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Vol. XXX No. No. 11, October 1-15, 2020

Short ’N’ Snappy

Screen Routine

Lately, The Woman from Madras Musings has gained a new respect for children who have had to learn lessons through online classes. While work routines haven’t changed much – (Wo)MMM is enjoying this business of working from home and has become rather fond of the occasional tea and biscuit with paati – fitness routines have become so much harder.

Take yoga, for instance. That peerless practice that leads its students to physical, mental and spiritual health has taken on new shades of complexity when taught through the screen. Here’s a small secret that not many know about (Wo)MMM – she tends to learn best by observing her fellow classmates, rather like a fish swimming with its school or a bird flying with its flock. Catch her in any fitness class and the innocent bystander may come to the conclusion that here is a woman who knows what she is doing in a fitness class; but it is nothing more than a clever ruse that (Wo)MMM took years to master. So this new fangled way of learning yoga through online classes has led to some consternation.

For one, with none of the class superstars around to copy from, it’s become imperative to learn the names of the asanas and their corresponding forms. (Wo)MMM has spent much time drilling the differences between Virabhadrasana I, II and III; Trikonasana and Parivritta Trikonasana; Paschimottasana and Parsvakonasana and so on and so forth. Admittedly, the rote learning is a small matter; the bigger concern is (Wo)MMM’s secret fear of performing an asana so terribly wrong that she finds herself entangled in that position. In-person classes give one the comfort that immediate help is at hand should the need arise; but one feels so terribly alone and vulnerable in online classes.

Then there’s the matter of the timing and the venue. (Wo)MMM’s yoga teachers firmly believe that the early bird catches the worm, conducting classes at 5.45 or 6.00 in the morning twice or thrice a week. These are dangerous timings at (Wo)MMM’s house – it is highly recommended to leave the better half undisturbed at these hours lest one wakes a sleeping dragon. So (Wo)MMM has been finding herself skulking around her own house, searching for a room that is reasonably sound-proof yet well-connected to the Wi-Fi. Early success was soon followed by the terrifying realization that the one room that meets all qualifications also houses a lizard which, the teachers would be glad to know, seems to be active only in the early hours of the day. That lizard has, at least on one occasion, been the cause of an abrupt halt in class; (Wo)MMM can assure you that no matter how strong-willed you are, it is absolutely impossible to breathe calmly in Adho Mukha Svanasan when a lizard charges at you for no reason.

Then, there’s the problem of props – (Wo)MMM is being instructed in a particular branch of yoga that uses props like ropes, blocks, blankets and chairs to help students progress in their study. It is a wonderful system, one that (Wo)MMM cannot recommend enough to others. But it has also necessitated the purchase of props which were otherwise available in class. And again, without peers to emulate, the instructions to tie a particular knot or make a specific prop arrangement are incredibly hard to follow during an online class. The result: (Wo)MMM finds herself scolded at least once a week, in a manner rather reminiscent of 10th standard theoretical chemistry classes.

Happily, Unlock 4.0 is upon us; and while (Wo)MMM ardently champions safety and caution in these uncertain times, it cannot be denied that she is rather looking forward to a day when at least a few things get back to the ‘old’ normal. Like yoga classes, for instance.

Of idle minds and devil’s workshops

It seems to The Woman from Madras Musings that everyone has taken up a new, exotic hobby this past year, thanks to lockdowns and quarantines. Going by social media posts, every other person is now either a master baker, fitness coach or amateur reporter. For the rest of us on the sidelines who are content to lie low until the danger passes, much like ostriches or hibernating bears, it can be a bit too much to take.

Like this new race to become the next Masterchef, for instance. Friends and family who have not so much as made a cup of tea are suddenly advising all and sundry on how to make the perfect zucchini pizza, the healthiest avocado granola bar, the most delicious quinoa biriyani and so on and so forth. (Wo)MMM’s heart goes out to the family members, who one imagines are the silently suffering guinea pigs behind the scenes. Surely it would be more helpful to learn how to make time-tested staples like, say, a pot of rasam, so that newly-acquired skills would be helpful in the future as well? On raising the point, (Wo)MMM was urged to keep her opinions to herself and instead taste test the bitter gourd risotto which was being delivered to her. One’s culinary dream is truly another’s nightmare.

It doesn’t stop with the ghastly home experiments either. Some enthusiasts, emboldened by the encouragement of kind well-wishers, have embarked on the mission to make instructional videos showing others how they too can transform a bitter gourd into an innovative if dubious Italian dish. (Wo)MMM understands that the mechanics of making one of these videos is rather complex – so in addition to mastering cookery skills, people are also gaining expertise in lighting, camera set-up, voice-overs, video editing and so forth. A hapless friend confided in (Wo)MMM that this meant that the rest of the family have to remain silent like mice while the video is being recorded, forcing them to take up quiet hobbies instead of watching TV – one’s taken up reading while another’s taken up knitting. It admittedly doesn’t sound so bad on its own – reading and knitting are lovely activities, ones that (Wo)MMM herself enjoys immensely – but one supposes that the tyranny of the whole thing must rankle even in the mildest heart. These videos seem to also be the next Facebook post – woe to loving friends and family who don’t watch it, ‘like’ it or comment upon it.

(Wo)MMM is looking forward to a day in the future where she can check in on these budding geniuses. While one wishes that they each reach the greatest heights they can with their new skills, one admits that it will be rather satisfying to remind them of our travails at their peak and bid them make a cup of tea, at least.


‘Trending’ is perhaps a strong word, but recently, the Woman from Madras Musings stumbled upon a relatively viral video of a horse playing the piano with its nose. The animal displayed admirable dexterity, managing to produce distinct notes aptly punctuated by happy snorts. (Wo)MMM was delighted to see that a creative gentleman had even mixed a piece of music based on the notes, producing a peppy, foot-tapping number. With all the insane stuff that’s been happening all year, (Wo)MMM feels that it is absurd joys like these that lift spirits by reminding us that while life has thrown us curveballs in the form of pandemics, forest fires and floods, it has also given us horses that play pianos and fellow human beings that make music with the results.
– (Wo)MMM

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