Ah! MMM, such a pleasure talking to you,” said the voice over the phone and The Man from Madras Musings froze in his tracks. A sixth sense warned him that an impossible idea for Madras Week was in the offing. Sure enough, MMM was correct. The person at the other end of the wire, it seemed, found the poster culture of our city most annoying. Each day of this individual’s life, it seems, was blighted by the posters. Coming out of home and office, the first thing that greeted the person’s eyes was a variety of posters. Those that were pasted on the pillars of the Metro rail’s work-in-progress, in particular, offended the most. MMM heard the whole complaint out in silence, wondering from the accusatory tone if the person on the other side thought MMM was responsible for the pasting of these offending pieces of paper.

And then came the punch line. “As part of Madras Week celebrations,” said the voice, with the air of one bestowing a royal favour or issuing a command, “Why don’t you, MMM, do something about it?” Having counted till ten, MMM then asked if the party on the other side had anything specific to suggest. “Why, it’s quite easy. You know so many people in Chennai. Why don’t you first fix a meeting with the Managing Director of Metro rail and explain the matter to him? He should also be convinced to take action. As a follow-up, you could meet the Mayor and the Commissioner of the Corporation. Then, if nothing happens, there is always the …”

At this moment, the voice paused to take a breath and MMM got a word or two in. He explained that Madras Week operates on a simple principle. Put in elementary Chennai-speak, it amounts to “That that person, that that idea, that that execution.” He then went on to make it simpler by saying that, contrary to general opinion, Madras Week is not run by a vast industrial conglomerate that has thousands of minions at its beck and call. Secondly, the organisers have no clout with the Government and, in MMM’s private view, not mentioning their names is the best way to curry any favour with the powers-that-be. Lastly, Madras Week is all about voluntary effort. And so if the voice did not like the posters, the voice needed to do something about it. The caller did not sound very convinced, but rang off.

A couple of days later, MMM was pleasantly surprised to see that the Corporation has resolved that it would remove posters from public places and fine those pasting them. Of course, this is not saying much, given that our city’s civic body has in the past resolved to have clean public toilets, ensure pavement space, maintain smooth roads, tackle the hawker menace, repair street lights, and clear garbage. Anyway, it is the thought that counts and MMM is glad to note that the heart of the civic body is in the right place. But leaving all that aside, MMM wonders if the resolution to remove posters has anything to do with the voice that called MMM. If so, this must be a powerful voice, a voice that, like Mars, can threaten and command. MMM wishes he had made a note of the number.