Let there be Madras Week, said the Chief, and there was Madras Week. The Man from Madras Musings can almost imagine the Chief, bare toes and knee caps and all, being wafted through the sky in a billowing cape in which are also carried the team of evangelists of the Week, MMM being one of them. In front leans Madras itself, suitably clad, of course, and the Chief ignites it by the touch of a finger. At least that was how MMM visualised the scene, falling into a light doze after a heavy dinner and while reading a book on Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel.
And, so, here we are with yet another Madras Week. And may it be a success as has been its wont in the past many years. MMM, as always, looks forward to it, for apart from the hustle and bustle of celebrating the city, it also gives him enough and more for this column. In the past, MMM has written about the freeloaders (and has been roasted in letters to ye ed) and the critics (who anyway roasted MMM) who surface suddenly during the Week. This time, MMM would like to take his lyre and sing of the over enthusiastic under-achievers who too surface suddenly during the Week and then vanish as abruptly as they came.
This band fancies itself to be volunteering for the Week. It is not to be confused with those who really volunteer and do the many unseen acts of kindness that make the Week a success – conducting events in the neighbourhood, spreading the gospel of heritage, and generally broadcasting sweetness and light. Of that lot MMM has nothing to say beyond the fact that he would like to kiss the hem of their garment as they pass by shedding light. Of the first lot, however, MMM has quite a bit to write.
This is the kind that usually calls MMM just around the time that action for the Week begins. After the usual opening gambits (Oh, MMM! How are you? We must meet soon for dinner etc), to none of which MMM responds for they mean nothing, the caller gets to the main subject – the pet idea for Madras Week. The concept is usually of two kinds – the first where the caller wants an event arranged for himself/herself, where he/she is the centre of attraction with all the work to be done by MMM and his ilk. These people are once again of two kinds – the aggressive or the petulant. The first one declares himself/herself to be an expert on every topic under the sun (with information usually plagiarised from the writings of the Chief and a few others) and demands to know why he/she has not been invited to speak during the Week. The second variety chooses to be maudlin and declares that he/she has not been invited to participate owing to a conspiracy of some kind to keep him/her away. These self-centred people are placated very simply by telling them that there is always a next year. If not, they can be told to organise an event by themselves (such voluntary organising is what Madras Week is all about) after which nothing much will be heard from them till the subsequent Madras Week.
Far more numerous is another variety of caller – the one with strange ideas, all of which they would like someone else to implement. These can range from declaring the Beach Road a pedestrian plaza for one week, lighting up all the heritage monuments of the city every night for seven days, declaring a holiday for schoolchildren for a full seven days so that they can enjoy the Week, and, above all, getting those in the highest echelons of Government to participate in the celebrations. Answering these is tricky. A ‘no’ would mean being branded a naysayer for life. A ‘yea’ would mean taking on more than can be handled. Here again, MMM has discovered that it is best to let them do the implementation, which ends the discussion. After all, MMM recalls, Madras Week is all about volunteering to organise events, is it not?