The Man from Madras Musings is not a great one for debates. As a student he was quite good at these but at one stage there came a feeling that MMM would be better off conserving his vocal cords. Of course, those were debates that preserved decorum. The so-called debates that MMM gets to occasionally watch on television fill him with a sense of revulsion. But then as the Lady of Shallot so astutely observed, the curse does come upon us and so it did to MMM, rather late in the night.
The phone rang and MMM answered it. MMM’s close friend Super Singer has often commented on this habit of MMM’s and asked if it was necessary to answer every call that comes through. SS is picky and chooses his calls with care but not so MMM. If the phone rings, he has to answer and if he missed a call, he invariably returns it. And so it was that MMM answered the phone. At the other end was a young defender of the system, with whom MMM has at best a nodding acquaintance. MMM asked DS as to what he owed the honour of the call to. There was first a paean to MMM from the other end. He, MMM that is, was described as the go-to person for all matters concerning Chennai and DS said that he, DS, knew that he, MMM, would not say no to anything that he, DS, would ask of him, MMM. To this, MMM was non-committal and enquired as to how he may be of help. The response was that the film PS-1 had raised many questions regarding religion. Someone somewhere had said that old PS, the main character that is, did not belong to majority religion. And that by implication meant that someone somewhere stated that he, that is old PS, was of minority religion. DS was on his way to defend PS, majority religion, and other such matters under threat and he wanted MMM to also participate in a debate.
“The editor cum anchor of the debate will call you, MMM!” was DS’ parting shot before he no doubt went to don armour and helmet.
It was much later in the night when MMM got a call. MMM does not know about you, but he has of late taken to going to bed early. This is not owing to any hope that this way he will wake up healthy, wealthy, and wise but chiefly owing to dipping energy levels as age advances. Anyway, he answered the phone and sure enough, there was the editor himself, he of foghorn voice and fearsome mien. Could MMM come on to the show at 11.00 pm asked the man (PS was obviously not the kind of debate which got prime time) and even before MMM could answer he had added that he would be glad if MMM could speak on how as a member of the majority community MMM was finding it impossible to live in Chennai.
MMM pondered for a bit. Though he had many issues himself with the way caste, religion and debates in the state were invariably hijacked in one direction or the other, he refused to believe that it was impossible to live in Chennai. And so, he very gently replied that he was not used to being told to take a particular line aforehand in what was supposed to be a freewheeling debate. The line went dead and with that MMM lost an opportunity to be a celebrity.