These are days, when The Man from Madras Musings gets invited to all kinds of dos. This is also that time of the year when the cultural fever is at its height. It was previously a malaise that lasted for a month, but now it is fairly immune to medication of any kind and lasts a full three months. It is therefore no wonder that MMM is forever on the move, now speaking on culture, now being shawled, now shawling, now lighting lamps and now shaking hands. It is all rather extraordinarily like the life of a member of the British Royal Family, only in rather less exalted circumstances. In fact, any time, any of them needs a stand-in, MMM is willing to step in. He knows the routine by heart and he could do with a holiday in England. And in old Blighty there would be no requirement to light lamps either – MMM, ever since he has had to wear bifocals has become a little less adept in this task; finding the end of the wick has become quite a challenge, especially if there is a burning flame upfront.

And so it was last week that MMM was slated to give a talk at an event that was meant to promote our culture. After all the hype about it, the planning had been going on for over a year, MMM was rather -surprised to see a mere handful (one hand) of people at the inauguration. The programme had it that a lamp was to be lit following which there would be a ‘traditional’ music performance lasting twenty minutes. What transpired, however, was that the ‘traditional’ musicians were already seated but there was no sign of the lamp. And so, the ‘traditional’ musicians were asked to sing traditionally and as it progressed, a rather large brass lamp made itself manifest and diverse helpers (there were more helpers than audience anyway) began draping floral strands all over it. In all this activity, nobody bothered telling the ‘traditional’ musicians as to when they had to stop and so they sang on traditionally, and overshot the time limit, which is also our tradition anyway. It was a good half-an-hour before the lamp was decorated, five wicks placed and oil poured into it.

The ‘traditional’ then ceased and five selected people – a sponsor, three organisers and MMM, were asked to step forward and light the lamp. Only there was no previously lit lamp/candle to light the large lamp with. A scramble ensued among the helpers for locating a lamp and after a stage wait it arrived. Then came the discovery that it did not have oil and so someone set off for it. This was duly procured and then someone pointed out that the lamp (the small one, not the large) did not have a wick. That necessitated another wait and then, you guessed, there was no matchbox. That took quite a while. In all this, the sponsor clearly lost his nerve and began to babble freely about solar panels in which activity he apparently had made his fortune. The lamps were eventually lit, not amidst prayer or music but an animated discussion on silicon, wafers, panels and the usage of solar energy in sickness and in health.

The delay actually helped when the programme began a half hour after scheduled time, there were enough people to count with fingers of both hands, and by people MMM means real attendees and not diverse helpers.