Mallipoo Moments

The Confessions of a Chennaite

Shakthi Bharathi, III Year B.A. English

Given that the theme for this month is Namma Chennai, it would be remiss not to mention the city’s infamous “malli poo moments”, as my editor likes to call them. These day-to-day disses our residents trade, are in some cases, unprovoked attacks borne with ill-disguised eye rolls.

Because let’s face it: among the long list of things adults all over the world practice, bullying young blood ranks high and Chennai has the proud infestation of its own Mylapore Maami Syndrome.

MMS, the symptoms of which include nosiness, friendly harassment, and opinions no one asked for, is most commonly found in parental units but since that’s a tangent with an inexhaustible supply of material, I’ll cite four others still remembered fondly:

  • Before my entry into Stella Maris’s hallowed halls, one of our family friends unearthed himself from a six-year hibernation to advise me on higher education. Assertions—mildly amiable, then with a definitive edge—that I’d had my heart set on learning the intricacies of the English language were lost on dismissive ears. What ensued was an hour’s sermon on the glories of the Indian Administrative Service.
  • It’s not every day that one gets snubbed by auto drivers. Looking back, I should’ve ignored the “What are you studying in college?”(It’s the first thing you learn as an arts student). It was a new place and I wasn’t familiar with the route. “Ah… That’s why. If you’d been in engineering you would’ve known.” He hawked and spat before adding, “But girl only, no? You’ll be minding the house anyway.” He drawled that he knew the city inside out and promptly proceeded to get lost in the labyrinth of streets till I Googled directions.

Well, maybe if he’d been in engineering…

  • If there’s one thing salons neglect to mention before they bill you for boy-cuts, it’s the legit danger of being mis-gendered. Accidents happen—it’s anecdotal gold. My first ride on the Metro involved getting shooed out of the ladies’ compartment till I weakly protested through giggles. Last Valentine’s Day two cops on patrol slowed down, one’s unblinking stare fixed on me till they disappeared around the corner. It didn’t hit me right away that leaning on the gate at night, wearing tracks and talking to your pretty friend, can be a little Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa.
  • Less-accidental reactions do qualify. The way the hairdressers recoiled almost a year ago, you’d think I asked for a limb to be cut off and not ten inches of dead tissue. Now they give brave smiles. Apart from salon staff, the general public also gets in on the action. Last week’s highlight was the loud rumination on my minimal matrimonial prospects, by a charmingly random cobbler. The bus could not arrive fast enough.

Needless to say, Chennai isn’t the easiest place to live in. To quote a wise tweet, “There are seven trillion nerves in the human body and some people manage to get on every one of them.” But when you consider the little and not-so-little things that constitute this city—be it brushing up on bargaining skills at Pondy Bazaar, sharing gobi manchurian with a friend at the café next door, or perhaps, helping out last monsoon when communities came together to raise the city from its watery ashes—life ain’t so bad in this coastal city.

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