Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXXII No. 11, September 16-30, 2022
It happened in August, with alarming regularity. The Woman from Madras Musings would be tottering about on the tennis court when the heavens would suddenly manifest an unearthly din. The buzz of what sounded like a swarm of mosquitoes would tear through the silence of play, bringing the game to a screeching halt. The first time it happened, (Wo)MMM was quite taken aback to discover that the ungodly noise was a drone circling the courts overhead. She was left quite nonplussed, to be frank. The thing looked like a four-legged helicopter; it hovered above each of the three tennis courts like a giant eye in the sky studying us mortals on the ground.The levitating drone even managed to give off a distinct whiff of criticism whilst ogling the rest of us – it made a habit of watching entire rallies before drifting to the next court. (Wo)MMM is certain that it was this uninvited scrutiny that threw her off her game all of last month. If she remembers her physics classes, there is a concept called the Observer Effect, no? Apparently, any ‘observed system is disturbed by the very act of observation.’ In (Wo)MMM’s case, she is sure that it was the blasted drone that made her send the ball flying into the midst of a cricket match in the neighbouring ground.
The drone made its ominous appearance every day for almost two weeks in August. The signs became quite familiar to us – its advent would be heralded by a buzz that set everyone’s teeth on edge and the contraption would fly into sight in that clear, blue Chennai sky as if it owned the very firmaments it flew so insouciantly in. (Wo)MMM wondered why someone would take the trouble to dispatch a drone to watch her play tennis. Surely there are better uses for drones, she thought. The better half suggested that it was perhaps not her that it was observing but the admittedly stellar game the other members were playing. (Wo)MMM was unsure on that point – to her eye, the darn thing seemed to linger far longer over her own court than others. Then, it came to her in a flash. It was Madras month, after all – perhaps some aspiring artist was capturing clips to include in some spectacular video they were making of the city? It was the most plausible explanation she could come up with, though she still found the whole thing rather strange.
It was the better half who stumbled upon the drone’s secret. He was playing a doubles match, he said, when he overheard one of the regular players – an older gentleman – rue the lack of courts. ‘I sent my drone ahead to make sure that I had a court to play in – but it was taken by the time I came!’ he bewailed. (Wo)MMM was thunderstruck at the implication. It transpired that said member had been deploying his drone to see whether the courts were free before he left home. Some claim that he had promptly sent the videos to the tennis markers, who were said to be entirely shaken by the message that accompanied the clips – ‘I saw you.’
(Wo)MMM was absolutely delighted by the story. Imagine sending ahead a drone to see if the tennis courts are free! In good old Chennai to boot! She found the whole thing clever and eccentric and practical all at once and she loved it. Sending the videos to the markers with a cryptic big-brotherish note was the cherry on the cake. Nothing, she thought, could top such a delicious anecdote which was sure to pass into urban legend. Until she came across the member on the streets outside the club one fine evening, regally weaving through the traffic upon a hoverboard. And they say Chennai isn’t as cool a tech scene as Bangalore!
When The Woman from Madras Musings was in school, there was an unsaid law amongst the student body – it was considered treason of the highest order to snitch on another to an angry teacher on the hunt for a culprit. It just wasn’t done. But there was one fellow who liked to live life on the edge. He would stand up and address the vexed teacher thus with a grave countenance. ‘I cannot tell you who it was,’ he would say before pausing dramatically, his face shining with the glow of virtue. ‘I can only tell you that his name rhymes with… Biddharth.’ At which point, of course, the teacher’s waspish gaze would turn to a squirming Siddharth who would try – and fail – to give a convincing impression of innocence even as he received the works, so to speak.
That was a story about how things can be true to the word of law while being entirely contrarian to its spirit. It was what (Wo)MMM was reminded of when she read a recent story in the press about elected women councillors in our city many of whom, according to the piece, may be more reliant on their husbands than the voters would like.
The report was based on a sting operation in which the journalist called several women councillors in the city to ask about the progress of the stormwater drain works in the localities under their purview. One councillor reportedly answered the phone and promptly handed it to her husband who then proceeded to speak at length on civic issues with nary an introduction; two others did not even get to do that, for the calls were answered by their respective husbands who urged the reporter to take their inputs and publish it under the councillors’ names. One gentleman reportedly went a step further and introduced himself as the ‘councillor-in-charge.’ So much for empowering women in the political arena!
(Wo)MMM finds it rather strange that this would be the case in our city, which has a rich history of giving the country some of its sharpest women politicians; in fact, we’ve arguably helped shape gender dynamics on the stage of national politics. It is rather sad that the glass ceiling has managed to make such a dubious comeback. (Wo)MMM hopes that the news report will make a difference – voters deserve to be served by the people they elected to power, not a shadow regime.
Earlier this week, The Woman from Madras Musings stumbled across the jolliest piece of news that was trending on social media. Alright, perhaps not trending per se – but it was fabulously strange just the same. According to a joyful news report, an electrician somewhere in Bihar has apparently been cutting the entire village’s power supply on a regular basis so as to meet his girlfriend in the dark. Now (Wo)MMM is hardly a romantic – she tends to be rather stoic in these matters, or so the better half complains – but she couldn’t help but be thrilled by this piece. It is the stuff of fantasy, isn’t it, to have an intrepid lover boldly defy society at large to rush to your side Movies tend to spin such fancies into high-octane adventures, but our electrician boyfriend has proved himself cleverer by far with his elegant solution to stick it to those sour on the headiness of love.
It is unclear why our hero had to come clean on the monkey business but confess he eventually did, to what must (Wo)MMM imagines must have been a speechless audience. The village, it is reported, has decided that the wisest course of action lies in getting the young ones wedded to each other. Prudent, in (Wo)MMM’s opinion – with the lovebirds bound in troth, electricity cuts will no doubt see a drastic reduction in frequency.