It has come and gone and the Man from Madras Musings is still recovering from it. There were ribbons to be cut, prizes to be awarded, speeches to made, babies to be kissed, interviews to be given, talk shows to be hosted, heritage walks to be conducted and at the end of it all, MMM is battered. Unlike the late Chief, MMM has never been much of an evening outer and he is happiest at home, curled up with a book. But Madras Week is a sacred trust and MMM would be loath to give it a miss. 

It would not be correct to say that all the events were a chore – MMM truly enjoyed many. But there were some that proved more of a trial. There was one particular event that MMM would prefer not to recall. It was an invitation that could not be refused and MMM reluctantly consented to be Chief Guest. The venue was a college hall with no scope of any ventilation. To add to the stifling heat, there was video recording (for the benefit of those who could either genuinely not make it in person or were plain lazy) and this meant lights that were straight out of Dante’s Inferno. They bored into your body and had probably been repurposed from some X-Ray apparatus.

To top it all, this was one of those events where the introduction of the speakers (there were six of them) was a ceremonial – it had to be gone through twice – once during the welcome address and then again when the turn came for each of the speakers to torture the audience. MMM holds the view that these introductions are the most superfluous part of any event – most in the audience don’t care who has come to speak and only hope that they will not drone too long for the lunch to go cold. But here in this event, the introductions were gone into pitiless detail and wherever it was felt that the honoured guest did not have a sufficiently impressive curriculum vitae, some fictional additions were made. Thus it was that MMM got to know that he (MMM) had worked for much of his life in Dubai (he has been there twice) and had retired to take up writing as a full-time occupation (MMM shudders at the prospect). 

By the time MMM’s turn came, the audience was becoming restive. Those in the rear seats had already begun to melt away. MMM stood at the podium and the next moment the entire hall was engulfed in darkness. The video light alone was not switched off and continued to blind MMM. In fact, it gave him the feeling that he was at an ophthalmologist’s and was being subject to a retinal scan. MMM protested via the microphone and then the lights came on to reveal half the audience had vanished under cover of darkness. It struck MMM as a rather good idea and he kicked himself for not having thought of this himself. Anyway, he delivered his speech in record time, just so that the remaining in the audience did not vanish as well. 

It was then memento time. MMM was gifted with a box that he opened much later in the day. Out came a mug. Rather appropriate MMM reflected. Such events are a mug’s game and MMM never fails to fall for them. 

Join me on my heritage tour of Delhi, Agra and Fatehpur Sikri

My book, Chennai, A Biography can be ordered here