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Vol. XXX No. 21, March 1-15, 2021

Short ‘N’ Snappy


Auto reminiscences

In these pandemic times, The Woman from Madras Musings has been keeping away from public transport, keeping in mind the safety of the elders in the family. Curiously, (Wo)MMM finds herself missing Chennai autos the most, even though they have a bad rep in general. Personally, (Wo)MMM has come to realize that some of her warmest memories of the city pertain to auto travels.

There was a time when (Wo)MMM used to travel extensively by share autos and autos. The routine involved getting on a share auto on Nungambakkam High Road until Ampa Skywalk, only to get onto another share auto that plied all the way until Alapakkam Main Road. The passengers were often familiar faces and each of their stories unravelled through the phone conversations they held in the share auto, over the first year. From loan officers and professors to marble contractors, one got a momentary glimpse into each of their lives, loves and hassles. On one admittedly satisfactory occasion, the passengers in the share auto jumped to the defence when a new lady passenger objected to (Wo)MMM’s “unladylike manner” of crossing her legs while sitting. The share auto drivers became acquaintances too – on more than one embarrassing occasion when

(Wo)MMM found herself without change, they were generous enough to wave her off cheerfully at the final stop. To (Wo)MMM’s glee, they invariably allowed her to honk the horn whenever she wished, too.

A particular stop after the Loyola college underpass was always marked by a rather smartly dressed traffic policeman whose pet peeve was share autos stopping at the busy intersection in the hope of picking up passengers. He would run towards the vehicles, entreating them to go on their way without holding up the traffic. It became such a familiar sight – after all, the auto drivers never shied away from the opportunity to make a stop at that profitable junction when they had the chance – that (Wo)MMM immediately recognised the traffic policeman when her friend was stopped at another area in the city for not wearing a helmet. (Wo)MMM excitedly told the policeman that she recognised him from the Loyola underpass junction, which unfortunately caused the gentleman (and the friend) some alarm.

The way back home usually necessitated taking an auto from Ispahani Centre on Nungambakkam High Road. In (Wo)MMM’s experience, this route has the most delightfully whimsical auto drivers in the city – almost every other trip was a strange conversation worth remembering. For instance, (Wo)MMM discovered that most auto drivers have the most singular side hustles. One gentleman specialised as a villain extra in Rajinikanth movies; one moonlighted as a wedding singer; and one was the self-declared champion of auto races in the city. The last of these narrated thrilling stories of fiercely competitive races before admitting, rather sheepishly, that it was “not particularly legal” to do so in the city. Sometimes, they had advice to offer, oddly almost always of the romantic nature. One memorable gentleman – whom (Wo)MMM has dubbed Dr. Phil – spent the entire trip earnestly urging (Wo)MMM to “avoid falling in love,” as he strongly felt that her parents were her best shot at landing the perfect groom.

Many years later, the better half cleverly wooed (Wo)MMM with a borrowed auto that (Wo)MMM could drive up and down a deserted Marina beach in the wee hours of the morning. In the better half’s opinion, he simply lucked out on the wedding deal – after all, it was the auto driver who let (Wo)MMM merrily ride his vehicle. (Wo)MMM often wonders what Dr. Phil would think of the story. She may never know.

Trending: Legal beagles and lawyer cats

The Woman from Madras Musings has, rather oddly, been running into quite a few viral bits of news about lawyers and their digital misadventures. For a niche genre, it seems to have a rather surprising amount of content. (Wo)MMM’s favourite so far is the video of lawyer cat. True to its name, it features a hapless lawyer who seems to have mistakenly turned on a particularly realistic cat filter whilst video-conferencing a case. “It’s me,” he assures the patient judge rather endearingly. “I’m not a cat.” Unfortunately, the video doesn’t tell us what actually happened to lawyer cat – (Wo)MMM hopes that he argued his case successfully as the snow-white, marvellously whiskered kitten that he was.

Closer home, the lawyers in our fair country have been having their share of adventures too, prompting discussions around court decorum. The all-too-human bungles seem to have cropped up among the legal community too – for instance, some seem to have logged into e-courts in their vests or other such casuals, eliciting reprimands from the judges. (Wo)MMM also read a rather entertaining account of a lawyer who had to log into his call from his car, allowing an interested person in the backseat to watch the proceedings.

In (Wo)MMM’s opinion, these are rather forgivable as first-time errors – after all, it takes time to pick up new rules of etiquette for new mediums. (Wo)MMM finds herself more surprised at dramatic lapses in judgement, such a senior advocate smoking a hookah during e-court proceedings. One would think that professionals, especially seniors in the field, would think twice about doing such a thing during a work meeting, virtual or not – but it doesn’t seem to be as obvious an analysis as (Wo)MMM imagines it to be.

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