The lockdown has given rise to several unsolvable mysteries as far as The Man from Madras Musings is concerned. Who for instance are the people who ring your doorbell? There was a time when you could identify the local butcher, baker and candlestick maker even from a distance. But now they all appear masked and you never know who is calling. If you thought you could identify them by their voice, forget it, for they all mumble into their masks. If fact the only way you know they are saying something is by noticing the way the mask keeps bobbing around the vicinity of the lips. No wonder MMM sees so many walking around bare faced – they must be sick and tired of trying to make sense through masks.
When this is the fate of even familiar faces, what kind of reception do strangers hope for when they need to perforce call on people? MMM includes in this the band of couriers, handymen and errand boys of various kinds. At Chez MMM for instance all of these people prefer to stand outside the gate and yell “Saar..Saar…Saar,” in increasing volumes until someone notices. The first Saar is often nothing more than a soothing murmur, muffled by the masks, and then when it produces no results, the subsequent ones, after the mask is removed accompanied by muffled oaths, are much louder. Fortunately the room where MMM works and types his daily quota of words overlooks the gate and so MMM is often the first person to know of a caller.
Thus it was the other day when a man began his clarion shouts for Saar. MMM on venturing into the verandah found a masked stranger waiting without, rather like a character out of Alexander Dumas. He, the stranger and not MMM, was brandishing a basket of some kind, which he through more gesture than word, indicated was meant to be handed over. And so MMM went out to meet the bearer and having signed for the basket, brought it in. He found a sticker that had the name of his good lady, also known as She Who Must Be Obeyed and realized it was a gift for her. Of the sender’s identity there was no clue.
The basket, on MMM’s good lady opening it, was found to contain what appeared on first sight to be a collection of beetroots. There they were, all purple and alluring. Only on touch they proved to be squashy and on closer inspection they turned out to be something else altogether. A card lay at the bottom and it revealed these to be mangosteens, a kind of fruit about which MMM and his good lady had all along been ignorant.
The card was rather appropriately worded when you consider the colour of the fruit, for it was full of what is referred to as purple prose. But what took the cake was a sentence that said that mangosteens had a Socratic flavour – something that MMM is yet to make sense out of. His first impulse was to throw the gift away, for when you think Socrates, hemlock is usually the next to come to mind. Was this like some Trojan horse? Anyway, MMM and good lady did not know what you did with the fruit and so they decided to keep it in storage for a day or two.
The next day, MMM was roused from his afternoon nap by cries of “Saar…Saar…Saar”. Looking out, he found the same masked man. It was like something out of the movie Amadeus. Had he come bearing more fruit? On the contrary, he had come to take back the basket, and the fruits. He had apparently made a mistake and had delivered it at Chez MMM when all along it was meant for someone else who was a namesake of MMM’s good lady. That ended MMM’s tryst with Socratic mangosteens. He is yet to make sense of that description by the way. And his good lady is still pondering over who sent them in the first place.