The annual scourge is back. The Man from Madras Musings does not allude to ­income tax, which has much the same symptoms – suffering ­experienced during the period August to November with ­irritation and redness of the eye, followed by much watering. This is accompanied by the wringing of hands and a general sense of helplessness. You can only take precautions to avoid it and if you neglect it, there is a huge penalty to pay. There is no one-time amnesty either. MMM speaks of the notorious Madras Eye, which is sweeping through the city, sparing nei­ther prince nor pauper.

It is the great leveller. And, at the same time, it also causes class distinctions to come sharply into focus. There are only three castes here – those who have had Madras Eye and recovered, those who are suffering from it and are therefore technically untouchable, and those who are yet to get it. The last named category practises apartheid to the utmost, not wanting to even go near the other two varieties. As for the lot that has suffered and recovered, it goes to great pains to establish that it can no longer infect anyone. But catch the third category believing that. To them, both groups, one and two, are birds of the same feather or, to quote from a great political leader of the past from our State, planks that have marinated in the same tank. Rather aptly he said that about two political parties of our State, both of whose leaders wore dark glasses like Madras Eye sufferers.

Last week, MMM had barely entered a wedding hall when a good Samaritan came rushing up and whispered to him that the bride’s father was best avoided because he was just recovering from conjunctivitis which, as you know, is the official name for the illness our city has claimed to be its own. There were several innocent people who assumed that the watery and red eye was owing to losing a daughter and gaining a son and so went up to embrace and shake hands with the supposedly emotional parent. MMM chose to stay aloof. This despite the best ­effort of the parent in question to envelop MMM with his affection. There is something in Madras Eye sufferers, MMM reflected, that makes them compulsive huggers, kissers and shakers of the hand.

In the dining hall, MMM did notice that several among the bearers who served food were festooned in dark glasses. He dismissed the notion that they were all into politics or recovering from cataract surgeries. As can be guessed, MMM came home hungry. But he has since then started, like Pontius Pilate, washing his hands every ten minutes and then checking his eyes in a mirror for any telltale signs of redness.