These are backward days, Chief, what with all kinds of people springing up, demanding that their community be declared backward. The Man from Madras Musings has it from a reasonably powerful authority (his good lady, also known as She Who Must Be Obeyed) that there are moves afoot to declare the entire country backward – Our Backward Country or OBC will be the motto, she says. MMM does not know if this is true, but he does know that the good lady’s prophecies have generally come true, at least as far as MMM is concerned.

At the Middle School, Mint Street

But OBC matters were not what MMM wanted to write about. His lay for the week is on the Eternally Backward (EB) organisation that controls the distribution of electricity in our State. The tale that follows is not MMM’s personally but that of an elderly gent of our city of Chengapore or Chengai, who is a mentor of the highest order as far as MMM is concerned. This person believes in being at the forefront of technology – unlike you, Chief, with your typewriter, this Mentor of MMM’s (or should we just say MMMM) positively bristles with laptops, iPods, smart phones and all other kinds of gizmos. A man of that variety naturally opted to go with what he felt was the latest in electricity – tapping solar energy. Came a day when he contacted a solar panel company and asked them to install the facility at his place.
MMM will not go into the travails of MMMM in getting the company to do the needful. The panels arrived prom­pt­ly enough and then lay idle for months on end, the solar panellists not being ready. ­After relentless follow-ups, a task at which MMMM excels, and for which he maintains planning charts, the crew turned up and installed the panels on the roof, did the connections to the electric supply of the house and departed. A meter showed how much electricity was being generated by the solar panels. The power generated was fed into the grid and, so, if the panellists were to be believed, the EB was to give MMMM a rebate for the amount of electricity that he had generated via the solar panels.

MMMM was delighted. He spoke about this at length to his early morning walk friends and his family, and even emailed news about it to his extended network, which in MMM’s view, really extends. But the old man had overlooked one thing – namely the ability of the EB men to understand such a facility. Came the day for the monthly meter reading and the man in charge duly arrived, took one look at the new meter and promptly left. The next day, he turned up with another man. Both peered at the new meters, scratched their heads and left. The third day, there were four men and the fourth day there were eight and so on. The collective scratching of heads contributed generously to dandruff on MMMM’s lawns, but nothing happened beyond that.

On enquiries being made, it turned out that the local EB had no clue as to how to factor in power being uploaded into the grid. Realising that the due date for paying the electricity bill was fast approaching and that the onus was on him to clarify matters, MMMM orga­nised a summit conference – on the roof top of his residence, that is, near the panels, with solar panellists and the EB men attending. This came about after many days, as EB men are busy men, as you know, with no time to socia­lise. When it happened, with tea being supplied by MMMM’s good lady (whose motto unlike that of MMM’s is Obey), a solution was thrash­ed out. The reading was taken and everyone left. The next day, MMMM received the bill – it included a penalty for late payment of electricity dues! He is now, or so MMM understands, running from pillar to post to convince the EB that it is their fault and not his that the bill was paid late.