Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXXIII No. 6, July 1-15, 2023
The Woman from Madras Musings was marching to her position on the tennis court when her doubles partner suddenly stopped and gazed at her, his forehead scrunched. “Where’s your pottu?” he asked after a while. When (Wo)MMM replied that she has never worn one to tennis, his frown deepened. “Perhaps you should. Your forehead looks… empty.” (Wo)MMM found this to be a rather strange exchange, and it was only after much thought that a theory presented itself to her – perhaps he had grown fond enough of her to take an active interest in the welfare of her forehead. She told the Better Half, who rather concurred. “You should have asked him in return why he wasn’t wearing any vibhuti,” he said. “That would have thrilled him to bits.”
(Wo)MMM has always felt that it is at once a privilege and a sort of sweet suffering to win the fondness of a Chennaiite. As far as Madras is concerned, love is obliged to break down social fences that guard against inhibition and candour. Our favour and affection are wild things – freely given whether the recipient wants them or not, transforming personal boundaries into entirely porous lines. Advice is dispensed freely, as are disapproval and disappointment; and affection is largely communicated through a brand of mockery endemic to our city. The other day, Victory Mother – an itinerant vegetable seller and longtime friend – sprang to (Wo)MMM’s support as Mater Eternal admonished her for constantly loafing around in shorts. “She doesn’t look hideous!” interjected VM with a grin that ought to have braced (Wo)MMM for the punchline. “She looks absolutely lovely, just as she is – why, she almost looks like a boy!” VM went off chortling as (Wo)MMM wilted under the Mater’s glare; she surfaced shortly after, offering a couple of cucumbers in a bid for peace.
Then again, (Wo)MMM has never quite experienced a kindness so unstinting and forthcoming as Chennai is capable of. Memories of the floods carry the faintest hint of sweetness for this reason; (Wo)MMM recalls a great number of people popping up at home in those days, bringing what they knew to be treasures – a couple of pieces of brinjal or bottle gourd, a packet of milk or a few candles. Why, (Wo)MMM is currently in the process of shifting houses and it is inexplicably the driver anna who is running the whole complex operation. Responsibilities are cheerfully assumed and carried out without a hint of complaint or expectation; the liberties of affection go both ways.
There’s nothing quite like being loved by a Chennaiite, isn’t there?
The Woman from Madras Musings was lounging about on the sofa when Pater Eternal entered, sporting a decidedly sheepish look on his face. Mater Eternal, hawk-eyed and sharp as she is, pounced on him at once demanding to know what he had done. It transpired that he had had a small adventure of sorts in the apartment elevator. PE had sought to go to the ground floor for a short walk around the premises. Due to an inexplicable series of miscalculations, he had found himself alighting on the first floor repeatedly – four times in a row, to be precise. The explanation for how this occurred is rather confusing, but it consists of (a) PE pushing the wrong button; (b) co-passengers pushing the right button and (c) a self-aware elevator focusing all its energies upon subjecting PE to great vexation. (Wo)MMM advises our readers to take that last claim with a generous cupful of salt.
PE’s shenanigans would have gone entirely unnoticed but for a young lady sitting in the doorway of her first-floor house. She, having seen PE hop in and out of the elevator all day, understandably assumed that he was enjoying a wild joyride in the wee hours of the morning. PE reports that he was deeply abashed when she went on to assure him that she too liked to ride in the elevator, conspiratorially adding that discretion would be wise given that the association heavyweights took a rather dim view of the game. “I think we’ve become friends though,” finished PE. Going by the look on Mater Eternal’s face, (Wo)MMM rather doubts that PE will be allowed to travel in elevators unsupervised for some time.
The Woman from Madras Musings had a particularly rough go of the summer. She spent most of her time hibernating indoors, for the very thought of stepping out in the sun brought on intolerable exhaustion. And so, when she was invited to attend a family function in Kanchipuram during the peak of the season, she confesses that she was rather relieved that work obligations prevented her from going. The Betternals went and returned with an armful of stories. Most of it was about the searing heat. The mandapam was not air conditioned; the timings were not helpful either, for the event was scheduled close to noon. The guests were apparently constantly sweating rivulets, all the while convincing one another in some sort of mind-over-matter stratagem that the heat was not as bad as they feared it would be. ‘I think they willed themselves into believing their own words,’ said one Betternal in admiration.
Now that we’ve enjoyed a couple of thunderstorms, the vehemence of summer feels rather like a dream. Its torture seems to be largely forgotten and the general gripe has turned towards the state of the roads under the lashing of the rains and the never-ending civic work on the city’s stormwater drains. What short memories we mortals have!