…thus begins one of the Chief’s magnum opuses (or is it opi?) and so whenever any friend or visitor arrives asking for the history of the city, The Man from Madras Musings takes the person to the Fort. And much like the city, MMM finds that the Fort too is steadily going downhill. It would not be too much of an exaggeration to say that the place is now rather shabby and gone much to seed.

This impression was only reinforced during MMM’s recent visit when he, along with a set of partially interested visitors, performed the pilgrimage. Rather carried away by the sight of the moat and the gates, MMM made the singular error of putting a toe into the hallowed portals through the main entrance. There was an uproar immediately and diverse officers and security men surrounded MMM and friends. They were of course, courteous to the extreme and then escorted the group out and directed it to a small and most unprepossessing gate, which they said led to the museum. The group made its entry, MMM all the while thinking of how different the experience was while entering historic precincts elsewhere in the world. But, then, this was a working Fort as MMM consoled himself, not one of those dead monuments from the past. So you had to make some compromises.

Once inside, the group began clamouring that it was hot as hell. MMM was sorely tempted to inform them that this was not the Himalayas but refrained. He also desisted from telling them that it was only during the week that they had deigned to visit that the city was so hot. Leaving that aside, the group followed MMM down a longish footover-bridge that ran above the moat. “Don’t look down, don’t look down,” chanted MMM’s heart while his face kept a fixed smile on. And sure enough everyone looked down and began identifying the various items of garbage that lay in the moat. A particularly pesky kid, thanks to sharp vision, noticed an unmentionable feminine object (UFO) and wanted to know what it was and obviously decided that MMM would have the answer. The kid kept tugging at MMM’s sleeve and, pointing in the direction of the UFO, kept asking what it was. It wa s thanks to yoga and communioning with the soul that MMM restrained himself from pushing the child into the great world below the moat, in which also lay the UFO.

That said, MMM has to confess that the moat and what lay below it were really the high point of the tour. Never again did the group display the same enthusiasm as they did when they all speculated about the provenance of the UFO and how it came to be there.

Once inside, MMM had to explain as to why the whole central quadrangle resembled a vast unkempt rubbish tip. Cars were parked hither and thither, garbage bins overflowed and in midst of it all was a shop that sold refrigerated drinks and snacks. Those who extended patronage to the outlet simply threw wrappers and bottle caps all over the place. To think that plastic bottles abounded where the immor(t)al Clive once siphoned off the best. MMM’s motley crowd made a beeline for the shop and that was the second high point of the tour. From there everyone could get a good view of a ten-storied modern structure undergoing what appeared to be a messy facelift. It was left to MMM to explain as to why and how this too was heritage. By now the chorus of complaints against the heat having reached a crescendo, MMM decided it was safest that everyone was taken somewhere indoors. And so, off everyone went to …

(To be continued)