Continued from yesterday’s post

Self, at another speech.
Self, at another speech.

“MMM,” corrected the Prof. The dean apologised to The Man from Madras Musings and thereafter referred to him as NNN right through. The power, he said, had just been turned off owing to some technical glitch. It was a good thing, he added, that the prize-giving was fixed at the open courtyard and not inside the auditorium. MMM baulked at this, for what with the temperature being what it was and the fact that he was getting thirstier than the Thanjavur region, this looked like torture of the first water. Anyway, MMM, Dean and professor trooped into the open courtyard. The head table was on a platform and down below, in the well of the open space, the students sat at the far end, no doubt keeping as much distance as possible between themselves and the speakers. The coconut water had not come as yet.

The meeting got to order with the singing of the obligatory song on the glory of the local language. As though ­reminded by that, the Dean leaned across to MMM and said that it would be best if he, MMM spoke in Tamil as that is what the students would understand better. MMM agreed. There was still no sign of the coconut water.

The professor’s speech of welcome was in English. Then came the Dean’s turn. He would be brief, he said, for he was certain that everyone had gathered to hear the great OOO who had come to speak at the college despite his busy schedule. The moment MMM heard that, his heart sank into his shoes. Experience has shown MMM that any speaker who says he/she will be brief means exactly the opposite. This was entirely true of the Dean as well. Speaking at length (in English), he embarked on a long description of the happenings at the institution in the past one year. He spoke of honourable ministers, MPs, MLAs, bureaucrats and others who had paid visits to the institution. He paid the usual encomiums to the power of powers, failing which no doubt, as MMM reflected, he the dean, ran the risk of his power being turned off at the main, rather like the college’s electricity. The coconut water was yet to make its appearance.

MMM found his thoughts wandering. He realised vaguely that the Dean was singing his (the Dean’s) glories in the third person. The students were also in a stupor-like state. After several more minutes of the Dean’s speech, the man finally sat down, ­stating that the college student union leader would read out the bio-data of Mr QQQ, who actually needs no introduction. And, by the way, you guessed it, no sign of the coconut water.

If you are still awake at this stage, MMM will let you get on with it by stating briefly (and he means that in the fullest sense), that MMM spoke in Tamil and was well ­received. Just as he began, a miracle took place – a microphone working on battery was delivered to MMM and so he was heard. The coconut ­water, however, never came.

The speech concluded, it was time for The Man from Madras Musings to flee. But not before wanting to use the toilet. This seemingly innocuous request had the Dean disturbed. With much hesitation he informed MMM that the toilets of the building were pitch dark when the power fails, as they were provided with no windows. Would MMM mind taking a candle along? By the way, the coconut water never came.