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VOL. XXIV NO. 18, January 1-15, 2014
Short 'N' Snappy

The city and sobriety

It is the season of celebration and cheer and everything other than water is flowing in the city that we all love so much. The police force, whose task it is to see that the citizenry sticks to the safe and narrow and does not come to a sticky end through wayward driving, has taken upon itself the responsibility of weeding out from the roads those who have made merry rather freely. Unfortunately, in its view, The Man from Madras Musings is also one of them.

And in this the police force errs for MMM’s abstemiousness is a byword among those who know him well. In fact this is what keeps MMM from receiving invitations to bottle parties for it is an open secret that the only use that MMM is of on such occasions is that of a driver to drop home the more spiritually uplifted among the attendees. However, the gendarmerie does not share this sentiment. In its jaundiced view, MMM has the looks of one who on the milk of honey hath fed and done so rather only too well. Perhaps it has to do with the way MMM’s eyes are structured or it could have to do with his general deportment but there it is, the police stops MMM repeatedly and having informed him that it is only a random check, asks him if he would kindly step that way.

MMM never argues with the law enforcers. He meekly follows and does whatever they tell him to do. The first of these is to blow his breath on to their faces. Here again MMM does not complain but the manner in which the party at the receiving end shields its face when MMM breathes out what he always considers a healing zephyr is nothing short of offensive. MMM’s breath is of the best, nurtured as it is through the most superior of toothpastes, brushes, mouthwashes and fresheners. But the police force, as MMM has said, shies away in a startled fashion. It then invariably apologises for having suspected MMM of being drunk and disorderly and waves him on his way. Thus far MMM has not been asked to blow into a balloon but in his view the day is not far off.

There is much in this whole process that is most inefficient. Firstly, the spots where this rabid dry brigade hangs out are well known. So those who imbibe rather freely avoid these routes as far as possible on their way home. Secondly, the modus operandi of checking out those on a high is faulty to the extreme. What is the purpose in a whole posse of policemen descending on a single vehicle as though it contains a dangerous extremist armed to his teeth? One man should do the task but here a strict hierarchy ensures that several are provided employment – a higher up indicates the car to be stopped, the next lower down taps on the window, a third explains why the halt was necessitated and a fourth, invariably the junior-most, receives the full blast of the bad breath and at times the foul language of the driver. All the while, other vehicles, no doubt driven by people who are well above the safe limit, are all whizzing by.

Moreover, this preliminary check by blowing is hardly foolproof; for any drunk can eat food filled with onion and garlic and then get behind the wheel. Also the logic on the basis of which cars are stopped defies any er…logic. Women drivers are never questioned. Men with women and children in their car are given the go by. MMM is told that those with religious symbols on their faces are also respectfully waved on.  So the next time you want to make merry and still drive your vehicle, you know what to do.

Examining for Ebola

It was the last thing that The Man from Madras Musings expected to happen to him. He is not alluding to Ebola the dreaded virus but something that he fears even more – being away from Chennai during the thick of the music season. But it came about and MMM was whisked away to foreign and extremely cold climes, mercifully for a period of just about ten days. While returning to his beloved city, MMM had thrust into his hands several of the usual forms that needed to be filled. He then noticed one more – a self-declaration – to the effect that MMM had not travelled to any African country in the past fortnight and that he was not coughing, having headaches, or suffering from a fever. Being of a robustly healthy disposition (though always believing to the contrary), MMM filled in a ‘no’ to all the clauses.

It was while writing all this on the form that MMM noticed a fairly well known name from the Tamil film industry sitting two seats away in the aircraft. This name, or shall we say, star, filled the form in a most perfunctory fashion and then kept it all aside before sinking into a deep and refreshing sleep. On arrival at Chennai, the idol was woken up by the attendants with the gentleness of someone brushing flies off a sleeping Venus while the rest including MMM were prodded in the ribs. The star was of course the first to leave the aircraft. MMM was not far behind and more or less kept pace till he came upon a welcoming party. This group bowed and scraped to the star who limply handed over passport and other papers before being whisked through a special doorway no doubt to a waiting limo.

The rest, including MMM, were not so fortunate. Everyone was stopped midstride by a woman wielding what appeared at first glance to be a gun. Conceive of MMM’s horror when this was pressed to his temple. He had just commended his soul to God when the woman released him from a vice like grip. It was, she explained rather cursorily, a temperature-measuring device to see if MMM was afflicted by the dreaded Ebola. She was happy she said, to inform MMM that he was healthy and so could he please move on to finish other formalities.

Seeing that she had thawed considerably, no doubt on realising that MMM was Ebola-free, MMM made bold to ask her as to why the star was not subjected to the same test. Pat came the answer that the personality was a public figure and so could not be subjected to the kind of tests that common folk went through. It made MMM wonder if film stars were immune to the virus and if the cure to Ebola lay in everyone becoming a matinee idol. But he chose not to stop and ponder. Already a queue was forming behind him comprising passengers to be tested with the laser gun and he could detect a certain restlessness in their attitude to MMM’s queries.

On the flip side, if there is an Ebola outbreak in the city, you may know whom to look for.


The Man from Madras Musings takes time off from the usual tailpieces to wish every one of his readers a happy and healthy new year. MMM will desist from hoping for any major improvements to the city because they may not happen, though he lives in hope.


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In this issue

Believe it or not!
Madras Landmarks - 50 years ago
The Metro Rail again!
World's tallest statue
Annie Besant's contribution
The Season,75 years ago
From wall paintings to posters again
By moonlight to Pulicat by boat
The beginnings of MATSCIENCE
Save those buildings

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Readers Write
Dates for your Diary


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