These days, you amount to nothing if you don’t have the above statement stuck on your car windscreen. The Man from Madras Musings notices that with this notice strategically positioned so that all can read it, you can get your vehicle to do anything that James Bond did with his, and more. The ‘On Election Duty, Immediate (or Urgent)’ is the current equivalent of the red beacon light that was so hated by an emerging political light before it somewhat extinguished itself (by which MMM alludes to the political light and not the beacon light which is going strong). With that notice pasted on, no matter if it is just a newspaper with the message scrawled in red ink, you can jump traffic signals, park your car anywhere, overtake on bridges and, above all, still get policemen to salute you.

There is apparently a class hierarchy in this. With just a red beacon, you can still get by, but that is just about all you can do. Having the ‘On Election Duty (OED)’ sign means you have climbed to stratospheric heights. If you have both, then chances are you don’t read this paper. Probably someone else reads it out to you and only those bits that please your ears, which is very likely to be very little.

‘OED’ has also given rise to another caste division, though ours is technically a casteless society, at least on paper. MMM was made painfully aware of this when he was walking along with a group of well-heeled citizenry. MMM had let his mind wander and he came back to earth only when he heard a business baron suddenly say rather proudly, “Twice”. To which a mega magnate rather disdainfully replied, “Four times”. Whereupon the biz baron looked abashed and turned around to MMM and asked how many. MMM was stumped for an answer. For one, he did not know what was being talked about. Were they enumerating daily bowel movements or divorces or coronary bypasses he wondered. His confusion only increased when another moneybags interjected saying, “Three and always by the Gemini Flyover”. Clarity came when he added that a thorough search was made but nothing was found.

They were it transpired counting the number of times their vehicles had been stopped by the OED men and searched for cash, without which, so MMM has been given to understand, political parties feel the poll process is incomplete. Apparently, the OED brigade also feels the same way and hence stops all and sundry by the wayside and counts their cash. Hang on, did MMM say all and sundry? Well, he was mistaken. To be searched you need to have a certain type of vehicle – it has to be closer to a bus in length, breadth and height than a car. It should also have tinted glasses, though that is really not on as per law. But then when you go around in these uber-sized vehicles, you really are above the law and so such trivialities make no difference. Then, and only then, will you be searched by the OED gang. And going through this ordeal is the new ticket to high society. It reminded MMM of his days in Delhi when businessmen considered Income Tax raids to be badges of honour. The more, the better.

MMM had to rather sheepishly confess that he had not been stopped and searched. Whereupon the others looked pityingly at him and moved on. MMM now has two options before him to shore up his fallen prestige – he either gets a large car or he goes around in his current one with a huge stash of currency notes, hoping that it will be noticed by the OED lot. But as he has no hopes of either – a new car or disposable wads of cash, he has to reconcile himself to being on the fringes of society.

NB: Since this was written, MMM is happy to report that he has been searched – outside the Amalgamations Estate, Sembium.