Of late The Man from Madras Musings is invited to all kinds of events. The expression all and sundry would be the mot juste with emphasis being on the sundry. MMM imagines his position to be equivalent to that of an ageing and waterlogged boot that gets regularly caught in the fishing nets cast by event organisers. They cast him back into the waters after their respective events are over so that other organisers can then haul him in.
Perhaps it is the way MMM looks especially when being photographed that inspires these people, for by way of memento (or momento as MMM has often seen it spelt in this our land), they invariably gift him a coffee mug. MMM now has a huge collection of these, varying in size, design and overall ghastliness. Some sport oriental designs, others bear cartoons and some have plain messages. There is one common factor – they cannot be recycled by way of gifting them away to someone else. That is because all of them have personalised messages immortalising the giver or the taker. Take for instance a gift of a mug from an institute of technology’s alumni association that has its logo engraved on it. How can MMM pass this off to anyone else? The first question the mug at the receiving end is bound to ask on opening the gift is whether MMM is an alumnus of that institution, which he is not. The receiving mug is then bound to ponder over the gift mug and come to the conclusion that MMM had made a mug out of him. And so, MMM is stuck with hundreds of mugs.
The problem is that you cannot make a coffee set of six out disparate mugs. And even if you did, how many such sets can you have? After all, MMM is not the British Royal Family to throw tea parties for hundred where all these mugs can be used. You can use a couple as pen stands but then how many of those can you have? Add toothbrush holders and a planter for some indoor foliage in miniature but even after all these uses, there are still several mugs left over. The only possible use that MMM can think of is to carry these mugs each time he goes on an overseas visit. Many countries have an abhorrent policy of paper instead of water for what are known as ablutions. MMM is strongly pro-water. These mugs are bound to come in handy and the advantage is that you can leave them behind in the toilets used as a kind gesture for future visitors from India who may be desperate to wash as opposed to wipe. There is however the matter of excess baggage. MMM wonders as to how many mugs would constitute a kilogram of baggage.
Having come to the conclusion that he has been made a mug out of thus far, MMM has taken to asking event organisers who invite him if they intend gifting him a mug for his services. And then, not waiting for their response, he also makes it clear that he is not in the market for any mugs and would be glad if they desisted from offering him any memento. He then proceeds to list the other items he does not want – shawls of brocade or any other variety, black lacquer or silver plated Tanjore plates, papier-mâché figurines, photo frames, tinsel filigree garlands with balls of sandal that leave a yellow stain on your clothes thereby making you remember the event forever… the list is seemingly endless.
The inevitable reaction on MMM issuing such a caveat is that such gifts are part of our tradition. MMM wonders since when mugs became part of our tradition. Coffee yes, but mugs? Anyway, he has since managed to deter many a determined organiser from gifting him these assorted useless items. He has made bold to suggest flowers or fruits as options but these have not met with much favour. Probably the expense involved (you cannot order flowers and fruits at the beginning of the year for all the planned events in the calendar and strike a bargain price for wholesale purchase as you can do with gimcrack whatnots) makes organisers think twice.
May be you can pay someone like a domestic help to hand those mugs over to homeless destitute children; might as well make their day. Some of them may even know how to make money out of it.
Gift them in all future Upanayana (whether invitation is with blessings of Kanchi Seer or Sringeri Seer) with your autograph on the mug and tell the parents or grandparents of the Brahmachari, not to buy expensive gold or silver panchapatra or udharini and use the copious mugs instead. Maybe in a future auction at Sotheby’s or Christie’s, the autographed mug can bring in cupaa of cash to the then no-longer Brahmachari, in his then state of financial deficit.
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