Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXXIII No. 19, January 16-31, 2024
The Woman from Madras Musings was having dinner with an aunt who happened to be visiting from abroad. The aunt in question had dashed off on a hearty bout of sightseeing with the husband and children during the sojourn here, and while the experience had ensured the family many memories, it also left her appalled at the sudden change in what she called ‘queue etiquette’. In short, uncle had been quite atrocious in cutting his way through lines everywhere they went. His very personality, the aunt claimed, had undergone a chilling transformation – where once had stood a mild-mannered, harmless connoisseur of vadais and films was now suddenly a veritable (and admittedly quite likeable) pest that unapologetically cut through to the top of lines. When barred, the gentleman had, at various separate instances, professed exhaustion; laid claim to a tearing hurry owing to family emergencies; and had even pulled off the suggestion of a hurt foot with the slightest hint of a limp. At the airport, he had asked for a wheelchair to avoid standing in line. It had all been rather alarming for the family to endure, for they had to follow in his footsteps feeling mortified the whole time.
The aunt and children were flabbergasted by the whole thing; they claimed that this unwelcome avatar was unimaginable in foreign shores where, (Wo)MMM is told, he rather prides himself on being a stickler for the rules. His arrival in India seems to have prompted the emergence of this rather annoying Mr Hyde within. Uncle, for his part, defended himself saying that he was sixty years old; he surely shouldn’t be made to wait about in queues? Aunt took away his strawberry ice cream in response, claiming that sixty was probably too old to have so much sugar, too.
(Wo)MMM commiserated heartily with the poor lady but could not in honesty profess surprise. In her admittedly narrow experience, most of us tend to be quite amenable to being civil and decent anywhere but in our own country. The very thought of spitting in Singapore or driving rashly in California or littering the streets of Berlin is met with horror, but such restraint seems to be shunned here. Here we can do all the above and more and fondly call the city our home. Most call it a ‘taking of liberty’ or ‘being comfortable’ in the place of birth; (Wo)MMM thinks its all hogwash. Unlike some other countries, there are no consequences for such behaviour here, that’s all. We get away with it. It’s why spitting on the road has gone back to being common after the covid scare.
Uncle didn’t get away that easily though. Last heard, he was banned from desserts for the rest of the trip in light of his self-professed dotage. He’s now trying to prove his youthfulness by standing patiently in queues.
The Woman from Madras Musings had a moment of revelation last month – it is no longer glamorous to have friends and family bringing ‘foreign’ stuff when they visit. A friend had asked (Wo)MMM if the Eternals could buy him a phone when they returned, but soon discovered that the product was far cheaper here. So were laptops, perfumes, shoes, clothing and just about everything else that was once a mark of prestige to have delivered from abroad. The only thing that still holds some amount of clout as ‘from foreign’ product is perhaps chocolate. The Better Half insists that chocolate – even that from the very same brand – tastes better when it is brought from abroad.
The Eternals are returning home soon with a t-shirt for (Wo)MMM and an entire suitcase full of assorted chocolates for B.H.
The stars had come out and were twinkling merrily in the sky when the Woman from Madras Musings wondered where the Better Half was. He had called a couple of hours ago with the announcement that he was setting forth from work to fly back home; could (Wo)MMM, he had asked, make him a snack before dinner? In deference to the good man’s wishes, (Wo)MMM had made an assortment of bajjis and – even more impressive – had restrained herself from polishing them off. But the clock had ticked on and on until (Wo)MMM began to think that the fair thing to do would be to eat the bajjis while they were hot and make fresh ones for the B.H when he appeared. And so it was that (Wo)MMM found herself attending his call whilst relishing a particularly good kathrika bajji.
It transpired that he had made good on his earlier threat and had left his office not a few minutes after the first call, but what was to have been a 20 minute trip had prolonged into a nightmarish drive. The poor man had reached Besant Nagar with a song on his lips when he spied that the road ahead was filled to the brim with vehicles of all sorts; he had taken a turn into an adjoining lane to go by an alternate route, which had turned out to be cordoned off. It must be noted at this juncture that the B.H, having spent a merry childhood in that area, rather prides himself on knowing all the short cuts around. So he had felt quite cheated when he discovered that his last resort was a blocked route, too. He had been driving about in hunger for more than an hour and had called to ask – rather piteously – if (Wo)MMM had truly made him a snack.
Well, now. That melted (Wo)MMM’s heart. After assuring him that she had made bajjis for him, (Wo)MMM proceeded to finish off the first batch so that she could make him fresh, hot ones. A beaten and broken B.H arrived home a full twenty five minutes later. It took him another half-an-hour to eat the fairly new bajjis in between all his complaining about the traffic. (Wo)MMM had to share this plate with him, too – it wouldn’t have been fair to the bajjis to let them grow too cold.