The Man from Madras Musings is visibly melting in the heat. Perhaps it is the onset of old age, or perhaps it is just addiction to air-conditioning. But as the years progress, MMM, who for years considered himself one of those hardy specimens whom the vagaries of the weather affect not, finds himself more and more dependent on artificial means of bringing down the ambient temperature. O for a beaker full of the warm south, sang Keats – and he could not have got it more wrong. What is needed is for the south to cool down. For that matter, so does the north. MMM learns that those in Delhi at 47 deg C are looking enviously at our city which, according to them, is enjoying an unfair advantage at 41 deg C.
Chennai by itself is now broadly divided into two groups – the first complains it is the heat that affects it, while the other says it is the humidity. Not that it has ever snowed in our city, but there is no denying that the summers are getting worse. This is chiefly because of the way we construct our homes and offices, and the way we dress. Of the first two, MMM will restrict himself to stating that this is not a city that can handle buildings in close proximity, low ceilings, glassed windows and shut-in interiors. But who is going to listen? Perhaps these are circumstances beyond our control; the population being such and the spaces being so insufficient, this would appear to be the construction style for the present and the foreseeable future.
But on the matter of apparel, MMM has much to cavil about. What has happened to the cottons that once made Madras a name to contend with the world over? Why has the populace abandoned that eminently suitable fabric for synthetic ones that are not meant for our climes? MMM wishes that the average Chennai man would give nylons and polyesters the go-by at least in summer and revert to cotton. MMM learns that one of the reasons for the former scoring over the latter is ease of maintenance – they don’t crease and wrinkle like cottons. Drip-dry and wear, appears to be the motto. Only the drip is more of sweat which, when dry, hits everyone’s nose.
Everything in India smells except the rose was a derogatory comment made during the British Raj. MMM would like to add that nothing smells worse than the average Chennai male clad in synthetics during the summer. And given that most of these characters feast rather well at lunchtime on onion- and garlic-flavoured foods, the odour gets compounded. Add smoking and frequent coffee drinking and you have something building up that could eventually blow away the entire ozone layer. It is time we had a movement against this couldn’t-care-less attitude towards body odour.
Get on with it, MMM, say the more delicately constituted among his readers. And so MMM will bring this diatribe against stinkers to a close. But not before making a few more observations. Firstly, this particular group has no class distinction – the top-notch executive who recycles clothes smells the same as the AC mechanic who comes home and leaves a rich odour behind. Ditto the chauffeur or a waiter at a restaurant. It all comes under the head of wrong choice of fabric. Secondly, the old lady of Tamil who has a statue on the beach instructed that we rinse our raiment even if it were a rag. That appears to have been given the go-by since her days. Lastly, can we expect the State Government to dispense branded deodorants along with everything else that it is giving?