Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXXIII No. 4, June 1-15, 2023
The Woman from Madras Musings has long been of the view that the older generation of Madras that is Chennai is more inclined to the delightfully absurd than the present one. Some of the stories that the Eternals or their peers casually drop into conversation are positively outrageous, like plots straight out of a French play – such as a certain city school keeping a pet crocodile on the premises; or an unnamed gentlewoman augustly seating herself in her own golu for guests to gaze at and admire. (Wo)MMM ventures to confess that she has always felt a twinge of envy upon hearing these nuggets. They’re so commendably preposterous that either (a) they’re true, proving that people were once nuttier than a fruitcake, or (b) they’re fibs, proving that the storytellers are absolutely bananas. The upshot is that (Wo)MMM has always felt rather sad that her own life doesn’t seem to be half as interesting, all things considered.
A recent incident has reaffirmed her faith in the city’s eccentricity. It was sometime on a Saturday afternoon that a sudden desire for vadams seized her. These are one of those snacks that (Wo)MMM once wolfed down by the ton but are increasingly harder to come by in these modern days. They were not procured from shops, you see – kannadi maami would come home bearing wares that were a veritable ode to the tastebuds and the mater would close the deal on our doorstep. Today, however, the vadams have to be purchased from vadam maami, who takes orders by phone.
(Wo)MMM made the call, naively assuming that the exchange would be short and sweet. The call went on for nearly half an hour, and she came away with more insight that she wanted on the good lady’s rousing family politics. She did manage to place the order, though. By a fortunate coincidence, the pick-up location was about a street or so away from where Pater Eternal was at that very moment, which meant that the driver could easily make the payment and bring the vadams on his way back. The pair were no strangers to each other either, for (Wo)MMM had bought from vadam maami in the past, in the driver’s presence. And so, instructions were relayed to both parties and numbers were exchanged. The entire thing went off smoothly, though it was only much later that the driver gave his account of the story.
The driver, being quite familiar with the area, had located vadam maami’s place easily enough. Locating the maami herself was another matter – she had proved hard to catch on the phone; and when finally caught, she urged the driver to wait where he was. The poor chap had lingered around on the street outside her door when after a few minutes, a head suddenly surfaced mid-air, in a balcony overhead. A long-winded explanation ensued, with the maami ruing the fact that she lived on the third floor where there was no lift. It struck the driver then that she preferred to conduct the transaction thus, much like Romeo and Juliet. (Wo)MMM grew visibly uneasy at these words, but the driver was quick to fend off her words. ‘Wait’, he said, grinning from ear to ear, ‘the story is just starting’.
Turns out that vadam maami proposed to lower a basket from her balcony above, laden with the promised goods; the driver was to pick up the packed vadams and the bill inside and replace them with money, whereupon she would raise the basket back to her home. The chap rather thought she was joking until she really did produce a basket out of nowhere. She looped a piece of cloth around its handle and carefully lowered the basket to the street, navigating electricity wires, telephone wires, branches and curious neighbours on the lower floors. The driver picked up the vadams and reached for the bill, which the wind suddenly whipped away. He watched the paper float away into the distance and looked up at the maami. ‘What if the money flies off?’ he asked. ‘I am not paying you twice, you know’. Down came a clothesline clip, which plonked down neatly into the basket; maami suggested he gently clip the note to it and send it back up. The driver did as he was asked and watched her pull up the basket, all the while feeling like he was in a dream. ‘It was all so strange,’ he laughed. ‘Did the elai vadams taste nice?’
They didn’t, as a matter of fact. Maami had forgotten to add salt to the batter.
The Woman from Madras Musings was feeling a bit bored at home, so she decided to pop into the games room in the building complex. It was quite empty of people, so (Wo)MMM pottered around for a bit at the billiards table, feeling rather foolish. The door suddenly opened, and a tiny head poked in, its owner all of 3 feet and about five years of age. (Wo)MMM pounced on the welcome interruption and managed to persuade the newcomer to a game of foosball – table football – which she rightly judged would be of interest to the young gentleman.
There are some who feel that children should be allowed to win, but (Wo)MMM is not of their ilk – memories of her own childhood days are yet fresh of the big sister dancing a horrendous victory lap around a beaten and broken baby (Wo)MMM wailing in a pile of playing cards. (Wo)MMM came out of it stronger, she is glad to say, so she makes sure to pay the favour forward.
Her present opponent was a veteran at foosball, so the match was quite neck-to-neck. If (Wo)MMM managed to score a goal, the young man deftly changed his strategy in the next round to get in one of his own. At a crucial juncture, (Wo)MMM contrived to force the gentleman to score a self-goal. She was left quite surprised when he stopped her from rolling the ball for the next round. ‘I scored a self-goal, which means you get a free hit. Didn’t you know that?’ he frowned and placed the ball close to his net.
(Wo)MMM was floored. It was such admirable sportsmanship to display, one that she knew few of her own peers were capable of. She thanked him profusely and proceeded to score the winning goal, whereupon handshakes were exchanged along with promises to meet and play more often.
Really, the kids are alright.