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Vol. XXXI No. 15, November 16-30, 2021

Short ‘N’ Snappy

Deepavali diaries

Every year, The Woman from Madras Musings realizes, Deepavali brings a mixed bag of adventures. This year was no different.

It all began with Deepavali shopping, of course. (Wo)MMM usually likes to take the mater and pater (henceforth dubbed the Eternals) along to choose the gifts they like for themselves and others. However, this has become rather mortifying of late. For they gasp theatrically at perfectly normal price tags in full view of shopkeepers and fellow customers, sometimes even taking the bemused salesman aside to haggle for better discounts. The better half blames the whole thing on (Wo)MMM, who has been downplaying the cost of goods to the Eternals for years. All that fibbing has caught up and now they are under the impression that prices have remained stable since the 2000s. This was the better half’s comment as he watched a poor shopkeeper try his best to squirm politely out of the situation. Deeming it too complex a web of lies to unravel, (Wo)MMM did most of her shopping online this time; the only shops she visited were the ones that had the exact products she wanted to buy. It was quite convenient, really, except that the doorbell rang some five times every day for a while until everything was delivered.

As Deepavali dawned, (Wo)MMM woke up to the sound of crackers going off and the next hour was spent bickering with the better half – already in a bad temper from the noisy fireworks – who put up a spirited fight against the idea of an oil bath. Frankly, it never matters to (Wo)MMM whether he takes one or not, but why pass up the opportunity for an invigorating quarrel? With family taking her side, (Wo)MMM won the bout of course. The rest of the morning was noisy with the sound of crackers – special mention goes to the kid down the street who excruciatingly made his way through what must have been a sackful of bijli crackers. He burst them one by one for what seemed like hours. Given a choice, however, (Wo)MMM would take the bijli kid any day over the ones that burst colour rockets willy nilly. On more than one occasion, (Wo)MMM has had a rocket whiz past her closer than she would have liked. One landed among the plants one year and (Wo)MMM is still a bit salty about the incident.

Social calls were next on the agenda after a good lunch. The only downside to these visits is that people always seem to want to feed you sweets and snacks no matter how stuffed you are; it’s considered an insult to refuse. At the end of the whole thing, (Wo)MMM and the better half had to fairly roll into the car and squeeze themselves into the seats. It was a miracle that the seatbelts were able to reach across, frankly.

It was on the way home, as the car made its way through a smoky haze blanketing the roads, that (Wo)MMM got the feeling that the city had perhaps celebrated Deepavali with greater gusto this year than in recent times – or burst tons more crackers, anyway. The streets were thick with smog; the effect couldn’t have been greater if a troop of magicians had taken to hiding behind street corners with tons of dry ice. It was well nigh impossible to see more than a few feet ahead. That, however, did not seem to put a dampener on the evening celebrations. Some continued to burst crackers by the sides of the road, adding to the prevailing smoke and confusion. Somehow, no one seemed to stop and consider the noxious fumes all around them. Neither did anyone think of the pedestrians and commuters who had to fumble their way through the haze — (Wo)MMM had to make frantic gestures and call out entreaties to revellers to pause the pyromania so that the car could safely pass. Many were kind enough to oblige, but there was a handful who seemed to be a bit miffed at the request. The worst by far were the ones who chucked crackers onto the street from behind the gates of their homes, presumably imagining themselves to be some sort of stylish daredevils. Tiny missiles would come flying out of nowhere with no warning, exploding as they fell on the roads. The entire thing was quite vexing. It was so hard to see that the better half was forced to drive at a snail’s pace through these unwarranted attacks; even so, (Wo)MMM was spooked once or twice by the sudden appearance of a pedestrian soundlessly melting into view as they made their way across the road. Driving home this Deepavali was undoubtedly nerve-wracking.

Perhaps it’s time to think of greener ways to celebrate Deepavali than fireworks, mused (Wo)MMM to family and friends. The responses she received were varied, both in consensus and courtesy. Some agreed while others cordially urged (Wo)MMM to put a lid on what they felt was virtue signaling; a few indignantly demanded that (Wo)MMM canvas for greener ways to celebrate *all* festivals, not just Deepavali. Staring a fire, what a fitting way to end the day, remarked the better half as (Wo)MMM hid under the covers. On the bright side, there’s an entire year to think of clever comebacks by the time Deepavali rolls around next year.

Bike dislike

The Woman from Madras Musings was on her way home when she caught sight of a gentleman cruising on his bike. A bizarre contraption was affixed on one of the handlebars. As she got a better view, (Wo)MMM realized that a mobile phone was mounted upon it; even at a distance, it was obvious that some sort of TV serial was playing upon the screen. The gentleman’s eyes kept darting towards the phone as he rode his bike at a fairly high speed. The route that he was on wasn’t even a shortcut through residential roads – it was along a main road that was known for high traffic. (Wo)MMM was stunned – it is the most mindless behaviour that she has seen on the road in recent times. How he hadn’t been apprehended by the traffic police, she will never understand; he had to have crossed at least a few signals along the way.

(Wo)MMM pointed out the gentleman to the driver, who seemed to take the whole thing rather prosaically – he simply remarked that there are others who do the same thing. (Wo)MMM was left speechless. She remembered reading a recent debate about the hazards of using Bluetooth technology while driving; it was inconceivable that this silliness had slipped under the radar of the law. (Wo)MMM hoped that the driver was just pulling her leg. She glanced over to the biker, who was weaving his way through traffic while watching that infernal serial. The kicker? He wasn’t even wearing a helmet.

Cheat days

The Woman from Madras Musings has embarked upon a healthy diet. Unsurprisingly, plans for cheat days during the festival season were drawn up well in advance. In the beginning, the transgressions were small, within acceptable standards; but now (Wo)MMM wonders if things have gotten a bit out of hand.

You see, the entire thing was planned on the premise that extra exercise would balance out the extra calories. And so, the occasional kaju katli or thirattipal was largely guilt-free because it was followed by an additional hour of gym or tennis. This balancing act, however, slowly took on alarming proportions – one laddoo became two and an additional hour of exercise doubled proportionately. It’s now reached a stage where (Wo)MMM feels like she’s doing nothing but eating sweets and exercising all the live long day. If, in the near future, you see someone jogging through your neighbourhood while simultaneously scarfing down a box of burfis, give a friendly wave – it will most probably be (Wo)MMM.

– (Wo)MMM

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