Those who lived next to or close to Kind To The Poor are stunned. They claim that he was to them always a kindly man, rather true to his name and now they find from the newspapers that he was rather big in the world of idol theft. Many have made their calls to the Man from Madras Musings and expressed their shock, horror and surprise. At the end of each such session MMM was left wondering if it was his mind that imagined it or whether there really was an undercurrent of delight in the way they poured out their opinions.
All this in MMM’s view spoke volumes about neighbourly spirit in our city. In the years when Chennai was Madras and had more bungalows than you knew what to do with, it was customary that people never spoke to their neighbours and only sprang to life when the income tax or the enforcement directorate or the crime branch of the police made a visit to the family next door. Now that Madras is Chennai and has more flats than what builders can deal with, MMM is told that the situation is not much different. The old man in the ground floor flat he is informed, refuses to pay the lift dues claiming he never uses it and as for the family in the top-most floor, it locks up the terrace, claiming it has ownership over everything from its floor upwards all the way to the heavens, flyby rights being exempt. In short you need to behave as though your neighbour does not exist.
That was exactly the way the neighbourhood of Kind To The Poor appears to have dealt with his trade in idols as long as he did not fall foul of the law. What surprises MMM is that he (by which MMM means Kind To The Poor and not he, MMM) managed to ply his trade in stolen idols for so many years right from the heart of the city. From the photographs that MMM sees in the papers it appears that his (by which MMM means Kind To The Poor’s and not his, MMM’s) backyard was filled with idols, some of them larger than an average human’s height. Surely the neighbours would have had enough curiosity to look over the wall with a wild surmise like stout Cortez’s men when he gazed from the peak? Surely they would have wondered on seeing what looked like an ancient sculpture fresh hacked out of its rightful home? Or was it that they assumed that he was a great art lover who was collecting all these pieces with a passion?
MMM also wonders as to the law enforcers. How is it that they did not notice huge statues being transported to and from the centre of the city? These are the same people who stop trucks carrying just about anything from pipes to clay pots to cows and buffaloes. Were they that God fearing that they decided to exempt from their gaze anything that was even remotely religious? Whatever it was that caused this selective myopia, MMM surmises that Kind To The Poor was kind hearted to share his wealth with several others and that is probably why he got away for so long. Of course in this MMM does not include the neighbours, who in the true spirit of our city chose to turn a blind eye to what was happening next door. That was until the crime branch of the police came calling.
Still on the subject of Kind To The Poor – a wag called the Man from Madras Musings and suggested that he and his chief ought to organise a heritage walk to the home of the above-accused gent. After all said the wag, there was every likelihood that there would be more heritage per square inch in that residence than in the rest of the city taken together. What do you say Chief? After all, Madras Week is just around the corner. Of course Kind To The Poor will not be in residence to play host but his neighbours may be more than willing to sing.