Plethora of pretexts

The Man from Madras Musings – don’t ask him how – suddenly found himself in the middle of a group of expatriates, all of them exchanging notes on doing business in the city. The positive aspects that they listed were many but, among the negatives, it was the tendency of the local employees to go on leave for the flimsiest of reasons that ranked the highest.

What then followed was an exchange of some of the reasons for taking leave. Grandmother’s death apparently was the most frequent. And it was a great wonder to those gathered as to how many grandmothers each one possessed on an average. Sister’s wedding was another common one and it was only on making the most thorough investigation that it came to light that the ‘sister’ in question was not even a first cousin. Indians in general, said the executives, spend a lot of time attending family events, time that could be more profitably spent at workplace.

MMM, under the Chief’s guidance, had all along assumed that in days past it was the overseas visitor who was prone to ill-health in hot and humid Chennai. Apparently that is not so, at least if the expatriates whom MMM overheard are to be believed. Our local populace, according to them, is prone to a whole host of diseases rather like the Egyptians in the good book who, if you recollect, were visited by the plague. The most common malaise was the headache, an affliction which would not -seriously merit a day off. Food poisoning was another and this, as most of those -dissecting our staying-away-from-work tendencies felt, was because we ate all the time and overdid the eating each time. This is particularly rampant during the rains and also the wedding season. The foreign bosses were also of the view that, no matter how trivial the illness, we Chennaiites or at least a significant percentage of us immediately visit a hospital and there avail of a variety of treatments ranging from administering intravenous drips to traction. In other countries, say these men from across the seas, such simple health issues would be handled with some home remedy. But in Chennai it immediately means an opportunity to take a day off and visit some high cost clinic for the most basic of treatments.

That was not all. The practice of committing suicide or at least unsuccessfully attempting it appears to be at an all-time high in our city. If it were not the employees themselves, it was a relative and that was invariably not the grandmother who in general passes away due to natural causes. The suicide-prone relative or the employee, according to their disgruntled bosses, invariably chooses a Monday morning for his/her attempts. Either way, a full day off is assured, no matter who tried snuffing themselves out.

If such health and well-being (lack of it) related issues are not sufficient, there is a plethora of other reasons. A visit to the child’s school merits an understandable day off. But a quest for a passport apparently means several days off. The same applies for building registrations and permits. The annual holiday invariably results in a two or three-day extension of leave as the employee needs to recover from the travails of travel. There are also sections of staff who, according to the plaintive bosses, take a day off each time they return from official visits lasting a day or two. All this led MMM to conclude that a job for these specimens is something that needs to be attended to in intervals between holidays.

Chennai speak

The same gang of expats was also holding forth on some of the common expressions used by those who, at least in their CVs, claim they are fluent in the Queen’s lingo. While several of the usual ones such as ‘God promise’ and co-brother were listed, The Man from Madras Musings was surprised to find some of the more frequently heard ones absent. And for the benefit of the uninitiated, MMM lists below as many as ten such frequently heard expressions:

No issues – Meaning no problem or no offence meant. MMM always assumed that no issue was an expression used in family trees to indicate that a couple was childless.

Cannot able to – Meaning I was not able to or I could not.

Hope so – Used in place of I think so. A common usage is “He has not come. I hope so he is ill.”

Torture – Indicates nagging and a person who tortures is someone who nags.

Blunder-mistake – Meant to be a big mistake as opposed to a small one, which is a bug-mistake.

Self Driving – Not using a chauffeur.

Revert back – As in I will revert back to you. Reply back is also a common expression. Several DJs use it on TV. There is a third option used – feedback. This is usually structured like this – I will feedback you, why don’t you feedback him, etc.

Going native – This means going to the village or town of origin. This is also to put into the context of the other question – What is your native?

Temproworry – Temporary

Hiranya – Hernia


What with so many Chennaiites travelling abroad and so many foreigners coming to live here, The Man from Madras Musings cannot help noticing that our city is changing. Foreign restaurants flaunting exotic dishes are the in-thing. Waiters are forced to learn pronunciation of complicated-sounding dishes and repeat them flawlessly. They are also expected to be knowledgeable about what goes into each of them. MMM was recently at one such place which offered Middle-East dishes. MMM has a weakness for aubergines and decided to try the Baba Ganoush which, according to MMM, is our Baingan-ka-Bartha served cold. What increased MMM’s love for the dish was the waiter turning to him with a bright smile and complimenting him on choosing Babu Ganesh! It made MMM wonder if there is a restaurant specialising in cannibal cuisine as well.