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

Vol. XXX No. 19, February 1-15, 2021

Short ‘N’ Snappy

– (Wo)MMM

Learning to cycle in Chennai

The better half presented The Woman from Madras Musings with a bicycle last week. (Wo)MMM was quite thrilled, having never had a cycle of her own before. Actually, (Wo)MMM is learning to ride a cycle for the first time. It’s all very exciting of course, but she is only now able to fully appreciate the adventures that she imagines most cyclists face in our city. Most people grumble about riding in the heat – but honestly, that’s par for the course in Chennai. (Wo)MMM has discovered a whole new set of pet peeves, now that she’s learning to cycle.

For one thing, it’s no wonder that some cities have a dedicated bicycle lane. Without one, larger vehicles like cars, trucks and even bikes drive terrifyingly close, honking loudly for good measure. Given that (Wo)MMM ensures that she keeps to the sides, she finds this habit infuriating. It’s not like cycles can honk back indignantly at this behaviour, either – (Wo)MMM tried. Unlike vehicle horns, bicycle bells sound charmingly cute, not aggressive. Their friendly chimes are no match for those obnoxious trumpets – they simply get drowned out in the din of traffic.

There are other dangers that lurk on our city roads, too. Dogs, for one. The very sight of a bicycle seems to inspire them to give chase, even though (Wo)MMM tries her best to be as stealthy as possible around them. The better half has a theory that dogs that chase are just trying to play with the bicycle, but (Wo)MMM thinks that’s rather rich considering that he’s usually shouting such sage advice from a safe distance.

These dogs are much better than the other kind, however. When chased by animals, (Wo)MMM has a clear strategy – she cycles to the nearest tea shop or some such, where kind people can be expected to scare them off. It’s not that straightforward when one is hounded by people on bikes or cycles that decide to hover around, keeping pace as they whistle and grin and the like.

(Wo)MMM has never understood why this is a popular wooing strategy – surely it can’t be all that successful. And then, there are the uneven roads themselves, pockmarked with pits and ditches. Actually, (Wo)MMM is rather enjoying riding over these, though she imagines that it will get rather irritating once the novelty wears off.

It must be admitted that none of these are dampening the joys of learning to ride a bicycle. There’s a six-year-old down the street that (Wo)MMM lives on, who is also learning to ride. She feels she rather owes it to him to give it her best, given all the encouragement she receives. She has, however, asked the better half if the cycle bell can be replaced with something louder – a giant horn or a megaphone that she can yell into.

Why can’t we leave nice things alone?

The Woman from Madras Musings recently received a curious email from a leading local delivery app. It was a terse email, quite shorn of the overbearing cheerfulness that most marketing emails carry. Do not send prohibited items, it said – an unspoken rule that one would have thought would be obvious to customers. But the world is often more brazen than (Wo)MMM imagines, and this turned out to be one of those instances.

The email listed the items that were forbidden for customers to send through their service. Alcohol, narcotics and intoxicants made the list, to little surprise if one were to be honest about the matter. Exploiting service professionals is hardly new given that customer entitlement is part and parcel of our business culture. (Wo)MMM was, however, quite startled by the other items listed in the email – livestock, insects and animals.

For the app to send out an email specifying these, there must have been a significant number of people in the past who have tried to deliver livestock, insects and animals through their service.

(Wo)MMM can only imagine the consternation of the delivery partner when handed over a puppy or worse-given that livestock was mentioned quite clearly – a goat or a chicken. And who on earth tried to deliver insects? Did someone try to send across a pot of mosquitoes? Or a jar of spiders? (Wo)MMM shudders to think of the torture that the delivery partners must have gone through to warrant this email to customers.

It was the delivery businesses that emerged as the lifeline for the city as we stayed cooped up at home during the lockdown and curfews last year, helping families source everything from groceries to medicine. That they are reduced to pleading with customers not to use them to send horrid things is quite a shame. We just can’t leave nice things alone.

Abstract thoughts on fruit

The Woman from Madras Musings came across an entertaining bit of news recently. Apparently, a leading politician is keen to bestow a new name upon the dragon fruit – he believes it looks like a lotus in bloom and so wants people to call it kamalam instead.

(Wo)MMM looked up a picture of the dragon fruit, a fruit that she admittedly has never heard of before. It looks quite extraordinary, actually. It is bright pinkish red, much like a ball of fire – an impression accentuated by green flame-like spikes that protrude all over.

(Wo)MMM tried her best to see the fruit from the politician’s point of view, searching for some attribute that might have suggested a lotus. No luck there. That fruit looks absolutely nothing like a blooming lotus.

(Wo)MMM turned to social media – that great arbiter of pretty much every topic under the sun – to see what people thought of the matter. She wasn’t disappointed. Her most favourite take on the topic is that of people who fervently hope that said politician doesn’t set his sight on a banana or a peach – they feel, probably quite rightly, that the world wouldn’t survive an abstract interpretation of their shapes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *