The Chief is forever asking The Man from Madras Musings to visit local museums to broaden his (MMM’s and not the Chief’s) mind. As many of you know, MMM lives by the mantra of Obey – when it comes to the Chief and MMM’s good lady. And, so, finding time hanging heavy when he was travelling down south, MMM decided to visit the local museum.
Arriving at the place it became clear to MMM that this museum would have been better off not being built. The brainchild of a late lamented minister to whom the local language and its furtherance were the only goals in life, it was a single storeyed structure of unsurpassed ugliness, the kind that no creator other than the Public Works Department can come up with. An irregular flight of steps led up to the door and on entering after much tripping and stubbing of toes owing to the non-uniform rises and treads, MMM found himself in pitch darkness. A genie or apparition then made itself manifest and asked MMM rather lugubriously if he would like to see the exhibits. When MMM replied in the affirmative, it sighed and reluctantly switched on the lights to reveal a set of display cabinets with the most humdrum collection possible – stamps of recent vintage, a cupboard ostensibly showcasing history of recorded music by means of a 78 rpm disc and a CD sitting side by side, another bureau with prints (not originals) of Indian currency notes, and, rather curiously, a box that was stuffed with shredded rupees. A recent print of Thomas Munro hung from a wall and next to it was an earlier print of the same.
The apparition that manned the place moaned that not many visitors come to the place and so it preferred to keep the lights switched off. To while away its time, this spook filed documents into folders, of which quite a collection was spread on the floor. On the wall was a map showing ‘importent’ places in what MMM had originally thought was a fertile neighbourhood.
Having wandered hither and thither, MMM came to what appeared to be a hole in the ground. The genie informed him that there was a basement section and asked if MMM would like to see it. Of course MMM said he would, whereupon the ghost said MMM could navigate under his own steam, switch on the lights and see whatever there was to see. And so MMM went.
There was more of the usual rubbish and then finally there stood a glass shelf with publications from the museums department of Madras. Among these were several that MMM would have loved to possess and so he called out to the resident ghost if these were for sale. The answer rather reluctantly given out was a ‘yes’ and when MMM said he would like to buy them, the voice declared that MMM would have to tender exact change. To this MMM agreed where upon there was dead silence. After a while the voice was back, declaring rather cheerfully that the deal was off as the museum had no receipt books for make out an invoice. MMM said he did not need one.
That dished the ghost. Or so MMM thought. Ten minutes later, the attendant duly arrived with an enormous bag of keys. These were emptied on the floor. There were no tags to identify which key opened which cupboard said the man and, so, he would have to try them all one by one. In the meantime, said the attendant, MMM could feast his eyes on the exhibits. MMM, as Lady Macbeth would have said, stood not upon the order of his going, but went. In short, he fled.