An article I wrote early in December


This is no time for levity, Chief, and you know that The Man from Madras Musings can be as serious as anyone else when the occasion demands it. And even when he smiles on such occasions as these, you can rest assured that he does so with a tear behind it. Our State is going through tough times, Chief, we having sadly lost a leader who chose to leave us much before her time.

MMM, as he said earlier, feels sad about what has come to pass. But he does feel that in all this pathos, there is now coming in a strong sense of bathos, what with every man, woman and child weighing in with a personal memory of the personality who has gone. MMM understands that this is but natural given that this was a person who had touched many lives. She inspired women, gave them a sense of safety, extolled children to study and when met up with in person awed everyone with her erudition, quick grasp of facts and her decision. Of these memories and recollections, MMM has nothing to say beyond doffing his hat in respect.

But there is a different variety of raconteur, the kind that is now doing the rounds of the various newspaper and magazine offices, and of media houses, be they conventional, electronic or virtual, with stories that can at best be termed peripheral to the personality being mourned. All of these people were nowhere in the picture as long as the person in question was alive and in power. Now, rather in the manner of toadstools after a shower, they have begun to proliferate. They freely refer to the dear departed by the name which intimate friends and family knew her by in childhood and claim to have had all kinds of propinquity. Society matrons of a certain age appear to be the most deadly of the lot when it comes to this kind of writing. They suddenly recollect all kinds of chance encounters – at bookshops, at cinema shoots and at social events and claim to have been close. Media houses are lapping up these unverified tales. Worse is social media where no scrutiny of any kind is needed and so everyone is putting up stories of personal association with the lady.

The day of passing witnessed a few of these so-called close associates being interviewed by the electronic media. Almost all of them, to a man and woman, claimed that they had been ‘extremely close’ to the lady concerned, this despite the fact that she was almost Garboesque in her seclusion. One of them, a minor political non-entity at best, even claimed that it was only because of the former CM, she, the non-entity that is, could play a role in the politics of the country! Talk about delusions of grandeur!

You also have experts on her past who have now cropped up, the source of their information being the Internet. As is well known, the Internet has around 1000 versions of any happening and so we do have 1000 versions of the current topic of interest in circulation. Suddenly everyone knows everything, including the number of aunts she had, the number of films she acted in, the number of years she was in the wilderness, and the number of years she was in power. And in keeping with facts cribbed off the Internet, there is considerable variation in each of these stories! Variety, as MMM notes from these writings, is the spice of public life.