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Vol. XXVII No. 6, July 1-15, 2017

Short ‘N’ Snappy


Wheels within wheels


Getting India on the Move was if The Man from Madras Musings recollects correctly, was the first book he read of yours, Chief, and let him add it was love at first sight. And since then what a beautiful relationship we have had. Since the time you wrote that book, Chief, India has been getting around quite a bit as is evident from the swarms of our brethren to be seen at various international airports! MMM was recently at quite a few and in all of them he saw nothing else but, Indians are on the move. And how!

Nowhere else is the colour and chaos of this community in migration more in evidence than in our very own Chennai International Airport, run by the beloved Atrocious Airports of India Limited. And among the first things to strike you are the number of wheelchairs being er… wheeled about. And that brought to MMM’s mind another book of yours, Chief – Moving India on Wheels. Inspired by your book titles, Indians by and large, appear to first be moving and then only on wheels!

Now, before the bulk of Madras Musings’ readership descends on MMM with cries of being insensitive, let MMM assure one and all that he is aware of people with mobility, visibility and stability issues, all of which necessitate the use of wheelchairs. To all such people MMM extends his sympathies and understanding and hopes that they will get well soon or at least be at peace with their afflictions. But he is simply unable to believe that so many people on a single flight would need wheelchairs.

This suspicion was strengthened when MMM found several of those perched on wheelchairs and being moved about to be pictures of health. MMM said as much to his good lady, also known as She Who Must Be Obeyed, who put MMM properly in his place by stating that he ought not to be so insensitive. But for once MMM was able to prove her wrong. For shortly after MMM made a headcount of the numbers on wheels, he heard a commotion to his rear. More and more people were arriving, apparently all of whom needed wheels to ‘locomote’ so to speak, and the airport was running short.

And so the more able-bodied had to be asked to give up their carriages and navigate the last and, perhaps most difficult section, namely the stairs and then the aerobridge, on foot. Some did get up, though not without persuasion and plenty of grumbling. MMM found all of them walking about with perfect ease, each one carrying a suitcase that in shipping parlance would have qualified for a bulk cargo container, such being its size. It transpires that it is this consignment of probably pickles, savouries, prayer books, pots and pans, a mixer and a wet grinder or two that really necessitates the wheelchair. All of those wheeled about, without exception, were then found to be having an enormous box neatly tucked between their legs.

MMM took aside an airline employee and asked if his surmise was correct. To this the other simply replied by stating that being in the service industry was a tough job and the worst frustration was not being able to call off an all-too-visible con. MMM nodded in sympathy, wondering all along as to how those enormous containers would be stuffed into the overhead baggage cabins once inside the aircraft.

Flat comedies

This is the era of the stand-up comedy act and The Man from Madras Musings has been to several. He likes them by and large. The speakers are young and, therefore, full of energy. And they can be irreverent, which makes it all the better. But, of late, there is a certain monotony that has crept into many of these acts which makes MMM wonder if keeping humour going in the long term can be detrimental to everyone’s health rather in the manner of passive smoking.

Having recently been to a few more of these stand-up comedies, MMM has come to the conclusion that several of them have a few standard features:

Profanity – There is a certain class of audience which probably feels that the more a speaker swears, the funnier it is. If not the audience, the speakers themselves appear to think so and the less an audience laughs, the more the speakers curse, in the hope that they can raise a titter. The point is, why would anyone pay good money to go and hear a few cuss words, all of which can be had for free from autorickshaw drivers on the street? In all probability, the latter have a far richer vocabulary and the flow and punch with which they deliver the terms is more effective.

On Being Overweight – If there are three speakers in a stand-up comedy you can be sure that the man in the middle will be fat. And he will keep making jokes about it. And most of these so called wisecracks on excess poundage have been around from the time of Shakespeare. There was a time when cinema milked the subject dry and, today, the presence of a fat person on screen probably evokes more sympathy than amusement. Why then do these stand-up comics imagine that obesity is going to make an audience laugh?

Shouting – There is a school of thought among these people that they need to yell all the time. MMM quite understands that, most of the speakers being young, they have surplus energy and so it all comes out in the volume at which they speak. But if it is continuously at that level, it makes most people tune out after some time.
MMM would like these talented individuals to ponder over the above points. At the risk of being dismissed as an old windbag, he makes bold to suggest to these performers that there is so much of humour in everyday happenings in Chennai that can be taken on to the stage. And, no, it does not have to be crude, or about being fat or involve shouting from the rooftops.


The Man from Madras Musings has periodically been putting up pictures that speak louder than words in this column. But this one is silent but deadly, as they say. On that happy note… see you all next fortnight with more fun and frolic.

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