Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXIX No. 22, March 1-15, 2020

Short ‘N’ Snappy


(Im)Mobile Technology

Unlike the Chief, whom the Madras from Madras Musings misses on a daily basis, MMM took to cell phones very early. He progressed steadily from pagers to the large brick-sized instruments and the smaller ones. With time cell phones became larger and smarter and MMM kept pace. He can still recall those old days when a cell phone in Madras that is Chennai would not work in Bombay that is Mumbai, the network being different. From such a scenario to now, when life without cell phones can be pretty much impossible (unless you live in Kashmir), we have come a long way. Which is why MMM is unable to handle the poor connectivity that has become a part of daily life. Cannot able to understand is, so MMM believes, the current expression and MMM had he stooped to such a level, would have freely used it.

The service providers are an apologetic lot. They explain that the fall in standards are due to rising demand. The infrastructure is unable to cope with it. But insiders have a different story – the private operators (and there are two in Chennai – Air Fail and Why d’you Phone) are beaten by a third player with global aspirations fueled by a deep pocket that allows for drastically low rates. As a consequence, there is no money for any investment in towers and whatever else that cell phone operators need for the calls to keep happening. Added to this is a fine that runs into several digits slapped on them by the law courts. It is anybody’s guess if Air Fail and Why d’you Phone will really survive the latest onslaught. There is an option to go with a Government-run fourth service provider but MMM learns that with their entire technical workforce opting for voluntary retirement, the chances of being better off with it are low.

It is because of this reason that MMM and other cell phone users of his kind find the going tough. Calls now follow a predictable pattern –

Step 1 – You dial a number and there is dead silence after which a beeping sound begins and goes on forever.

Step 2 – You dial the number and a giggling voice tells you that such a number does not exist.

Step 3 – You dial the number again and are told by a different voice that the subscriber is not within network coverage.

Step 4 – You dial the number and finally get through only to find that while you can hear, the party at the other end cannot. After a couple of hellos you ring off.

Step 5 – You try again and get through and surprise, you can actually begin a conversation. But after a couple of minutes there is what is termed a call drop and the line goes dead. You then go back to step 1.

MMM thought of switching from Air Fail to Why d’you Phone but was told by users of the latter that they have found it easier to visit the person they intended to call and deliver their message directly. MMM was at his wits end when he read a news item that Chennai is now the pigeon racing capital of India. He has therefore decided to abandon his cell phone and rear a couple of those birds – one for outgoing and the other for incoming messages.

As Small as they Come

The lower the status of the politician, the more obnoxious his/her behaviour – at least this was what came to the mind of the Man from Madras Musings when he recently happened to travel out of the city by flight and then return after a couple of days by the same mode of travel. On the outward journey there were a few cabinet ministers from the State on the same flight. You could say that their behaviour was exemplary. One of these, once a corporate head honcho, was the life and soul of the flight, mingling with fellow passengers, happily wheeling in his luggage and gamely posing for selfies on landing. The others were more reserved but were models of decorum – they kept to themselves, did not throw their weight about and read newspapers during much of the journey. In short, everything was as it should be.

Contrast this with what happened on the way back. On walking down the tarmac MMM noticed a small group standing near the tail of the aircraft. It appeared as though the crew had gone into a huddle and MMM would have scarcely given a second thought had he not heard raised voices. “Why should I have my boarding pass with me,” yelled a stentorian voice. “It is the job of my secretary to carry it.” Realising that this was where he got around 400 words for this column MMM decided to look in briefly.

In the centre of the huddled crew was a man in the obligatory political attire – white shirt and dhoti with the standard border. He was swaying somewhat thereby indicating his spiritually elevated state. He had apparently been caught taking photographs of the aircraft and also some selfies in the process. The ground staff had objected to which he had responded with some colourful expletives. Someone made bold to ask for his boarding pass and found he had none. It then transpired that the precious document was with the secretary who was no doubt the flabby gent who had just arrived on the scene huffing and puffing and brandishing the missing pass. The staff probably decided that discretion was better especially as the flight was shortly to leave. The man was ushered in and he proceeded to express loudly his anger at what he called the rudeness of the ground staff. The secretary tried pacifying him which strangely worked – MMM thought this would result in yet another explosion.

All went well during the actual flight apart from a demand for ‘hord drinks’ which of course was courteously refused. The next part of the drama unfolded shortly after landing was announced. The secretary having shut his eyes for forty winks, our man decided it was time to get up and wait near the door so that he would be the first to leave. Fortunately for all, the sleeping secretary woke up in time and dragged the master back. Act III was when the flight actually landed but was still taxiing on the runway. The man got up, collected his bag and bounded to the door. It was all that the airhostesses could do to get him to go back to his seat. He was not happy. Did they not know who he was he thundered. MMM too wondered. It transpired he was some kind of officeholder at the district level.


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Wandering far and wide in his travels around the State, The Man from Madras Musings came across this interesting toilet sign. It did give some food for thought even as people went about their business.

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