Tweedledum and tweedledee
“How many people have you invited for your speech this evening?” asked the voice over the phone and instinctively the Man from Madras Musings realised that something was wrong. But hang on, half a sec. MMM realises that he has not supplied footnotes by way of what he is talking about.
It always happens in December. Come the last month of the year and MMM gets invited to say what are euphemistically referred to as a few words at various locations. And this was one of those places. And there were two organisers conducting this event together to boot. MMM had visions of huge crowds thronging the event, hanging on to his every word and when he finished of their rising up like one man and giving MMM a standing ovation.
Over the years MMM has developed a kind of sixth sense of when an event of this kind can go wrong and the first of these indicators is the organiser expecting the speaker to supply the audience as well. And this was only confirmed further when MMM sensed the panic at the other end of the wire (or wireless), when he informed the organiser that he had invited no one. “No one?” asked the voice in a tone that suggested that all was lost.
And so on to the evening. MMM entered the venue only to find the two organisers conversing anxiously in a corner. A violinist was performing in the most ghastly fashion and realising that he was unlikely to be invited anywhere else in a hurry was delivering his music with verve and gusto. But MMM managed despite the din to hear what the two organisers were discussing.
“You haven’t invited anyone?”
“No! I thought you had!”
“Oh no! I am sure you said …”
“No! That wasn’t me.”
“Anyway I have sent out a few emails this afternoon. I am sure some people will come.”
And sure enough they did. Six of them. In a hall that could accommodate a hundred. Among the six that came was the Chief and MMM was touched at this camaraderie among the MM staff, which as you all know numbers two – the Chief and MMM.
But to come back to the programme. Organiser 1 had decided to post himself permanently at the gate where in MMM’s view he would meet with no success unless he resorted to waylaying a few unsuspecting passersby. In fact thugee or garrotting may have been a few good techniques as well. As for organiser 2, he had arrogated to himself the responsibility of coming up to MMM and offering excuses for the lack of audience. “The music season,” he said. “After all, most people would prefer to be at Sabhas.” Clearly he was a model of tact. A few minutes later he was back. “The rain,” he said. “Who would stir out to listen to some speech on a day like this?” After some time he had run out of excuses and still no sign of an audience! MMM decided to come to his rescue. Perhaps it was because of the traffic wondered MMM. Org 2 was delighted at this absolutely original idea. “Yes! That is it,” he carolled. “Terrible traffic. No wonder people are unable to come.”
After plenty of waiting and enough and more of the violin playing, it was decided that no one else was going to come. MMM was asked to get on to the stage and hold forth. There followed an introduction to MMM by Organiser 1 which was clearly based on some document written about MMM when he was in the first year at school. And then MMM spoke. While on stage it occurred to MMM that given the shortage of electric power, it would be best if the audience of six was also asked to sit on stage and the extra lighting and air conditioning was turned off. But he did not say it. The meeting ended with Organiser 2 offering a vote of thanks in which he thanked the audience for “turning up in such large numbers.” Ha to that.
There are several who are jealous of the Man from Madras Musings. They feel that all he does is to sit, ponder over what is happening and then churn out all that he has pondered about into this fortnightly column. Little do they realise that MMM is more or less like Uncle Tom playing to the Chief’s Simon Legree. But be that as it may, MMM considers himself to be indeed worthy of being an object of envy.
Consider most of his friends who are now working for some multinational or the other. Apparently most of these companies are spread over practically every time zone of the world and that means business is forever ongoing. Consequently, some of MMM’s friends never go to bed. Early in the morning, Japan is already well into mid-day and even before MMM’s pals have applied toothpaste to brush, their phones are ringing with queries as to the fate of some tender or enquiry or whatever else these companies are worried about. Soon Korea has joined the list of callers. By mid-morning parts of Europe are stirring into wakefulness and dialling MMM’s friends.
Late in the afternoon, the US is fully awake and asking for clarifications of various kinds. And just before Japan goes to bed it leaves instructions that it would like certain pieces of information to be on its desk so that it could go through them all with characteristic thoroughness before the Indian counterparts are awake. And so it goes on. No wonder all these friends of MMM are perpetually haggard and envious of MMM’s ruddy cheeks.
Ironically all this slavery is a consequence of a process often referred to as liberalisation!
Given that the cyclone struck Chennai and Pondicherry, why was it named after a Bombay suburb? The Man from Madras Musings feels that it ought to have been named after something local. May be Mylapore?