Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXXII No. 22, March 1-15, 2023
The Woman from Madras Musings has a theory that people actually love being asked for directions. Not only does it afford the opportunity to be helpful, but it also allows them to show off how well they know the city and locality in question. What other explanation can there be for the frequent bickering over which shortcut is superior and why? In these heady, tech-advanced days, of course, the need to ask for directions has almost disappeared. Almost. For the city and its perimeter, as readers know full well, is currently a dynamic maze of a sort that any nefarious Greek king would be proud of. It is a wondrous land of changing routes, rather dreamy and insouciant towards its commuting masses. (Wo)MMM and the better half are finding themselves relying more on people than their own phones, for digital maps simply don’t seem to be able to keep up with the changes. The problem is, (Wo)MMM’s theory doesn’t appear to be holding good anymore. Where once people practically leapt as deer to lend wisdom to the wayward traveller, are now tired bystanders, short of patience.
Sometime last week, (Wo)MMM and the BH decided on a lark to visit a car showroom near the Nandanam signal and immediately regretted it. The entire area is some sort of guinea pig wheel and the car seemed to be in imminent danger of endlessly going around in circles. The showroom was within the line of sight; it was right there, within shouting distance, but there seemed no way to reach it. It was absolutely maddening. It was on the fourth circle or so that (Wo)MMM noticed a figure standing near the bridge. Come to think of it, it was a rather curious place to stand, given that there were no houses about nor was there a walkable path ahead; but he had been doing just that for quite a while. The BH slowed down and asked the gentleman how on earth to escape the traffic hell that he was stuck in. The fine fellow stared for a bit; and then, ever so slightly, tilted his head to the right. Realizing that his message was far too subtle for (Wo)MMM and the BH, he frowned and jerked his head more pointedly to the right. Assuming that he meant for the car to take this route, the BH docilely steered the car in this direction with full faith. A minute later and lo! The car was trundling down the same route, passing by the same gentleman. (Wo)MMM and BH couldn’t help but burst into laughter, which plainly left the poor fellow rather perplexed. (Wo)MMM imagines that he is there even now standing at that devilish corner, dead-pan and directing the innocent into a mobius merry-go-round.
Though honestly, this chap was miles better than the reluctant good samaritan we encountered on the way back from Cuddalore. Did you know that Chennai’s maze is infectious, by the way? Beyond the city, in places as far off as Sriperumbudur and Cuddalore, routes are closed and cordoned off and diverted and – in some memorable cases – blocked by hasty plastic buckets and other things placed in lieu of medians. In this case, help was sought from an auto driver standing next to his vehicle, by the roadside. This particular gentleman was immediately outraged by the question. He seemed to consider it a personal offence that the car was heading in precisely the opposite direction that it ought to have been and subjected his bewildered audience to a ten-minute lecture that smacked of avuncular disappointment and chastisement. It was quite a silent ride back for some distance after that.
Where have the enthusiastic direction-givers gone? Oh, well.
Valentine’s Day has come and gone and The Woman from Madras Musings is – as she is every year – mildly amused by all the strangeness the day leaves in its wake. (Wo)MMM herself is immune to the charms of the festival; the poet in the better half often sadly complains that he is ‘in troth to a stoic love that stonily demands faith in the absence of display.’ No, the spirit of Valentine’s Day is not quite (Wo)MMM’s cup of tea – but she certainly does not grudge lovebirds their hour of happiness. Like most ‘Days,’ it makes for a rather nice excuse to have a fun evening. And so, (Wo)MMM finds that she can stomach the rampant mushiness better than the dourness of those who are so offended by what they consider a western import threatening the nation’s sanskaari fabric that they want the whole thing banned. Naturally, this makes the festival very hip and urgently desirable to most.
Mind you, this anti-romance faction does more than just stoke rebellion – they seem to go out of the way to make an exhibition of themselves every year. (Wo)MMM remembers reading, in her younger days, about roving gangs of puritans who forced lovers lounging about in parks and suchlike to tie the nuptial knot right then and there, in front of them. It is rather surprising that this variety of rabid aversion has held steady over years – this time, according to the news, a group protested Valentine’s Day outside a women’s college in the city; a pair of dogs were reportedly married to each other in public pomp and show (what message this sought to convey, (Wo)MMM cannot say); and most outrageous of all, an administration-backed campaign that was later hastily rolled back urged the romantic to shun mere mortal love in favour of hugging cows instead.
What (Wo)MMM regrets the most about this whole affair – especially that disastrous call to bovine brotherhood – is that a little effort reveals that St Valentine himself is not associated with just romance; he happens to be the patron saint of multiple subjects including, surprisingly, beekeepers. Bees, therefore, would have been a much better and more relevant topic to pitch than cows. Hugging these stingers is out of the question, of course; but given that the drop in bee population is a popular doomsday subject, it would have made for a more interesting re-branding campaign. Also, (Wo)MMM has recently learned about some older Valentine’s Day traditions that are quite intriguing. Like the vinegar valentine. Contrary to sweet words of love, the vinegar valentine was apparently a sour note in which a Victorian would describe in enthusiastic detail the shortcomings of its recipient, often including a helpful caricature to clearly illustrate that which words cannot. This, (Wo)MMM imagines, is right up the anti-romance alley. As the pater says, If you can’t beat them, join them. There are far more interesting ways to derail the conversation if one wishes to – though (Wo)MMM rather thinks that love is likely to beat them all, in the end.
The Woman from Madras Musings recently – alright then, not very recently but in the near past – landed at the Chennai airport only to be greeted by an array of large tourism photos lining the arrival pathway. The pictures were actually quite pretty, being huge, glossy snaps of inviting, lush destinations. There was only one problem; not one of them was in Chennai. Actually, not one of them was even in South India or India, for that matter. (Wo)MMM put aside all thought of it until she stumbled upon a post on Twitter complaining about the very same thing. Why, the user demanded, does the Chennai airport not promote the beautiful tourist spots abundant in our own state? The tweet quickly gained virality, prompting the official handle of the Chennai airport to hastily promise a corrective course of action. (Wo)MMM wonders what new pictures have been put up, now.