Enjoying the Season
Each Music Season, The Man from Madras Musings and his good lady add on quite a bit of avoirdupois and spend the rest of the year trying to slough it off. That is because the Music Season is also the season of food, what with several canteens operated by some of Chennai’s best caterers coming up at the sabhas. MMM agrees with Swami Vivekananda who once famously said that philosophy cannot be preached to an audience with an empty stomach. The same applies to music as well. And MMM usually attends concerts on an overfull stomach. Like Napoleon’s armies, MMM marches from sabha to sabha on his stomach.
Having said that, MMM would also like to add that not everything is hunky dory on the food front. And by that the inevitable fallouts of indigestion and adipose alone are not meant. The canteens themselves have gone the way of liberalisation and that means they are readily sacrificing core values. All that may seem too deeply philoso-phical for a column like this, written largely with the idea of spreading sweetness and light. And, so, before you move away, let MMM assure you that this liberalisation has also resulted in some amusing sidelights.
The menu, for one, has gone international. So you have a number of North Indian and Chinese dishes. And these are proudly printed on the cards, without any care for correct spelling. How else do you explain dishes such as kulsa (kulcha), thagi papti (dahi papdi), dhai puri (dahi puri) and, above all, that child of Gopi and Manju – Gopi Manjurian? All it needs is babaghanouj spelt as Babuganesh!
Another pet peeve is the average sense of hygiene. Most canteen regulars appear immune, but not MMM. Thus at one sabha, it is only at peak feeding time that a man appears, opens a manhole cover, peers in and, then, having shaken his head, leaves the cover open and goes off somewhere. Having left the eaters to inhale the aroma wafting from the open drain for some time, he returns with a long pole which he now proceeds to put in. He then stirs whatever is simmering in the bowels of the building. Whatever he does appears effective, for after some time he closes the lid and walks away. Every evening this drama is repeated without fail. Not the most appetising of sights and MMM was further traumatised when a fellow feeder remarked in jest that that was the way most of the gravy was prepared for the evening feed.
All this did not appear to deter anyone (MMM included). Feasting at all hours was the motto and somewhere up above there must be a God who likes people who like their food. For, there has never been a single instance of a canteen that makes people fall ill. Whether there are any lingering after-effects, manifesting only after a certain number of Seasons, MMM is unable to say. He is no doctor, but he can assure you that if there is such an impact, he should know for he has, for a number of Seasons now, been actively browsing and sluicing.
The present administration is on a street-name painting spree. No doubt, eminence personage hailed as a second Lincoln in posters has demanded that anything that is a vestige of the previous regime needs to be done away with. Consequently, several of the rather well-designed luminous signboards put by the Artiste and his party have become convenient places for pasting posters (of the modern day Lincoln II). The present regime has also gone back to painting road names on compound walls at least those that are not covered with posters of Lincoln II and Artiste that is. And there is ample scope for much fun and laughter if you just follow the painter’s progress, as The Man from Madras Musings has been doing.
How else do you explain Kandasamy Lean? That it is a narrow alley notwithstand-ing, surely someone ought to have seen that it was a lane? MMM had barely espied this and was busy capturing it with a camera when along came a local tough and demanded to know what MMM was up to. Wiser by experience, MMM immediately said that he represented a newspaper that has for its name a majority community in this secular land of ours. That did the trick. The tough immediately softened, patted MMM on the shoulder and said that MMM’s newspaper was his favourite. He also asked MMM to take whatever photo he wanted. And so MMM did. As he prepared to leave, the tough informed MMM that he had been repeatedly requesting the local municipal office to come and correct the signboard and they were yet to comply.
Back in office, MMM checked the camera to only find that something was wrong with its innards and Kandasamy Lean was lost to posterity. He rushed back to the site only to find a man with paint and brush, busy as a bee. The tough was nowhere to be seen. So MMM sidled up to the painter and asked him what he was up to. To which he received the reply that news had come around that someone from one of these good-for-nothing newspapers had been nosing around for a story, had discovered a spelling mistake, and was threatening to blow the issue out of proportion. And so the local office had sent the painter around to correct it before it became big. And Ichabod! The deed had been done. And so Kandasamy Lean had become Kandasamy Lane.
It was a disheartened MMM who returned to work. But you can never keep a good man down. That very evening MMM discovered this gem. And he captured it with two cameras just to make sure. This was Pilot Lane at one time, running alongside the eponymous theatre. See what it has become. May it make our city more courteous.
That is a vast subject, needing perhaps a full story with sabhas needing to be graded on the basis of the conveniences they provide. But The Man from Madras Musings could not help overhearing a dancer complain to a sabha secretary about the appalling conditions of the sabha’s toilets. To which the society Maama simply replied that the dancer had better relieve herself at home before coming over. Now, how would it be if the same sabha’s audiences decided to eat well before coming over and thereby avoid patronage of the canteen? Or perhaps decided to take the custom elsewhere for music and dance as well? The secretary may do well to think that over.