Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXXII No. 3, May 16-31, 2022

Short ‘N’ Snappy

– (Wo)MMM

Stories from a bus

The Woman from Madras Musings was whiling away a traffic jam on the Adyar bridge when a strange, strangled sound escaped the driver. He was looking balefully at the bus in front, which appeared to be the scene of a lively squabble. The driver appeared to be deeply moved by one of the arguing parties who seemed to have gotten the short end of the stick. He suddenly declared with great feeling that he too had been having a rather rough go of the morning bus rides himself. Intrigued by this heartfelt announcement, (Wo)MMM asked for more details. She was not disappointed – the driver had a veritable treasure trove of tales and conspiracy theories, a few of which (Wo)MMM can’t help but share.

The opening story was a strongly-worded complaint about the status quo of reserving seats for women. The driver cast a side-eyed glance at (Wo)MMM as he said this, presumably expecting an outburst of indignation. Truth be told, (Wo)MMM did find herself on the verge of a debate, but is happy to report that she managed to hold her tongue. From what (Wo)MMM could understand, the driver’s top peeve was the lack of seating for men, which he claimed was exacerbated by the administration’s scheme of free bus travel for women. He said that there were quite a few town buses that plied the route he patronized, but the women at his stop “insisted in piling into a single overflowing bus instead of waiting for the next one that came along.” The upshot of which was that some enterprising women bagged all the seats, leaving the men with no choice but to stand next to the ‘peevish’ group of women who were left behind. He reported that there were regular tiffs between passengers for seating, all of which ended quite unfavourably for the men who wanted to sit. The only silver lining as far as he could see was that his own daughter managed to get a seat most times she travelled with him.

The second story was about the daredevil kids who added to his commuting woes. (Wo)MMM was rather familiar with this one – she herself has seen many high-school and college kids hanging from moving buses and had, on one occasion, been witness to a minor accident that had transpired as a result. It turns out that the driver’s bus had recently met with such a misadventure as well, much to the conductor’s chagrin. Apparently, the parents of the culprits had been quite displeased and complained; in response, the authorities had taken the bus driver to task, which the driver felt was rather unfair. Having borne the brunt of the whole thing, the bus driver now reportedly stops the bus wherever he is when he catches sight of a young adventurer swinging from the rails, effectively delaying the commute for everyone on board until the miscreant deigns to come back inside. That very morning, he said ruefully, it took the bus a whole 20 minutes to get moving again for the youth had simply refused to get back on board. (Wo)MMM had to agree that the driver’s ire was well-earned in this instance.

The third story was a delicious conspiracy theory. The driver opened on a rather thrilling note, demanding if (Wo)MMM had seen buses speed past the stops they were meant to halt at. (Wo)MMM had to admit she had. He then asked if she had experienced inordinate delays whilst waiting for a bus at a stop. Once again, (Wo)MMM had to admit that she had. It was with a quiet, almost triumphant note that the driver revealed that both instances were nothing but underhanded collusions between the bus driver and the auto drivers in the area. The bus driver, he claimed, would plan the stops he would delay or miss with the auto drivers in advance; the auto drivers would then slowly drive their autos past the stop at the allotted time of day, tempting passengers who were in a hurry. The proceeds, according to him, are split between the parties at the end of the day. (Wo)MMM was frankly quite riveted by the scheme he described. Was there any hope of proving or disproving his theory? None, as far as she could see. If true, it seemed to be a pretty tidy scheme.

It has been a while, admittedly, since (Wo)MMM took the bus. Most of her own memories are quite cheerful – there was a fantastic fleet of air-conditioned buses plying the routes in her day, which seem nowhere to be seen now. (Wo)MMM has been wanting to take a town bus for a while though, and the driver’s tale, aggrieved as it was, has only whetted her appetite. It may be prudent to avoid travel on his route, though – he may not be happy to see yet another woman contesting a seat at his stop.

A case of drunken driving

The Woman from Madras Musings lives in a locality which houses a popular bar in the neighbourhood. (Wo)MMM has been told it is a rather good bar, one patronised by the locals who like to enjoy a drink now and then. Lately, though, it seems to have attracted a flock of night owls who choose to drive through the residential streets in order to avoid getting collared by the traffic police on the main roads. This, of course, is a problem. And so it was absolutely delightful to see a pair of smartly-dressed policemen crop up late at night, dutifully checking every car and bike that passed by.

(Wo)MMM was reaching home with the better half when she noticed the officials. She was duly stopped and politely asked if she had had a drink; she was allowed to leave soon enough once it became apparent that she hadn’t. The bike travelling behind, however, was another story. It came speeding around the corner, carrying three persons who were still in the aftermath of what seemed to be a rather indulgent evening. They came to a screeching halt when they saw the policemen and their loud hoots died away on their lips; it was quite clear that they had never dreamed they would be caught by the traffic police on this route. The policeman who had been talking to (Wo)MMM adopted a stern countenance at once. He briskly got to work. He instructed the young men to get down from their bikes and proceeded to throw a slew of questions at them. Where were their helmets? Why were three of them on the same bike? They were drunk, weren’t they? (Wo)MMM had to admit to feeling a twinge of satisfaction on seeing them booked on the spot – there had been more than a couple of hit-and-runs on the road in the recent past, no doubt due to drunken driving.

The road is now quiet again and the policemen have disappeared, presumably to put the fear of god in similar culprits on other residential streets. (Wo)MMM finds the whole thing very comforting.

Trending

The Woman from Madras Musings recently saw an announcement from the railways unveiling a ‘baby berth’ in select trains, meant to make it easier for mothers to sleep next to their children. The baby berth seems to be a smaller berth attached to the side of the lower berth. It also sports a rather alarmingly wide railing. Many were left aghast by the initial photos, for all they could see was a fall hazard through the yawning gap between the rails. More pictures followed in response to the criticism, showcasing berth straps in plain view; the dissidents, however, remained unconvinced. The general consensus was that widening the main berth would have been a better option, as the baby could sleep safely towards the wall. Everyone came to the damning conclusion that no woman was consulted in the design. The berth’s failings look so patently obvious that (Wo)MMM has to agree that she suspects this to be the case, too.

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