It was a crisp morning with just a hint of the winter to come at Dimbambu, the capital of Khullamkhullaland, the 30th State of the Indian Union. The throng of tourists had not yet manifested itself at the gates of the Raj Bhawan, the Governor’s official residence, a former Dak Bungalow that had been hastily redesignated for the purpose.
Inside the high-ceilinged, pillared and pedimented building, His Excellency, Pt Gobar Dhan, the Governor, breakfast concluded, was proceeding to his office, where he would have his daily meeting with his Principal Private Secretary. A furrow was adorning the gubernatorial brow. For His Ex was not enjoying his tenure. After a hectic career involving many ups and downs, all through which his cash, bank and land balance remained on the upswing, he had looked forward to retirement in the form of a Governor’s posting. He had welcomed being appointed to Khullamkhullaland when the State was carved out. A new State, he had intoned to his wife, is like a new slate. You can write what you want on it. And with every district in it a hill station, we can invite our children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces and all for holidays or permanent stay also.
But things had not panned out that way. The number of assembly seats was 32 and the first elections resulted in an even tally for the two principal tribes. The State had remained permanently under President’s Rule ever since. Gobar Dhan’s holiday plans had to be cancelled and he had to work hard. And for all that, the pickings were not good. Most of Khullamkhullaland was reserve forest and you could hardly do anything without the National Green Tribunal frowning at it.
“Namaste,” he said to his PPS who was standing to attention.
“Good Morning Sir,” came the reply. “We meet today to discuss your social engagements for December.”
The list was not long – chiefly inaugurations of schools, medical camps, hosting of tea for visitors, meeting some womens organisations and the release of a book by some young author who going by his previous books had a fascination for Governors releasing them at Raj Bhawans.
They made it till the 15th and then the PPS paused.
“Yes?” asked Gobar Dhan
“You take the morning flight from here and proceed to Kolkata from where you take another flight to Chennai.”
“Hunh? Chinnaai? Same place they call Medros? Why?”
“You inaugurate the Music Season of the Sangeetha Vidwat Sabha, one of the premier music institutions of the city.”
“Ah yes I remember. I always liked AR Rahman’s music and so I readily agreed. Also, by 15th December Dimbambu gets cold and so I thought I could so south for a couple of days. Have darsan of Balaji on the way back…”
“Yes Sir, but we need to get your speech ready for it. The Sabha has already asked for it twice as they need to print it in their souvenir.”
“Aap hi kuch likh dijiye na. That is what is always done.”
“Yes sir, but unfortunately, this appears to be a special topic which will need your individual attention. None of us has any idea about what to say…”
“What is there in this? A few words about Rahman, something about Rajinikanth and we are done. Why are you hesitating over this?”
“It is not that Sir. This is not a film festival. This has to do with classical music – shastriya sangeet…”
“Really? You mean these Madrasis have things like that? I thought only Pt Ravi Shankar and then Ustad Bismillah Khan… but wait a minute, Pt Bhimsen Joshi also was Madrasi no?”
“No sir. He was from the Karnataka-Maharashtra border – a place called Dharwar.”
“Same thing. All these fellows are Madrasis. They speak Madrasi also.”
The PPS decided to call the meeting to order.
“The only man who knows anything about this subject is former Chief Secretary Swaminathan…”
“Never! If you think I am going to call that **** for any discussion you are much mistaken. If I had to deal with him why do you think I shunted him to the Archives?” thundered Gobar Dhan.
The PPS remained silent.
“This Swaminathan single-handedly ruined my holiday…er my posting here. If he had not been so strict while handling the elections, we would have had a majority party in office here. High command in Delhi also would have been happy. But this Madrasi had to be tough on cash being handed out… Which is why I kicked him to the Archives.”
The PPS remained silent.
It was left to Gobar Dhan to resume the thread.
“Why cannot someone do something? Read something off googal?”
“We tried sir. But the terms are very confusing. You see, you will need to quote from Telugu and Tamil.”
“And what are these? Books?”
“No Sir. South Indian languages.”
“Then what is Madrasi?”
The PPS sighed. It was during moments like these that he wished he had never sat for the IAS exams.
To be continued