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The Godman cometh

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And the odd man is out

During one of my drifting phases, after `boycotting' my Intermediate exams, I had managed to get a few cartoons and stories published in some magazines. On the strength of these an uncle of mine had recommended me to the publisher of a magazine, and I was called for an interview.

The Inner Voice

The publisher was a well known psychiatrist in Madras. He had started a psychological magazine, but found it difficult to keep it going. He needed someone to run the magazine. He asked me a few perfunctory questions, and then took my published drawings and stories into an inner room. I heard him speaking to someone there and a lady's voice responding. He came out after about fifteen minutes and told me that I was appointed as editor.Later I came to know that the voice in the inner room was his wife's, and that she made all the decisions, leaving only the medical ones to him. The salary that was offered to me was a handsome one for that time. I started work the very same day. The office was on the side verandah of the house, and I had a typist to help me. I straightaway did a cover design, which got the approval of the inner room. I followed this with some articles for which the doctor had supplied the psychological basis. I added a few articles written in a lighter vein, which kept the doctor and his wife chuckling. The magazine sold well since it had useful advice on `How to Study for Examinations', `Moving with the Opposite Sex', `How to Make Friends' and so on. All of these of course had to get the approval of the doctor's wife. She seemed to like the writing and the illustrations.

The Godman Intrudes

Though I was in total charge of the magazine, my name was listed only as `Assistant Editor'. The doctor had his name in the masthead as `Editor'. All went smoothly until `divinity' intruded. The doctor's wife met a famous Godman, and became his disciple. Naturally the doctor followed suit. And then the couple slowly started converting the magazine into a vehicle for the Godman's views. After awhile the Godman started visiting the doctor's house. When he came, all of us were supposed to prostrate ourselves before him. I firmly refused to do so. The doctor said that if I couldn't prostrate myself I should stay away from the house till the Godman left. I went off to a nearby railway station, had some coffee and then travelled on an electric train to some place or the other. I had a season ticket from Mambalam to Beach station. When I came back after a few hours, the Godman was sometimes still there. So I had to take to the trains again. The articles also changed complexion, becoming paeans in praise of the Godman. The articles now came from the inner room. I just did some corrections and the proof-reading. Then the doctor said he wanted to change the press. This puzzled me, since the press where we had the magazine printed was perhaps the best in Madras. He gave me the name of the new press he had chosen. When I went there I found a framed photograph of the same Godman. Then the doctor said that we should change the block makers. When I went to the newly selected block maker, there was the Godman grinning away from a photo frame.The Godman started visiting more and more frequently. I believe the doctor was paying him large sums of money. Anyway, I had to go off to the railway station too often, and it started to be irksome. So I told the doctor I would like to resign. He reported the matter to the sanctum sanctorum. The lady whispered some instructions to him, and he came back and said, "What's wrong in prostrating before a great soul like the Godman who comes here?""I don't do it" I said. "You mean you will never prostrate yourself before any one?""Maybe I will before some people" I said. "Like who?" asked the doctor."Like Lata Mangeshkar" I said with youthful flippancy. The doctor was not amused. My resignation was accepted.J. VASANTHAN

(e-mail: jvasanthan@sancharnet.in)

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