When plans were being made two months ago to connect speakers and events for Madras Week, one of us suddenly remembered a name that was not on the speakers’ list. A star speaker whom everybody gathered there seemed to have forgotten. And how on earth would Madras Week be complete without one of Chennai’s best ever storytellers, who could talk endlessly about people, places and events and keep you engrossed for hours on end, who could effortlessly weave humour and keep giving you clues about the person he was talking about, whose name he was loathe to divulge? “No Randor, no Madras Week,” we chorused and almost immediately Sriram was on the phone with Randor, almost directing him to talk on ‘scandals of Madras’. With Prathima Vasan, manager-communications, Park Sheraton, present, it did not take us long for us to decide that we could have Randor Guy speak at Dublin, the hotel’s discotheque. It is to Prathima’s credit that the Sheraton agreed to host the talk and, as it turned out today, Randor is still a star.
The talk was scheduled to start at 4pm, but the seats at the Dublin were full by 3.45pm. And then there was hardly any space to add sufficient number of chairs. A few of us sat on the stairs, others rested on side railings and yet others remained standing throughout the one-hour show. Sushila Ravindranath, former resident editor of the New Indian Express, whispered into my ears, “It was you who wanted Randor, and now see what you have done.” Randor hadn’t even arrived by then; someone else whispered that his pick-up car was delayed and the man was fretting and fuming. Eventually, Randor sauntered in, with his wife Dolores in tow. He seemed to be calm and headed straight to the area below where coffee was being served.
I will not go into the details of the scandals he spoke about. He got off to a great start all right but it wasn’t vintage Randor though this afternoon. There was humour but not enough of it. His razor-sharp wit was missing. The crowd did roar with laughter but not as frequently as you would expect with Randor around. But overall, an afternoon well spent by all those present. Sushila, who sat next to me on the stairway (even she couldn’t find a proper chair), finally acknowledged that the effort was worth it after all. Yes, it could have been better, but perhaps the next time. The second day of Madras Week continued to report packed houses.