Of turmeric baths, nuptials & birthdays
The Man from Madras Musings is not a snob. He believes in mingling with the prols (short for proletariat) as often as he can and when they invite him for events, he usually makes it a point to attend. But of late, given the kind of invitations that do land on his desk, MMM has been sending out regrets left, right and centre. For, there is much in the conduct of these events that MMM objects to.
The first concerns an obnoxious anachronism that is referred to rather euphemistically as the ‘turmeric bath’. This is celebrated when a girl attains puberty. MMM is always at a loss to under-stand as to why he is invited for what is evidently a women’s event. And when he does pass by venues where such events are held, MMM does notice that there are many men in attendance.
But is it really anyone’s event? Does a girl’s physical process of growth need to be celebrated with such public gusto? What does the child feel like to see her photo put up on outsize banners around the venue announcing to the world that she has come of age? MMM put this question to some of his close friends and the stock reply was that the child probably delights in the attention. MMM begs to differ. He also strongly objects to the invariable positioning of the photos of leading political figures just above the picture of the heroine of the hour in all the banners. And sometimes, there is even a line which attributes the girl’s coming of age to the politician! Wonder how our lea-ders feel about this prowess that they are credited with? In their position, MMM would have squirmed and vanished from public sight. But that is why MMM is not in politics.
From the turmeric bath to the nuptials was but a step in the old days. Thankfully, that has now changed. But these days, weddings have become grander and noisier than ever and those who are of financially straitened means invariably have the most garish and sound-filled bashes. MMM often wonders as to where the finance comes from. Cards get bigger and bigger and, as for the venue, unless it is decked out in the best cinematic tradition, everyone is disappointed. A recent trend is the putting up of pictures of the betrothed and to-be-weds in all kinds of suggestive and intimate postures, set against an impossibly sylvan background. Some photographer is clearly laughing all the way to the bank and a couple has just made a complete ass of itself. Too often these pictures are then compiled into an album which is brought and exhibited to those who did not attend the event in person.
From the wedding to babies is but a hop, assuming the bride had her turmeric bath at the right time Babies means ear-piercing ceremonies and birthdays and these too have become big events. Cakes are cut, posters pasted in the surrounding areas, raucous music is played, and banners invoking the proud father’s favourite film star/political leader are put up. The last-named sometimes attribute the birth of the child to the film star/political leader! A Freudian slip?
Crisis of domestics
The Man from Madras Musings believes in casting his bread on the waters. He does not expect them to be returned. That is his attitude, at least as far as the pieces he writes for this column are concerned. Some, which he feels will see a flood of rejoinders, are met with stony silences. Others that he just shoots off the cuff, hoping nobody will notice, sometimes raise the hackles of or touch a ready chord with some of the faithful and then the letters never cease until the Chief applies the guillotine by way of a stony statement to the effect that all correspondence on the topic will cease thereafter.
In recent days, one topic that has caught the fancy of many is the shortage of domestic servants. MMM, if you recollect, wrote about it. Several people, varying from captains of industry ensconced in their corner offices to the lowly being who drives his own car to work, have expres-sed their feelings on the subject. All agree that the domestics are now rising above their stations and soon a time will come when the average Chennaiite will have to perform his/her own domestic chores. The only task that will be spared will be that of mowing the lawn and tending to the garden and that is because of the fact that there won’t be any lawn or garden, what with our constructing highrises on every available plot.
But to come back to the subject. The other day, MMM was at his Club and perceived a fellow-member who was driving up en famille. Upon being asked as to whether it was for dinner, MMM’s pal replied that he and his brood had taken to living at the Club until his household acquired its domestic staff, the earlier incumbents having exited en masse. Apparently it all started with the cook and the maid who did not see eye-to-eye. Both quit at the same time, but not before the cook publicly accused the maid of er… going out regularly with the chauffeur, who immediately felt it necessary to resign, not out of any sense of honour, but out of fear that his wife, who was not on the rolls, would get to know of it from the watchman who was within earshot. That cleared the place of all the staff barring the watchman in whose custody the house was placed even as everyone moved into the Club.
We live in difficult times.
Such road names!
Regulars of Madras Musings will doubtless recall the Chief and some of his assistants putting up a case for retaining some street names that commemorate our erstwhile British masters. That plea was heard and the names remained. But none can protect them from the mangling they undergo at the hands of the Electricity Board. That august body publishes its power shutdown schedule in the dailies and The Man from Madras Musings reads the list just to get a good laugh out of the names. And so have you heard of the following?
Makkees Gardens – Mackay’s Gardens
Prathapat Road – Breithaupt Road
Tadandar Nagar – Todhunter Nagar
Jermaiya Road – Jeremiah Road
Everady Colony – Eveready Colony
Cirucular Road – Circular Road
Ammer John Street – Ameer Jan Street
Stingkar Road – Stringer’s Street
Iron Manga Street – Ironmonger’s Street
Border Thorram – Borders Thottam
Also have you heard of the Pachchayappa’s Thrush? Must be quite a bird!
And so on… The list (and the humour) is practically endless. Let this be a lesson to you, Chief, to let them well alone.