“Do you read a fortnightly called Madras Musings?” asked the elderly gentleman standing next to The Man from Madras Musings. MMM did not choose to answer immediately, for, you see, experience has made him wary about acknowledging this fact. The good old mag, brought out for the past twenty-five years by the Chief is generally well loved but there are certain institutions, bodies and individuals who turn a bilious hue when the publication is mentioned in their presence.

A majority of them are Government servants while they are in office. To them, Madras Musings is anti-establishment, activist and quixotic – fighting for impossible things such as pedestrian rights, parks and open spaces, heritage preservation and adherence of buildings to approved plans. They shun the magazine as long as they are in service, gadding about in chauffeured cars with the ‘G’ number plate and revolving red beacons.

The moment they retire from service, they suddenly discover that the publication is not so bad after all. They then write long letters and even longer articles, most of them about pedestrian rights, parks and open spaces, heritage preservation and adherence of buildings to approved plans and send them in for publication in MM. A common theme in all of them is how they did their best to protect all of the above while they were in service, but how they could do nothing against vested interests. Some of them who know MMM have even gone to the extent of claiming that they recommended the Chief’s name for this lotus or that but then “you know how it is”. The Chief, MMM suspects, couldn’t care less.

But this now-hot, now-cold variety of MM reader is not the one that MMM is wary of. Retirement being the inevitable end to bureaucratic careers, MMM is well aware that this kind will some day come to see the magazine’s point of view. The people he has learnt to avoid are those who feel that the magazine ought to carry articles only on those topics that they are interested in.

“These days your paper carries stories only about the 1950s and 1960s,” grumbled an elderly gent. “There was a time when you would have articles about the 1750s. What a period that was! Who is interested in stories about hotels that stood till recently?” MMM forebore from asking if the 1750s was when his interlocutor had been young and a man about town. Clearly this subscriber was of the kind that believes that even nostalgia is not what it used to be.

But those that MMM avoids the most are the variety that calls to ask if MMM knows who MMM is. That may sound philosophical and MMM will make it plainer. “You are associated with Madras Musings, are you not?” asked a subscriber once. MMM replied in the affirmative. “Do you know the person who writes under the name of The Man from Madras Musings?” was the next question. Those were days when MMM was still young and innocent. And so he replied in the affirmative as well. “You can tell him that he is the most useless writer I have come across. Why does your Editor allow him to waste so much of space that could be put to better use, I wonder,” was the response.

The reason why MMM brings all this up is that last fortnight’s article on menswear during summer appears to have churned up emotions quite a bit. Many have sent in responses claiming MMM is elitist and has no right to scoff at drivers and AC mechanics who wear polyester and stink to the high heavens. What is it about articles on apparel that stirs the reading public so much, MMM wonders. It was a year or so ago that MMM wrote on Indian women appearing in public in nightwear and got roundly ticked off by a Lovely Lady from Lancashire now settled in Madras.