It was still early morning and The Man from Madras Musings was not yet his bright self, all set for another day with the Chief. The doorbell rang and having rung, kept on ringing, rather as though the moving finger from Belshazzar’s feast had called on MMM. On opening the door MMM saw three men who, it transpired, were not Magi but who were laden, not with rich gifts, but with an open register. They beamed on MMM. The two men on either side were evidently juniors in official stature to the man in the middle, for they held the two ends of the register and shuffled the pages while the man in the centre merely looked on. It being quite a tricky business to hold on to the book and simultaneously shuffle the pages, the duo at the extreme ends proceeded to lift one leg each and balance the book on the same even as they busily perused the pages. Offers of chairs by MMM were curtly refused.

The man in the middle broke the ice by declaring that the team was from the local office of the Corporation and were there to verify if MMM and family were registered voters. MMM offered to fetch the voter identity cards, but that suggestion was airily waved away. All details, declared the official, were in the good book he was carrying. It struck MMM as somewhat unfair that the man thought he was lugging the register around when in reality his assistants were doing it and that too on one leg each. At long last, the trio ­arrived at the page in question and then the man in the middle (should MMM refer to him as MIM?), beamed at MMM and asked MMM if he (MMM) was Soundarapandi Nadar.

MMM had to say ‘no’. Whereupon MIM was deeply offended. It almost appeared as though he was going to ­accuse MMM of masquerading under a false name. How, he asked, could MMM not be Soundara­pandi Nadar when the register declared him to be so? MMM was nonplussed. But that was not all. MIM now demanded that MMM ­produce Gangu Bai and Dhana­shekar, none of whom MMM had any clue about. When MMM said so, a deep discussion in hushed whispers went on among the three. It ­appeared that MIM was of the view that MMM was some kind of a serial killer who, ­having done away with Soundara­pandi Nadar, Gangu Bai and Dhanashekar, had usurped their place of stay.

MMM, thinking quickly on his feet, wondered if he should wake up his good lady (also known as She Who Must Be Obeyed) and get her to pretend she was Gangu Bai, but as for the absent Dhanashekar there was little he could do. Then a thought struck him. He made bold to ask if the electoral register was as per the new or old house numbers. It transpired that the touring election commission at MMM’s doorstep had mixed up the two. A hurried shuffling of pages ensued and sure enough there was MMM’s name like that of Abou Ben Adam, followed by that of Good Lady (aka SWMBO). All was well. MIM’s assistants put down their bent legs and were then advised by MIM to be more careful in future about new and old numbers. The trio departed, presumably in search of Soundarapandi Nadar, after giving MMM voter slips and a stern warning to go and vote on D-Day.