The Man from Madras Musings as you are aware, is not getting any younger. And as he advances in years, parts that he never knew existed have suddenly begun to make themselves manifest by niggling aches and pains. There are some others that begin moving whenever MMM stops to rest but of those he will not dwell on, for it is the niggling achers and painers that demand attention.

One among these had become particularly vociferous in the last few months and even MMM’s good lady who sternly believes that all illnesses are a state of mind had to admit that something had to be done about it. Several years earlier MMM had been afflicted by back-trouble and had taken to going around looking like a clothes-hanger when a particular doctor had set him right. This time too it was decided that the same person ought to be contacted.

But time the great healer also does other strange things. In the interregnum between the time when MMM was bent double and when he was standing straight but walking with a hobble, this physician had expanded manifold. By which MMM does not mean in terms of avoirdupois but clientele. This therefore demanded the opening of several branches and to one of these MMM was directed. What about the main doctor asked MMM whereupon he was looked at pityingly and told that his services were reserved only for very advanced cases. In comparison it was implied that MMM was in the kindergarten of ailments.

The stripling that gave MMM the once over declared that it all had to do with MMM’s posture. A set of exercises said the young ‘un, would set MMM right in no time at all. He had to come for a series of training sessions at the end of which MMM could give Rudolf Nureyev a run for his money. The money for this series of lessons was paid in advance and MMM duly joined in.

A couple of sessions later, MMM found that he was physically in the pink and so was the nagging pain, which awoke bright and early and compellingly demanded attention. On MMM’s mentioning this he was told that it was always that way in these sessions and then one day, the pain would vanish. The exercise sessions were always accompanied by some pleasant conversation during which the trainer carefully elicited information as to what MMM’s profession was, where he lived, what car he used and which clubs he was a member of. By the third session, by which time the pain was in its third degree, MMM’s financial status was an open book at least as far as the doctor’s clinic was concerned.

On the fourth session, MMM had barely hobbled in when he was asked as to whether he would like to run a marathon. Now this had always been one of MMM’s secret ambitions. But age makes you wary and so MMM said that he would think about it. Whereupon the trainer, rather in the manner of P James, suddenly produced a pink brochure that had on its cover a series of before and after pictures of men and women who had been barrel-shaped and later become svelte runners. The trainer fixed MMM with a compelling eye and said that he ought to sign on the dotted line. The programme was for one year, or 300 sessions at the end of which MMM would be the reincarnation of Phidippides. The fee said the trainer, all the while keeping a searchlight like look on MMM, was Rs xxxxxx (six digits in all). Payment could be made in one shot or in easy instalments, and in the latter case would be Rs xxxxxx plus compound interest.

It was left to MMM to point out a small obstacle. What of the pain that prevented MMM from walking normally? Would that not have to be cured before MMM ran? Oh that, said the trainer waving his arm airily. It was all a state of the mind.

MMM has since not gone back to the trainer. The pain has subsided to manageable levels and MMM and it have entered into an arms-length relationship, each respecting the other’s space. There have been calls from the clinic asking as to whether MMM is interested in training for the marathon but nobody has asked as to why MMM dropped out four days into the physiotherapy and as to how his original complaint was. MMM’s good lady has had the satisfaction of saying that she had told MMM so. And that is that.