Despite having the reputation of having been to all nooks and crannies of our city, The Man from Madras Musings, who was once famously introduced as a streetwalker of the city, had somehow never been to the famed auditorium named after the Congress stalwart and Chief Minister who put our State on the industrial map of India. The opportunity never arose and MMM, while passing by the place on numerous occasions, had often wondered as to how it looked inside.
Last week, during the thick of the Music Season, MMM, much against his ‘mind voice’ as they say in Tamil Nadu, participated in an event connected with the release of a book on how a certain variety of foreign music had influenced its South Indian classical equivalent. This was held in the venue named after ye olde Chief Minister. MMM was asked by the host, the proud father of the authors, to come straight to the green room. It was only on reaching the place that MMM discovered that this space was quite some distance inside the building. A volunteer met MMM at the gate and said he had been deputed to take MMM to the green room. He then asked MMM if he, MMM, knew where the green room was. When MMM replied in the negative, this man was nonplussed. He muttered something under his breath as to how MMM, who claimed to forever be associated with the arts, did not know a simple matter like that. Then having guessed that MMM’s hearing, unlike his vision, was quite acute, became all smiles and said apologetically that he, the volunteer, too did not know where the green room was. However a couple of phone calls peppered with colourful language set him on the right direction and he bade MMM to follow.
Rather in the manner of Morgiana in Ali Baba leading the cobbler, the volunteer led MMM through a labyrinth of sorts, all dimly lit. In a way this was all to the good, for MMM could only dimly make out the condition of these spaces. Cobwebs hung low, as if from a horror movie set, the walls felt damp and in many places had water seeping through rather in the manner of a mine shaft and as for the floor, it was littered with props and objects of all kinds. Through all this the volunteer led MMM relentlessly on and eventually fetched up in the green room.
Inside were a set of other invitees, all of them with a resigned air that suggested that they had been around since time began. When MMM entered they all looked up with hope as if expecting a rescue party and when they realised it was only MMM they all went back to staring at the ceiling. The only animated personality was a photographer who relentlessly had every one of the invitees pose for pictures against a blank white wall rather in the manner of a firing squad positioning a sentenced person. And when this was done, he had the invitees grouped in pairs, triads and pentads.
Having waited for more than an hour, MMM decided to explore the rest of the auditorium and found it to be in a shocking state. He was eventually summoned to appear on stage and when he did, he found that the chairs were rickety and wobbled even as MMM and other guests positioned themselves. The event, badly organised, in keeping with the rest of the hall, was mercifully brief and MMM came away clutching a shawl, a bouquet and a couple of books that in casual glance had some delicious howlers.
MMM was supposed to speak for a few minutes and was dreading the prospect, what with the venue and the audience proving most uninspiring. It was just as MMM was bracing himself for a summons to the mike that the host came huffing and puffing to MMM and whispered into MMM’s ear that the event was considerably behind time and so could MMM please truncate his speech. MMM asked in response as to how much ought to be cut. All of it was the reply, accompanied by a pleading look. MMM agreed wholeheartedly, reflecting internally that this was the only plus point in the whole miserable afternoon.
It was only as he left the stage that he realised that he had no idea as to how to make his way to the exit. He fumbled about for quite a while before what appeared to be a genie out of Alladin finally rescued him and helped him leave. Overall, it was an unforgettable experience that MMM hopes he will not have occasion to repeat.
Have you registered for Sriram’s tour covering Books, Authors, Libraries and Bibliophiles Of Mylapore to be held in conjunction with The Hindu’s Lit For Life on Jan 15, 2018? If not you can do so now by clicking here