A urinal on Whites Road

Every once in a while, VIPs turn up in this, our Chennai, from other parts of the country and the world. If they have some spare time, the Man from Madras Musings is asked to meet up with them and throw some light on our city’s history and heritage, both of which, as we all know can do with all the illumination they can get, given the way we keep them under wraps. And so it was last week. MMM met up with one such VIP for a tour of a particular building. MMM, VIP and entourage were following a pre-determined route, when VIP made a detour. The followers decided to follow, whereupon VIP indicated that he was en route to the restroom aka toilet. That made MMM remember an anecdote once related to him by a top policewoman of our city.

This was when the same lady was a junior in the service and was heading the police force in a small town in our State. It was not a place to which many VIPs came except when there were elections afoot. And so it happened that one of the most charismatic of leaders arrived in the town while on the campaign trail. The itinerary involved him addressing a mammoth meeting and then leading a procession, also mammoth, through the town. The meeting went off well and then it was time for the procession to begin.

Policewoman-in-charge kept track of the progress from a control room and for quite a while everything went as per schedule. All of a sudden, at a particular junction, the leader went off on a tangent, followed by the entire procession. Top cop was furious and anxious as well and began asking on the walkie-talkie (this being the pre cell phone era) as to what was going on. The policeman at the other end, who had till then kept up a steady stream of communication, suddenly became highly reticent. He hummed and hawed. This provoked top cop even more and she had to firmly ask the man as to what was going on.

It was then that he came out with the whole story. Leader had done rather well for himself with the soda water they had supplied at the meeting and this had had its effect. He had begun asking for toilet early on in the procession and his requests had become more and more pressing as time went along. Left with no option, the policemen on duty had decided to take him on a side route to a hotel but there was no way this could be communicated to the crowd. And so they had all followed him!

However, even as the cop related this to the lady at the other end, many of the hangers-on picked up the story and passed it on to the rest of the surging crowd. The leader’s call of nature became public information. As if on cue, several of the faithful promptly relieved themselves on the compound wall of the hotel and other places nearby.

MMM and his VIP had a more humdrum walkabout in comparison.