The Man from Madras Musings is a sucker for these things – invite him to speak and he will accept at once. His good lady, also known as She Who Must Be Obeyed, believes that this is some kind of an addiction, a complete dependence on the microphone and a large-ish audience looking up at the podium. In all her years of playing Simon Legree to MMM’s Uncle Tom, the good lady has cured him of many things. Making strange noises while eating, not blocking the mouth while yawning, and the urge to sing at all odd hours being just a few (MMM is certain that the good lady can add several more to the list). But this tendency to accept invitations to speak is one that even she, despite her iron hand in the velvet glove, has been unable to rid MMM of. And so we have MMM hurrying from speech to speech, rather like politicians at election time.
What is the point of this extensive preamble you wonder. MMM can also see the Chief gritting his teeth as he, green pen in hand, proceeds to read the above tract. “Get on with it,” is probably what the Chief mutters on such occasions, and so MMM will get on with it. The reason why MMM brought all this up is a prize-giving event at a college that specialises in architecture and planning, that he was invited to. The professor who called MMM was an acquaintance of longstanding and MMM could not refuse. On the appointed day, MMM drove up at the appointed hour and after, as is usual in such places, having explained the reason why he had come to a most sceptical security officer who had never been kept informed of MMM’s visit, he entered the august portals of the institution.
Staggered into the place would be more appropriate. For one, the steps were not of uniform rise and tread, which was rather surprising for a college that specialises in architecture. MMM, having lifted his foot to the extent that the earlier steps had risen, found himself stubbed on the last one which was much taller, and so shot forward as if from a cannon. Having clutched at a potted plant he found that he had fast-forwarded into the Dean’s office where everything was shrouded in darkness. It was as though a solar eclipse was in progress. The good officer was at his desk, thinking dark thoughts no doubt and on seeing MMM bound in with what appeared to be murderous intent he was naturally startled.
MMM introduced himself. The Dean, who had stopped palpitating by then and let go of the marble regulation pen stand that he had clutched as a weapon of defence, was not impressed. Why had MMM come, he asked. Did MMM not know that he the Dean did not meet anyone without an appointment? And if MMM was seeking admission for his ward then he, the Dean, would like to inform him, MMM, that it was rather too late. By then, what MMM in the dim light took to be a potted palm became animated and revealed itself as a peon. MMM turned to him and asked for the professor who had called him to the college in the first place. The peon left to find the person and in the meanwhile, peace of some kind having been restored, MMM explained to the Dean that he was the chief guest for the prize distribution. The man, who clearly had no idea as to who had been invited, immediately turned on a smile that revealed several more teeth than the usual number. He asked MMM to take a seat. Would MMM like to have coffee or tea or coconut water, he enquired. MMM opted for the last named.
In the meanwhile, the inviting professor came rushing in and, in a highly flustered voice, did the formal introductions. Surely the Dean had read what MMM wrote about, said the professor to the Dean, accompanying it with a winning smile and an arch look that indicated that the Dean had better say ‘yes’. The Dean got the cue and nodded his head vigorously, adding that it was a great pleasure to have finally met up with the great LLL.