The Bird of Oz
The Man from Madras Musings couldn’t believe his eyes. The whole thing reminded him of the nursery rhyme, which if you recollect went this way:
When Mary had a little lamb
The Doctor was surprised
But when Old MacDonald had a farm
He couldn’t believe his eyes
MMM was more or less in the position of the doctor, for walking in front of him, on a busy thoroughfare of this other Eden, viz our Madras that is Chennai, was a pair of emus (or are they Emi? But since that reminds MMM of Equal Monthly Instalments and his borrowings, MMM will refer to them as emus). What these flightless birds from Down Under were doing here and how did they come down to the city (they could have hardly flown and walking all the way is out of question) were mysteries that MMM was not equal to solving. Had the Chief, who is forever buzzing off to Oz, coming back and writing books, giving talks and being the Wizard for all practical purposes brought in a couple of eggs, watched them hatch and then turned them out on to the streets? When confronted he denied it all hotly and asked rather testily as to whether he had the time to sit on eggs till they hatched.
Further enquiries revealed that rearing emus is now the in thing in this our land. Everyone, from aged grandmother to budding software engineer with some surplus cash is investing in emu, some on emi basis. Everyone short of Chief and MMM that is. Though why the Chief is not into it beats MMM, ‘coz he is that cosy to anything Aussie. But to get back to the matter of the emu. Apparently, emu (not to be confused with the ostrich) grows fat (rather like Indian software engineers) and lays eggs (also like Indian software engineers if you consider the number of dud softwares doing the rounds) for most of their lives. Every part of the emu is marketable, so the cognoscenti inform MMM, everything from toe to feather (unlike software engineers who may have toes but not marketable ones and definitely not feathers anyway, though several do feather their nests rather well.) There is another school of thought that claims that emu marketing is a scam of the first water and all that you are left with are unpaid emi.
Perhaps the owner of the two emus that MMM saw walking along was one of the latter school and had abandoned them to the roads of Chennai. What harm can a couple of extra vagrants do could be his view. Or perhaps he was out to get them fat on the cheap and so trained them to forage in garbage dumps, which is precisely what the two emu were doing. Shortly thereafter they also began tearing wall posters with their beaks and then chewing them up (the posters and not the beaks). The birds were evidently going local. Given their height they could easily reach the taller posters, the ones reserved for the pater, mater, frater, soror and the rest of our rival ruling clans. Other animals looked on with envy.
MMM decided to be cautious and so photographed the avian pair from a distance. He had read somewhere that the emu could be lethal with its legs. It was only much later that he realised that it was the ostrich that was known for the kick of death.
Once inspired, the Man from Madras Musings is unstoppable and the emu have encouraged him no end. Do any of you readers rather like Old MacDonald realise that we now have an addition to our animal family? So far in Chennai we have seen cows, pigs, dogs, goats, horses and the occasional elephant. Now we have the emu. The bird will no doubt add its droppings to what is already a rich mixture of multifarious dungs including that of the human variety. And now motorists, who belong to the highest and most evolved category among animals that survive on roads, can begin working on how to incorporate the emu into the food chain. As to who will ultimately consume whom is a matter of conjecture. Will the emu teach the other animals a thing or two when it comes to traffic management? Only time will tell.
Talking about accidents involving animals, MMM is informed that while the dog is perhaps the most dangerous for it has a tendency to dart forward suddenly and get caught between the wheels, the pig spells economic disaster. Apparently, any vehicle dashed against by a pig is practically unsaleable according to Chennai tradition. The thing may as well be gifted to the pig for future use. MMM asked as to what would happen if the seller just kept silent about the attraction his vehicle had for pigs. That would never do. It was the recognised duty of the seller to inform the buyer that his vehicle was once in a relationship with a pig. In Chennai the truth is still spoken on occasion.
MMM’s favourite animal story is not from Chennai but from Kolkata where he once lived. And MMM can assure you it is a true story and was in all the papers when MMM was a (cherubic) child. The camel from a touring circus ran off one night and the trainer got on to an elephant to give it chase. This continued for quite some distance till the camel, tiring of it all, came to a halt beside a temple. The elephant soon caught up but was so excited at seeing the camel that it trumpeted. That stirred the camel like an egg whisk and off it went once more, with the elephant and rider in hot pursuit. Traffic came to a halt and most schools declared a holiday. The dromedary was eventually cornered by the tusker and brought home but the police was not amused. Chennai is relatively a tame place but MMM is quite hopeful that the emu will stir matters up.
That if you recollect was a term that once got a minister contemplating fresh matrimony into considerable acrimony and also probably negotiations on alimony. But what the Man from Madras Musings wishes to highlight is that cattle are back on Chennai roads, in quite large numbers. A very early Worship who is now being groomed for taking over as hereditary head of his establishment, rather as in a monastery, was dead against them. But his successors have taken a worshipful attitude as far as these animals are concerned, leaving them undisturbed. The emu has company.