The Man from Madras Musings had to take a decision and pretty soon at that. Years of having others such as the Chief and MMM’s good lady (also known as She Who Must Be Obeyed) do this for him had robbed MMM of the ability. But for how long could he be infirm of purpose, as Lady Macbeth would have termed it?
MMM was at the intersection of White’s Road and Westcott Road in Royapettah recently. His destination was the Express Avenue Mall and separating him from it was a vast stream of seemingly never-ending traffic. MMM’s past and fairly blameless life flashed before him and he recollected his kindergarten teacher’s instructions that you needed to look left, right and then left again before crossing any road. MMM did accordingly. He looked left and saw that there was no traffic coming his way from that direction and that was all to the good, as the good book has a habit of saying rather quite often. He then looked right and that was where the problem was, for it being a one-way, all the traffic was coming from that side and at high speed.
Buses, autos, cars, motorcycles, vans and cycles volleyed and thundered. Under similar circumstances, though hardly as hazardous, the Light Brigade had charged ahead; but not so MMM. He was pusillanimous at best and kept hovering at the edge. He looked at the clock tower, which appeared to be sympathetic. After all, reflected MMM, it ought to feel much worse, having to be in the thick of traffic, day in and day out.
Across the road, four policemen were having a relaxed time. This being the balmy Chennai winter, they relaxed in the sunshine, leaning on a motorcycle that they had appropriated from its hapless owner by the simple expedient of stepping forward together as one man, stopping the vehicle in mid-stride and taking away its key. The unfortunate biker was standing by, smiling ingratiatingly at the representatives of the law and hoping no doubt that they knew all about the quality of mercy.
MMM tried attracting the attention of the quartet but they remained blissfully unaware. Time was getting on and if MMM did not take the plunge he would have been late for his appointment. Thus it was that MMM put his foot forward only to rapidly retract it as a motorcycle almost ran over it. Peril, they say, sharpens the intellect and so it was with MMM. He recollected vaguely that Mahatma Gandhi had once said something about how you needed to win battles with humility. And what better sign of that than the traditional Indian greeting of holding the palms pressed together, in a Namaste. MMM stepped forth, his arms stretched and palms pressed together. He was like a suffragette throwing herself before the horses at Ascot.
That did the trick. Buses, cars, motorcycles, autos and cycles, not to forget vans, screeched to a halt. Many drivers smiled at MMM, some laughed and others cheered as he made it to the other side. The only ones who were not amused in the least were the guardians of the law. They formed a reception committee of four on the other side and, as MMM waded ashore, duly scooped him in and conducted him to the base of a nearby tree.
Did MMM realise that what he had done was extremely dangerous, they asked. The sudden darting forward of pedestrians, they said, was extremely dangerous for vehicles. MMM could almost imagine that the buses, cars and the rest were horses that shy and rear on seeing a human figure. The law was of the view that MMM, vide his stupidity, could have caused the worst of accidents. MMM explained that he had no other option. He then mustered enough courage and asked the four as to why they did not come forward to help. That was not possible, they said. They were not traffic police. They were posted there to check seat belt and helmet violations!