The telephone rang and The Man from Madras Musings answered it. A most diffident voice piped up, wanting to know if it was Sar speaking at the other end. MMM was not so sure as to which Sar was wanted. In these days of H1N1, the last thing anyone wants is an outbreak of SARS. But the voice at the other end then asked if it had the pleasure of speaking to MMM Sar. To this MMM agreed, whereupon the conversation proceeded rather on the lines of a Minister speaking to Queen Victoria – entirely in the third person. A sample is given below:

Voice (V): Good morning Sar. Will Sar be in his office this morning Sar?

MMM (M): Yes, but can I know why you are asking this?

V: Our Sar wants to invite Sar to be a part of a committee Sar. When can I call on Sar, Sar?

It transpired that a Sar in Government circles had read something that MMM wrote about and, rather than take offence, had decided to draft MMM into a committee that could hopefully set some wrongs right. MMM was flattered and immediately accepted. But that was not all. The voice at the other end had been instructed by the Sar to meet MMM in person and hand over an invitation and it would not rest until it had fulfilled its mission. It was in vain that MMM tried to explain that in this time and age a personal invitation was most unnecessary and an email ought to do the needful. The voice was shocked. It clearly belonged to an era when messages from panjandrums were brought in ornate scrolls on elephant back, accompanied by the tom-toming of drums and a retinue of dancing girls. A personal visit it had to be, said the voice and, so, MMM finally gave in. It was agreed that the voice, together with the body that embodied it, would visit MMM the next day and hand over the invitation in person. MMM half-wondered if he ought to put together a reception committee.

The next day, however, produced nobody. The voice was conspicuous by its absence. A day later, just as MMM was beginning to forget about it, there was a call from a newspaper reporter, who sounded all excited. Was it true, he asked, that MMM had been nominated to a committee? To this MMM replied that he was not so sure but the reporter was not willing to believe that. He wanted to know who else was on the committee and what ideas MMM would bring to the table. To all of this MMM replied, when he got a word in edgeways, that it was early days yet and there was no official communication of any kind. The reporter rang off, deeply incensed that MMM had not offered a bite of any sort.

The next day, the voice was back, with double the dose of diffidence. It begged Sar’s pardon but what could it do Sar when its Sar had assigned it a different task the previous day. MMM wondered as to what prevented the voice from making a call to that effect, but that clearly was not in the rule book, written no doubt in 1875. The voice then wanted to know if Sar was in Sar’s office for the voice was a short distance away and could it therefore drop off the invitation. To this MMM agreed and after a considerable lapse of time, the voice and its owner appeared in person. The missive was handed over to MMM with much bowing and scraping. It requested MMM, along with a couple of others, to come to a Government office for a meeting on a certain date.

The appointed date duly arrived only to have the voice calling once again. The meeting, it said, was off, because the top Sar, whose idea the whole thing was, had been called away for some greater good. The new date, it said, would soon be informed to Sar and so could Sar keep himself free. In other words, MMM was in suspended animation or adjourned sine die. Such are the ways of Government.