An old pic of Central ( now renamed) signboard in three languages. Pic from

The Man from Madras Musings was quiet for a change. All around him a perfect Babel of voices rose and fell, each in its own cadence, pitch and punctuation. We were all standing in a newly-constructed toilet, of 4’*4’ dimension, the temperature was at an all-time high and there was dust all around. Before you run away with the idea that a group of men had met in a loo for some nefarious activity let MMM dispel such notions. This was a toilet in the new chez of MMM and his good lady, also known as She Who Must Be Obeyed and it was not working. A gathering of experts had been called in and discussions were in progress.


It was as MMM said earlier, something out of Babel for several native languages were heard. The marble layer was from Rajasthan, the plumber from Kerala, the supervisor a Telugu and the person who supplied the porcelain fixtures a dignified Muslim who no doubt swore into his beard in Urdu. Add a couple of labourers from Orissa and you have the complete picture. MMM’scook, from Bihar stood respectfully at the door – it was he who had pointed out that the flush received copious amounts of water but when the lever was pulled did not give of its plenty. It was as though he said, in a flight of imagery that was worthy of his master, there was a giant sponge somewhere inside that absorbed all the water that fell into the tunkee (as he referred to tank). Of Tamil there was none, barring MMM of course.


And that made MMM wonder. Where are our Tamil brethren? Is it really true that Tamil Nadu is so industrially developed that everyone is employed in some high-paying job thereby leaving aside all menial chores to people from other States? MMM somehow has his doubts, his view being that the bulk of the brothers are even now at some Tasmac outlet or the other, lifting their elbows ever so often. But then, if they are able to afford it or if the Government is able to make it affordable, who is MMM to complain?


Anyway, there we were, the brothers across India, unable to settle the matter of this mysterious toilet. Each blamed the other and for a moment it appeared that blood would be shed. The cook magically weighed in with tea and that calmed things down. It was decided that the marble needs to be broken open so that the flush tank, which had been buried into the wall rather in the manner of Mughal-era courtesans, could be inspected. What was not mentioned was that MMM, who had paid for the original work, would now do so for the taking apart and reassembly. Not that MMM had a choice anyway but he did reflect on how inconvenient these modern conveniences were. In the old days, the flush tank was outside and you could even lift the lid and check if there was water before you went on with your business. But now there is no way you can do that, unless you have X-ray vision of course.


The dismantling was duly done and the culprit it was discovered, was a tonne or so of white cement that had made its way into the tank. Once again everyone blamed everyone else, each in his own language. MMM suggested in the Queen’s tongue that they better get on with it. They did, and when finished it was found that someone had managed to leave a gaping hole above the commode. This it was decided, needed to be fixed with white cement, but then that meant we ran the risk of it getting into the flush tank again. The cook felt another meeting was in order. MMM has wisely decided to abstain.

Join me on my Mylapore and the Independence Struggle walk at 4 pm on August 15th. Click here