The Man from Madras Musings can hear you all groan “Oh, no, not another Egmore story.” But let MMM assure you that once you have read it your knotted and combined locks will part and stand on end like quills on a fretful porpentine, as the Bard said. That by the way is something that will never happen to MMM, for what with working for the Chief on a permanent basis, he (meaning MMM and not the Chief) is challenged in the matter of hair.

But to get back to Egmore. The other day MMM had to go to the station, this time not as a passenger but to meet someone who was arriving. The person to be met needed assistance in walking and that made MMM’s alabaster brow furrowed. There are overbridges to negotiate and the platforms are long, uneven and often dirty.

And so it was a pensive MMM who crossed the stately portals of Egmore station. He did not pause to admire the stained glass (once multicoloured but now stained a permanent betelnut red) or the corbels or the staircase, all of which, had MMM been differently situated, he would have spent time on. He was, after all, there with a purpose. MMM went straight to the office where, he was told, he needed to book a wheelchair. It was one of those places that could have passed for a morgue, for it appeared at first sight to be filled with winding sheets. The wheelchair booking office, it transpired, also doubled as the laundry collection area. The staff was friendly enough and MMM was assured that all he needed to do was to give a call on the wheelchair-in-charge’s cell phone as soon as MMM’s friend had alighted from his train. The wheelchair, MMM was given to understand, would be there in a jiffy.

And so off went MMM to the assigned platform. A load had been lifted from his head. He could not help contrasting it with his younger days when elderly relatives had to suffer the indignity of being transported in baggage trolleys, pushed by cursing porters. The train arrived. The person whom MMM had come to meet duly alighted and staggered off to a nearby bench. MMM made his call. The voice at the other end said that the wheelchair would soon be on its way. A stage wait occurred. MMM made a second call. He was informed that the wheelchair would be sent as soon as the previous hirer had returned it. And how long would that take, asked MMM. The voice had no answer. After some hesitation it replied that the entire station had one solitary wheelchair and it was anybody’s guess as to when it would be returned to the booking office. There were, added the voice most helpfully, ten trains arriving in that one hour and so the wheelchair was in great demand. It could not have been more sought after had it been a minister’s chair.

By that time the platform was pretty much deserted, barring MMM, the elderly passenger and a pile of luggage. The phone rang. It was the voice again. A wave of hope surged in MMM. Could the wheelchair have been returned, after all? But that was not the case. The wheelchair would take quite a while, said the Voice of God, but MMM could avail of the next best thing. The voice said that it had organised for a porter to bring a luggage trolley in which the passenger could be moved. It had, said the voice, the added advantage that the bags could also be loaded on to it. And then having added smartly that MMM could settle directly with the porter, the voice went off, no doubt to spend the rest of the day folding bed sheets.

In the distance MMM could see a porter wheeling a baggage trolley. He was weaving his way uncertainly towards MMM having, no doubt, spent a considerable portion of his anteprandial earnings on an aperitif or two. His vocabulary was rich judging by the way he addressed a stray dog that happened to cross his path. MMM looked at the elderly relative, who just had a resigned air. There is little further to be said, other than the fact that the journey was by trolley, pushed by a cursing porter.