image.jpegThe Man from Madras Musings is forever being chivvied around by the Chief to conduct some heritage walk or the other. Every time he, the Chief, finds MMM taking a short breather between assignments, his (meaning the Chief’s) eyes hood over and he (the Chief again), makes a pronouncement to as why does not MMM conduct a…

The consequence of all this is that MMM is forever hunting around for walking spaces with heritage in their vicinity. During one of his searchers he came across a temple in the outskirts that briefly shot to fame when a great 18th/19th century composer visited it and endowed it with five delectable songs. This being that great personage’s 250th birth anniversary year, MMM decided to do a walk there. On visiting the place MMM discovered that it was really a thing of beauty. The road leading to the temple was flanked on either side by rows of 19th century structures. The thoroughfare itself was broad, lined with trees and it appeared as though the entire setting had been imported from some never-never land. MMM, like Jim Corbett, made subtle enquiries of the natives and was informed that the reason why the place was maintained so well was because it was the location of choice for any Tamil feature film that needed a village setting. Nobody knew of the 19th Century composer but they all knew of 21st Century music directors who had won Oscars.

The priest, like the natives, was most welcoming though he did not know the rudiments of worship. For instance he never broke open the coconut that MMM offered and yet managed to complete the prayers. He was happy to know that MMM planned to bring people over but he was quite firm that MMM also needed to obtain the necessary permission for doing this from the Executive Officer, Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowments Board of the Government of Tamil Nadu. Also, it would be best that the Hereditary Trustee was also placated by means of an identical letter. Copies of course, would need to be marked to both. No, the EO and the Trustee were not present just then at the temple, the day being a Sunday and it would be best that MMM came in person on a working day between 10.00 am and 5.00 pm. MMM asked if the functionaries were at the temple on all weekdays between those hours. To this the priest said no, MMM would have take his chance. And no, these were men who did not answer phone calls from mere mortals of Madras who thought they could fix appointments.

So, that was that. MMM returned to office, got a letter ready and then sent one of his minions to the temple on a working day. Miracle of miracles, the EO was present and deigned to accept the letter. He would, he said, mull over the matter and send a reply. Buoyed by this, MMM announced the walk and was soon flooded with registrations from enthusiastic participants. MMM began planning the event with gusto, but at the back of his mind there was always this doubt – what if no permission came? What if MMM took a large group only to find the temple doors firmly shut on his face? What would people think? Would he not become a hissing and a byword? All the while, in the meantimes, the day of the tour kept nearing, and no sign of the permission. MMM’s minion made several visits. The EO informed him that the papers were with the appropriate authority. As for the Hereditary Trustee, there was no sign of him.

It was then that an angel in human shape by way of a senior Government officer called MMM and asked him as to what was biting him (MMM). When MMM poured out his tale of woe, the man smiled and said that this was the first time he had heard of permissions being necessary for visiting a house of God. Was MMM planning any unlawful event or anything that would sully the shrine? No, he was not. Why, then, he needed to just go ahead. That is just what MMM did. The tour went off very well. The priest was delighted to see such a vast throng and was even happier when he saw them all making fat offerings at the altar. There was no talk of any permission.
A couple of days later, on coming home, MMM found an envelope of Governmental hues. Inside was a paper that had clearly seen better days. It was from the EO. He was glad to grant permission, it said, but MMM and team would need to adhere to several rules and regulations, all of which in ­retrospect MMM realised he had abided by. The letter clearly mentioned the date of the tour but it was typed and signed a day after it!