The Man from Madras Musings was rudely woken up from his reverie by the phone ringing. Who could be calling at this early hour, MMM wondered. Perhaps the Chief over that mix-up with the photographs in the last issue? But the voice was that of a female who appeared to be all agog with some information. In fact, she had evidently begun speaking even before MMM had answered the call. It was only after some time that MMM managed to register what she was saying. It appeared that sometime in the dim past, of which MMM had no recollection, the lady had invited him to come to her college to speak at a function and the event was on that day. MMM rather feebly protested that he had received no communication since the day of the call, but the caller was quite firm that she had sent an email. MMM made bold to ask her as to when it was sent and then got to know that it was just a minute or two before the phone call.

Not wishing to disappoint the caller, especially after she had given MMM a terrific build up (“Sir, I am a great fan of yours, I read everything you write”) and realising that it involved speaking to the students for about ten minutes on history, MMM agreed and duly presented himself at the college at the appointed hour. MMM does not know about your experience but, being a veteran speaker at many colleges and schools, MMM realises that all of them have one thing in common – the security at the gate is never informed about a guest coming into the institution. MMM is usually stopped at the gate and asked a million questions. He is told to fend for parking space and then, asking as to where the event is taking place, is usually waved onwards with a vague gesture. MMM then wanders around the campus like the lonely cloud that floats on o’er vales and hills till he comes upon a crowd, a host of giggling students. This campus was no different and it was only after asking several students, teachers and others that MMM located the place where he was to speak.

The preliminary meeting was all that MMM could wish for. The teacher who had invited him gushed and showered encomiums on MMM whereupon MMM blushed and tried to look modest. He was asked whether he would have tea or coffee and when MMM asked for black tea sans sugar he was served milky coffee with enough sweetness in it to fill a confectioner’s order for the day. Having digested that, MMM was introduced to another gentleman who, MMM learnt, was a respected figure in historical circles and was scheduled to speak after MMM. This half had not been told unto MMM, felt MMM, as the Queen of Sheba said on meeting Solomon, but a closer scrutiny of the invitation’s email print-out revealed that it had all along been there. MMM assumed that the learned professor would speak for ten minutes like MMM but this hope was soon dashed to the ground for, the don having enquired from MMM as to how long he was to speak, curved his lips in a scornful smile at the mere ten minutes and said with mournful pride that he, a learned professor, was scheduled to harangue for a good 45 minutes.

There was nothing that could be done (or, as they say in Chennai, MMM could not able to do anything) other than grin and bear it and so off everyone went to the auditorium, the gushing lady, the blushing MMM and the knowledgeable pedagogue.

To be continued…