‘Tis the season of dolls and The Man from Madras Musings ought to be writing about it, imbued as he usually is with festive spirit. But this year, what with MMM having committed himself to several projects, most with tight deadlines, he is forced to speak of darker deeds. The Chief is not likely to be amused, but to be fair to the Chief, he did warn MMM, rather in the manner of Cassandra, not to get involved in those projects.

Chief among these is one to do with the Government. And as MMM gets deeper and deeper into the innards of bureaucracy, the more he appreciates the way those living north of the Vindhyas speak of the powers that rule as ‘Gorement’, thereby indicating that dealing with it is gory business.

Leaving aside the slowness and sloth, MMM also has much to say about the ‘Gorement’s toilets and teas. Both conform to a certain uniform standard and both are interlinked. Let MMM first hold forth on the tea. He is fairly certain that somewhere deep down in the rulebooks, there is one that stipulates the way tea is to be made. No doubt there is Rule XIII B, Subsection 91, Sub-clause D11 that states that notwithstanding Rule XX G, Subsection 62, the tea shall be of brick red colour, watery and overly sweetened, though at the same time having a bitter aftertaste. This is served over and over again and guests are forced to drink it. To refuse is to incur the wrath of babudom which, as defined in another standard text, has an eye like Mars to threaten and command.

That reminds MMM of a story that is worth retelling no matter that all of you have heard it before. Do you know of the man-eating tiger that hid itself in a Government office? Everyday it devoured a Secretary or two and nobody noticed. But came a day when it foolishly devoured the boy who dispensed tea. By 11.30 a.m. a full-scale departmental enquiry was launched, the tiger found and handed over to the local zoo. There is a version that it was killed but these are more sensitive times and even Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty have different endings for the stepmother. Even Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is now re-titled as the Light Pigmented and the Seven Vertically Challenged. Moral of the tea story – it is not the Minister or the Secretary but the tea boy who turns the wheels of Government.

Be that as it may, MMM has to say that tea is on tap at these Government offices. Consequently, MMM has been drowning in tea, while waiting for other things to happen. And as you all know once tea is downed by the gallon, nature begins calling and asking what’s up. Which meant MMM had to go in search of the other great Government institution – the loo around the corner. Now if MMM had gone to meet some ordinary functionary he would have been airily dismissed to go relieve himself behind some tree or the other. But here was MMM, honoured guest of the great poobah himself. That necessitated an escort and what’s more a man trained in proper bureaucratese – he addressed MMM continuously in the respectful plural third person. “Sir we would like to go to toilet, yes? Sir let us go.” And so off we went, and by ‘we’, MMM means the escort and MMM.

To be continued