It was the last thing that The Man from Madras Musings expected to happen to him. He is not alluding to Ebola the dreaded virus but something that he fears even more – being away from Chennai during the thick of the music season. But it came about and MMM was whisked away to foreign and extremely cold climes, mercifully for a period of just about ten days. While returning to his beloved city, MMM had thrust into his hands several of the usual forms that needed to be filled. He then noticed one more – a self-declaration – to the effect that MMM had not travelled to any African country in the past fortnight and that he was not coughing, having headaches, or suffering from a fever. Being of a robustly healthy disposition (though always believing to the contrary), MMM filled in a ‘no’ to all the clauses.

It was while writing all this on the form that MMM noticed a fairly well known name from the Tamil film industry sitting two seats away in the aircraft. This name, or shall we say, star, filled the form in a most perfunctory fashion and then kept it all aside before sinking into a deep and refreshing sleep. On arrival at Chennai, the idol was woken up by the attendants with the gentleness of someone brushing flies off a sleeping Venus while the rest including MMM were prodded in the ribs. The star was of course the first to leave the aircraft. MMM was not far behind and more or less kept pace till he came upon a welcoming party. This group bowed and scraped to the star who limply handed over passport and other papers before being whisked through a special doorway no doubt to a waiting limo.

The rest, including MMM, were not so fortunate. Everyone was stopped midstride by a woman wielding what appeared at first glance to be a gun. Conceive of MMM’s horror when this was pressed to his temple. He had just commended his soul to God when the woman released him from a vice like grip. It was, she explained rather cursorily, a temperature-measuring device to see if MMM was afflicted by the dreaded Ebola. She was happy she said, to inform MMM that he was healthy and so could he please move on to finish other formalities.

Seeing that she had thawed considerably, no doubt on realising that MMM was Ebola-free, MMM made bold to ask her as to why the star was not subjected to the same test. Pat came the answer that the personality was a public figure and so could not be subjected to the kind of tests that common folk went through. It made MMM wonder if film stars were immune to the virus and if the cure to Ebola lay in everyone becoming a matinee idol. But he chose not to stop and ponder. Already a queue was forming behind him comprising passengers to be tested with the laser gun and he could detect a certain restlessness in their attitude to MMM’s queries.

On the flip side, if there is an Ebola outbreak in the city, you may know whom to look for.