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(ARCHIVE) Vol. XIX No. 11, september 16-30, 2009
Short 'N' Snappy

The all-cleansing soap

The Man from Madras Musings has written in the past about the various practices engaged in by hotels in the city in view of security threats. Now there is the added threat of health hazards. A hotel that MMM went to has added what can only be called the last straw, though from the way the latest regulation was spoken about by the hotel staff, anyone would think it was icing on the cake.

This hotel has, apart from the usual security rigmarole, the added attraction of sniffer dogs that go all around your car. But if you thought this was what MMM meant by the last straw, you are completely mistaken. As soon as you have stepped out of the car, neatly sidestepping the dog which appears to have only one ambition, namely to raise itself on its hind legs and rest its forepaws on your shirt front, you are confronted with the metal detector in deference to which you need to empty your pockets. Then there is a man at the other end who prods all over you with something that to MMM's jaundiced eye looked like a tuning fork with elephantiasis. And just as you assume that the ordeal is over and there is nothing between you and the bar, you are steered away in a vice-like grip to a gadget by the wall. This dispenses antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic and antibiotic soap and you are asked to stand with your hands outstretched. A drop falls into your palms which you immediately rub together and then, duly sanitised, you may enter.

You not only smell strongly of anti-just-about-everything, you also, like Lady Macbeth, realise that not all the perfumes of Arabia will sweeten your little hand. Oh, by the way, MMM forgot: The anti-just-about-anything miracle liquid may be just what the doctor ordered, but its dispenser is not. Did MMM tell you to stretch your palms? He forgot to add that you had better stretch your legs and stand at ease. For, carried away by its enthusiasm, the dispenser dispenses a few extra drops which, if you are not careful, usually land on your trousers or, worse, your shoe where they stick closer than a brother. Of course, they add to the hygienic atmosphere, so how does a shabby shoe matter ?

Bizarre beautifying

And so it goes on, at a snail’s pace. All that has happened is that vast stretches of what was once a handsome promenade have been dug up making the place completely user-unfriendly. The other day, The Man from Madras Musings had the opportunity to take a closer look at what is being done and he was appalled. The entire plan apparently involves various levels and it is not clear as to how the elderly and the physically challenged are expected to navigate these in order to access the beach proper.

If this is the condition of the Marina, the Elliot's Beach does not fare any better. And what is ironic is that neither of these beaches needed any beautification in the first place. What is sad is that historic San Thomé Beach has been completely neglected. MMM drove down the stretch by the sea and was shocked to find that the vast fishermen colony that lives on this part of the seafront has to put up with overflowing sewers, bad roads, a foul stench that comes from putrid water and overflowing rubbish tips. It appears that as far as the Corporation is concerned, San Thomé Beach, being safely out of sight, can also be out of mind. If only a small tithe of what is being spent on Marina was allotted to San Thomé, we may have had some real beach beautification and improvement.

Political fathers

It is customary, The Man from Madras Musings is aware, that in a feudal society like ours (no matter what we pretend or think it to be), the ruler is considered pater familias. And MMM is in august company when he writes this, for no less a person than Lord Curzon wrote of how he received a letter, while Viceroy of India, from a man who had many children (the last of whom was still milking the parental mother, to quote from the missive) and who, at his wits' end, had decided to appeal to the Viceroy for sustenance for, after all, was he the Viceroy not the father of his (the man's) entire family? Indeed, in those days, men such as Curzon and several fellow rulers considered this to be a compliment.

Things have not changed much since then, judging by the number of posters and vinyl hoardings that are put up by the politically minded when they celebrate events in their respective families. These usually claim all kinds of relationships with prominent political personalities (PPP) (father, mother, sister and brother being the most common) and state unequivocally that the event being celebrated is entirely thanks to blessings of the PPP who is featured on the banner/poster/hoarding. But is this the correct way to go about it? Have these celebrants ever wondered as to how the PPP would feel?

MMM understands if weddings are attributed to the PPP. But would not the mantle of shame mount his/her (the PPP’s) cheek if he/she sees that he/she has been thanked for the first ritual anointing of a girl after she has come of age? The technical term for such an event MMM is given to understand is manjal neerattu. And what about the birth of a baby? Would the PPP really want to be involved, even though he/she may claim to be pater/mater familias? And is it correct for anyone to publicly announce that a baby was born because of a particular PPP? This has the potential for future paternity suits.

The one that MMM would least want to be associated with is the piercing of infants’ ears. When his ears were pierced, MMM, according to those who were around, put up a spirited protest. And MMM is sure that infants still do. Imagine if one of these infants grows up with an undefined hatred towards those who were involved in the foul deed! Many years later, infant, now an adult given to homicidal tendencies, gets to see a vinyl hoarding (these things being indestructible) which attributes a certain PPP for the piercing of his (the infant’s) ears. From then on, infant, now homicidal adult begins stalking the PPP seeking revenge. PPP, in terror, demands Z category security. TV channels go to town on it (MMM can imagine the headlines – breaking news and all that) and, finally PPP, is given the Z category. He/she then holds up all traffic while careening down roads thereby adding to the general feeling of hatred and, therefore, the added threat perception. If only PPP had not been thanked for the piercing of ears, all would have been well. But then sane words such as those of MMM fall on deaf ears and our PPPs are continuously being thanked for everything from weddings to er... turmeric baths.


Talking about Z category security, The Man from Madras Musings has always wondered why it is called so. Is it because the secured can sleep well (zzzz) while the security walks about completely denied all sleep? Or is it Z because there is nothing further to security, this being the ultimate status symbol? MMM thinks that it is so called because it is the final stop in security, the end of the line and, when it fails, it involves complete rest for the soul whose security was breached.



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