What were you doing during Madras Week ask several friends of The Man from Madras Musings. “We saw your Chief and his sidekick at several places, doing the Punch and Judy act,” they added to good effect. Well, all that MMM had to say in reply was that he was at the Registrar’s.
It’s a long story. To make it short and snappy, suffice it to say that MMM had gone there to be of assistance to the good lady (also known as She Who Must Be Obeyed) who had decided Madras Week was the best time to sort out some issues concerning some long lost land on the outskirts of the city. MMM had put up a feeble protest of sorts and had also said in his defence that he was no good when it came to matters concerning torts and malfeasances, not to mention easement rights and barratry in fief. To which the good lady replied that all that MMM had to do was to appear intimidating and lose his temper (when she instructed him to do so, of course). And, so, off he went. The only bright lining being that he could find material for a good column. And that too was dashed to the ground when he discovered that he had in pitiless detail described the goings on at a registrar’s office quite a few a years ago in this very column. The Chief never forgets.
But each time is a new experience, though nothing sensational really happened as far as the business side was concerned during this visit. The good lady intimidated everyone and was angry on demand, thereby rendering MMM superfluous. He therefore wandered about and absorbed the local scenery quite a bit. And this is what he saw.
Considering that this was supposed to be THE happening Registrar’s office, i.e. the office that clocked up the maximum number of property transactions in a year, all that MMM can say is that not much of that revenue had been spent on upkeep. There was an old and beautiful building, which was locked up sans maintenance. Behind it was a Quasimodo of a building, so ugly in its conception and general layout that MMM was quite surprised to see a stone commemorating its inauguration and recording the names of over 20 local officials and politicians actually taking the credit for its coming into this world.
There were three metal chairs meant for visitors. These were, rather like a celebrated tower in Italy, listing to one side, as they were a leg or two short. The metal had long corroded and so even the most intrepid visitor could not sit on them. Those who could not find standing space in the dark and dingy corridors made do with the garden. This had a few age-old trees providing plenty of shade and, what’s more, there was free entertainment thrown in as well.
This, was by way of a monkey, a goat and a pig, all in advanced stages of pregnancy. The monkey, so far gone in its final trimester that you could actually see the clear contours of the foetus, jumped into the crowd whenever it espied anyone with food of some sort. A few brave ones tried shooing it away, but all the rounds, MMM was glad to note, went to the monkey. The goat, for no particular reason, periodically charged into the crowd creating much chaos. But the pig, or should MMM say sow, was really the queen of the place. She periodically bathed in a vast Sargasso sea of sorts, in which surplus rainwater, sewage and plenty of garbage had mixed in equal proportion forming a rich, gooey sludge. This was just abaft a series of bushes, which in the absence of a public latrine served as the local convenience. Whenever the registrants heard nature calling they went behind these bushes which, for some reason, aroused the ire of the pig. It immediately let out a squeal and followed, thereby making those who were in communion with Nature speed up the conversation with Mother Earth considerably. Alacrity would be the mot juste.
On making enquiries, MMM learnt that it was the pig that really kept the area clean. It was not chasing the people away but out of a sense of zeal was rushing in to get on with its duty. It ate up the refuse and, in case of er… solid waste, it actually encouraged those who created such waste with many a grunt to get on with it. And so what with much noise recently being made on manual scavenging, it would appear that this registrar’s office has found the way out. MMM doesn’t think that the monkey and the goat are on the payroll of the local civic body. Unless of course the goat keeps the garden in order by eating the weeds and grass. But what of the monkey? Looking up at the ceiling of the building, MMM saw it richly covered with cobwebs. Perhaps this is the registrar office’s web site (Ha ha, what?). And the monkey keeps it in order. Perhaps it is employed as System Administrator.
That is what this journal ought to be called, reflected The Man from Madras Musings, after he saw the behaviour of a small but select band of freeloaders (FLs) who attended each one of the Madras Musings events organised by the Chief and his sidekicks to celebrate Madras Week. The focus was on the food rather than on the lectures as far as this band of eaters was concerned. And did they do themselves proud! Perhaps they eat only once a year, during Madras Week.
But then, MMM has already waxed eloquent on this subject last year and so will confine himself to what was new.
At one event, plates ran short and one of the FLs was missing an opportunity to feast on vada and sambar. So he immediately ran to the coffee counter, grabbed a cup and came back to the vadas. MMM watched with considerable interest as the FL filled the cup with sambar, proceeded to dunk the vada in it and eat it in peace even as the lecture progressed. Then there was another who brought his entire family, including a couple of juveniles who ought to have been in primary school. Not that the Madras Week events are only for adults. This FL ensured that the family was fed before he ate, his behaviour in the gathering of food being that of a Neanderthal hunter foraging for his loved ones. After the mère et fils had eaten their fill, he sent them away to wander round the neighbourhood and return when the talk was over. To his credit, he sat through the talk, was the first to ask inane questions and be the life and soul of Madras Week. And at an event where the crowd was unprecedented, a society matron was daintily helping herself from a dish when a Brobdignagian among the FLs simply put both his arms around her. His left hand held the plate while with his right he grasped the ladle and served himself. Having done this, he simply lifted the plate above the matron’s head and walked away. Last heard, the lady was being treated for trauma.
A speaker admired
At yet another event, a speaker of considerable charm and good looks, swept everyone off their feet. Among those so charmed was The Man from Madras Musings too. But not so charmed as a man of letters who in the guise of asking a question began to wax eloquent on the beauty of the speaker. Even the prima donna appeared embarrassed.