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VOL. XXIV NO. 17, December 16-31, 2014
Short 'N' Snappy

Lecture Demons

Sweet December is here and so is the Music Season. The Man from Madras Musings dons a musical hat during this time much to the distress of the Chief who, rather like Aurangzeb, prefers music to be buried deep. But as this is the time when the Chief lets the Yuletide spirit take over, he overlooks this minor transgression of MMM and forgives and forgets. Come January, Chief and MMM are back to brooding on matters of pith and moment. Ebenezer Scrooge and Bob Cratchit would about sum it up.

An integral part of the Music Season is, of course, the lecture demonstration, when the theoretical aspects of the performing art are discussed with vigour and animation. MMM usually enjoys these as much as he does the actual concerts. But of late he finds a certain pattern emerging in these ‘lecdems’ as they are called. It is only now that MMM understands what an editor-in-chief-cum-founder of a musical magazine meant when he labelled those who  speak on music as ‘lec-demons’.

As is well known, the golden age of this art was in the 2nd Century BC as is vouched for by some of its audience, who were clearly around even then. MMM, who like everyone else is not growing any younger, certainly agrees when it comes to the lecdems. Most of them keep repeating the same stuff that was churned out for years. Some are one-topic lec-demons – they did a Ph D on it, say, sometime in the 1940s and then dine out on it for ever after.

As for the actual lecdem – it is quite easily done. After all, when you have been speaking on the same stuff for years, it should flow out. It is, however, in content that most of these lecdems suffer terribly from. Almost all speakers waste their time on inanities – thanking the organiser, thanking the committee of experts who sit in the front row, thanking the audiences that sit in the rear rows, thanking the sound man, thanking the person who is operating the laptop, and so on. This takes around ten minutes of the allotted fifty.

Then follows a longish paean to their Guru who is dead and, therefore, is canonised as a saint and an all-knowing expert. This takes up a further 15 minutes. This is generally the cue to launch into song. Most of these lec-demons have a lingering feeling that they would have blossomed as concert stars if only the audiences had had some true appreciation of worth. So they make use of this opportunity to give their singing voices an airing. This takes a good twenty minutes. And then comes the time when they look at their watches and exclaim in a shocked fashion, “Oh, is that the time? I got carried away and never noticed. This topic is an ocean and you can never do justice to it in 50 minutes.” It always makes MMM wonder as to why the speaker then accepted the lecdem invitation if he/she was of the view that the time given was inadequate.

But to get back to the lecdem. The shock about the passage of time is followed by a beseeching request to the chairperson for ten minutes more. No doubt the ocean requires an hour and not fifty minutes to speak on. The request for extra time is usually denied, chiefly because there is another lecdemon waiting in the wings. That means it is time for the vote of thanks which is basically a repeat of all that was said at the start. Then it is time to sidle into the wings, to the sounds of some sporadic applause.

Swachh sabhas

It is, of course, the era of Swachh Bharat. It has become fashionable for volunteers all over the country to turn out in their Sunday best and wield brooms. One place where this is yet to make itself manifest is the sabha. Before you run away with the idea that people are littering or committing public nuisance in sabhas let The Man from Madras Musings disabuse you of that notion. What he means is that the sabhas themselves have set such low standards for their toilets that Swachh Bharat within their premises can only be a pipe dream.

Based on his considerable experience of sabha toilets, MMM shares with you a few classifications:

The Ocean of Worldly Existence – This is the wettest place on earth, beating even Cherrapunji hollow. The taps leak, the overhead water tanks and cisterns drip and, as for the floor, it is a vast lake of a milky liquid. That last named is not to be confused with the ocean where the Preserver is said to recline on a serpent. This white fluid is phenol which is doled out in kilolitres to keep the place clean.

The Water Conservationist – Deserts could take lessons from this place, it being so dry. There is not a drop of water – in the taps, or the cisterns, or anywhere else. That does not deter our populace from using the toilets and so the entire scatological history of the sabha is available at one glance or one whiff.

The Alimentary Canal – This is structured on the same principle. The canteen is in close proximity to where the toilet is. The idea is that what goes in has to come out anyway. Those who eat do so with a full view of those who have eaten and are going about the post-prandial activities. That does not in any way affect either – the eaters and the defecators carry on merrily.

The Heritage Site – This is truly ancient. The urinal is a longish trough, rather like the kind where horses feed when in stables. Communal activity is chiefly encouraged in these places. As for the WC, it was probably imported in the years before Indian independence. There is an urgent need for repairs, but nobody is bothered, for everyone is occupied with the box office.

The Open Air – This is in reality a toilet in absentia. You are expected to make do with whatever facilities that exist, which are none. So the nearest compound wall beckons most regulars.

It never fails to surprise MMM that most sabhas who offer a lavish spread in terms of canteen facilities do not bother so much with the back-end of things. There are some, of course, who offer the very best in this aspect also, but these can be counted on one finger.


That Carnatic music has gone to the dogs has been an oft-repeated lament. The Man from Madras Musings was greatly surprised to note that this was a sentiment in the 17th Century as well. Does that mean that the best music was in the 2nd Century BC? That is a point to ponder over.

Meanwhile, here is MMM wishing you all the very best in 2015.


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In this issue

Are we waiting for their collapse?
Madras Landmarks - 50 years ago
Crowd-funding to support social causes?
Deja vu!
Sowing the seeds of freedom
Laurence Hope – A life of mystery
The Red Hills Railway
A 2500-year-old 'industrial estate'

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Readers Write
Dates for your Diary


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