It’s as tacky as it gets

“Obey” is the motto of The Man from Madras Musings, especially when it comes to dealings with the Chief. The boss has to simply bat an eyelid so to speak and MMM will immediately jump through hoops if only he had the figure. That is the spirit with which MMM decided to visit a photographic exhibition of the Madras University, which was being held at the Senate House. The Chief has a kind of a paternal attachment to that structure, for he was instrumental in its rebirth, though MMM secretly suspects that he is not entirely happy with the way this creation of his is being cared for. But, anyway …

Senate House was its grand self and the weather was perfect, what with there having been a mild drizzle. A pleasant breeze was blowing from the Marina. In short, to quote Bishop Heber, it was place where every prospect pleased but once again, as the good Bishop had added, mankind proved to be vile. MMM had hardly entered the great hall when he was asked to sign in a register. Which he duly did, though not before noticing that the register was a shabby notebook. Surely the University had enough funds for a good quality visitors’ book.

MMM then went about the exhibition which was nothing more than a set of cloth backed stands on which some poor quality reproductions of photo-graphs taken out of the University’s sesquicentennial volume had been tacked. And just as MMM prepared to take a few photographs, the man in charge, whom MMM had till then assumed to be a waxwork, suddenly came to life and warned MMM that photographing was strictly forbidden. He also drew MMM’s attention to a signboard that said as much. As to what was so precious in the exhibition that merited a ban on photographing was beyond MMM’s comprehension. After all, we were not having original Ajanta frescoes or the Mona Lisa here. But the caretaker (MMM would not want to use the term docent for this person) was clear that the University’s secrets would be leaked by the process of photography. However, he added, all was not lost. MMM had only to apply to the Registrar and sanction would be given in due course of time. When? Ah, that could depend on the Registrar’s schedule. He was a busy man. Knowing that the Chief was not likely to wait that long for this piece, MMM decided to avoid taking photographs.

What was there to be seen lasted ten minutes and MMM then decided to entertain himself by reading the captions. While most were above board, some howlers provided for merriment. According to one, V. Krishnaswami Iyer, who died in 1911, instituted a lecture in ‘memory’ of Sir S Subramania Iyer who died in 1924! MMM also learnt that “Sir S Subramania Iyer was one of the founder of the Indian National Congress.” The statue of Queen Victoria was a replica of original by Bohem-A-Windsor (who he Chief?). Rajagopalachari was an “out standing” alumnus. Why? Did he not attend any classes? And Senate House had, according to one note, “beautifully stained glass windows”. With what MMM wondered. Betel juice? A list of Vice Chancellors of the University had Sri as the prefix for most knights who had held that august office! Wonder what Sri Christopher Rawlinson would have had to say. But then, MMM’s guffaws were disturbing the siesta of the caretaker and so he decided to leave.

What was surprising to MMM was that in the entire exhibition there was no mention of the 150th year celebration and the restoration of Senate House. Surely in a photographic exhibition documenting the University’s history that would qualify for inclusion. What was not forgotten, however, was the usual genuflection at the political altar. The current powers had been appropriately propitiated and the earlier ones carefully excised.

Just before leaving, MMM made bold to ask the caretaker some questions about the exhibition. All queries, he replied, had to be addressed to the Registrar.

Ultimate destination

Where do retired bureaucrats go? The Man from Madras Musings is of the view that bureaucrats rarely ever retire. They get on to commissions and administrative boards and prolong their existence on Government expense as much as possible. But the quote, “Where art thou fallen, O Lucifer, Son of the Morning?” was what sprung to MMM’s lips when he saw a formerly powerful panjandrum now sitting in a rather forlorn manner at the Chennai airport. There was a time that MMM remembers when this specimen rarely moved around without a convoy of cars and around ten or more hangers-on. Now he was carrying his own bags. On seeing MMM he felt that he had to explain his change in status. He had decided to withdraw, he said, on matters of principle. MMM inwardly felt that the change in dispensation also had something to do with it, but he decided to remain silent.

But of one variety of bureaucrats, there can be no question as to what the superannuation assignment would be. MMM alludes to the kind that is involved in town and country planning. Immediately after retirement, this variety turns conservationist, heritage enthusiast and a stern critic of the Government on matters concerning civic amenities. Some even organise seminars and bring out magazines on the subject. If only they had the same enthusiasm while at their desks, the Chief and MMM would be practically jobless.

MMM has email

The Man from Madras Musings occasionally gets requests from friends asking him to fix hotel accommodations for them in this city. It was in this context that MMM received this email which had brightened his entire fortnight:


present the hotel is under renavation work ,but rooms is available,and same restarent also under renevation work,insted of complimet buffetbrake fast we are give the packing brakefast from the saravanabavan,and rooms we are providing for the guest from 3rd floor to 5th floor,

English is dead! Long live Tanglish!

(Caste) no bar

The Man from Madras Musings had all along assumed that our city, which has many firsts to its credit, was also primus when it came to doing away with the caste system by removing caste references from all street names. Thus, Chettiar Street became Street. But MMM notices a new trend. In some cases, the caste name is now mentioned in brackets. Thus you now have signboards announcing Pasumpon Muthuramalinga (Thevar) Road and Mayor Sundara (Rao) Road. How is it that placing caste names within brackets is permissible? Food for thought, eh?