These are times when in the worlds of politics and arts, you can earn brownie points by prefixing people’s names with a ‘Doctor’ and suffixing them with a ‘ji’. The latter, incidentally, appears to have penetrated the Tamil lexicon, at least in Madras that is Chennai, for even the most rabid Hindi haters use the ‘ji’ at all odd moments. Coming back to the similarity between the worlds of arts and politics, it does not end with the Dr and the Ji. Politics is said to be an art and as for art, it is full of politics.

All these profound thoughts came to the mind of The Man from Madras Musings when last fortnight he attended a seminar on hundred years of dance or some such topic. MMM is rather vague about it chiefly because the speeches that he heard did not have that theme. It was more a question of a standard presentation that each of these presenters had, which they no doubt flog repeatedly, force-fitting it in some way to suit the topic for which they had been invited. How else can MMM explain the fact that one of the keynote speakers spoke entirely on the scenario in Indian dance in the 2nd Century CE? He remained steadfast to that time period and even at the end of his presentation did not touch on the dance scenario of the last hundred years. If that was not bad enough, his presentation itself comprised images of several closely typed pages being projected on the screen, all of which he insisted on reading out in pitiless detail. In a way that was to the good for the audience could not read a word – the type size was beyond the capacity of the human eye and the only way out would have been to present each member of the audience with a pair of binoculars, the kind that ornithologists use.

If that was bad enough, the speaker in question had quite clearly decided that he was the sole presenter for the day. He had been given twenty minutes, as had everybody else, but he chose to ramble on for an hour. The net result was that the time schedule was shot to pieces. Not that it appeared to matter to anyone except MMM. The audience dozed, glad to be in an air-conditioned room while the temperature outside was like that of any oven set to bake. They would have slept on and the speaker could have droned on, had not the major domo of ceremonies, waking mid-snore, took a startled glance at the clock and announced tea break. The speaker then came out of his trance, declared that he had no idea that the time had gone by so quickly. He never could keep track of time, he said, especially when he was speaking. He then promised to wrap up in the next few minutes and spent the next 15 of them in thanking everyone concerned, all of them Dr ‘Ji’s. The Dr ‘Ji’s in the audience lapped it all up and when, eventually, after what seemed like an eternity, the speaker waddled off stage, he was greeted with good applause. The Dr ‘Ji’s were happy that they had been referred to in flattering terms and let MMM tell you that when applying flattery in the arts world you need to do so with a shovel. As to why several others in the audience clapped was something of a mystery to MMM until he came to know that the speaker, or the drone in question, had in him the power to grant fellowships, research grants and an award or two. He was warmly thanked for his erudite and scholarly presentation.

MMM was billed three down, but he realised that given the way the programme was going he would get his turn somewhere around midnight. He therefore used his cajoling powers and got himself upgraded to speak immediately after the coffee break. And having finished what he had to say, well within the time allotted to him, he chose to depart. The next speaker was scheduled to have a go and the first slide depicted something from the 5th Century BC.