abandoned ingesting hay and chewing the cud. On seeing walls covered with posters they low with abandon and having called their comrades, tuck in for a feast. What keeps them at bay is the liberal smearing of all posters with cow-dung. And so, the task of poster-pasting is considered complete only when a liberal dose of the cow-dung mixture is applied to all the posters. That is what saves posters from becoming pasture and ultimately cow-pat.
MMM wonders as to how the average politician feels on his/her face being smeared with cow-dung. Not very concerned is what MMM suspects. As long as everyone of that ilk is being tarred with the same brush or the same mix.
The Man from Madras Musings recently had an overseas visitor to show around the city and drove him to all the places. The man kept his eyes closed through most of the car journeys and appeared to be praying most of the time. Finally, he thanked MMM, not so much for showing the spots of interest but for having brought him back in one piece. And then he made this pronouncement – To drive in Chennai, you need good brakes, a good horn and plenty of good luck.
Posters have appeared all over the city claiming that the recent electoral victory is a Dipavali gift for the people of Tamil Nadu. The Man from Madras Musings trusts that it will not end up as a gift for the elected Councillors!