Years ago, when The Man from Madras Musings was a Cherubic Child of Calcutta, his father had done the rounds seeking admission for him (by which MMM means MMM and not his father) at various schools in the latter city. A missionary institution with a vast campus, named after the Apostle of Madras, was willing to give him a seat. But what made MMM’s pater pull his son out at the last minute was a signboard in the campus. Addressed to parents, it advised them to take a certain pathway “for the safety of their child.” This some wag had turned to face in the direction of a deep and reed-infested pond. MMM’s father, no doubt knowing his Hamlet and of what happened to Ophelia therein, withdrew his ward at once, who then went on to be the leading curse of another school but in a smaller and more concrete-covered campus.

This incident came back rather vividly to MMM’s mind recently when it poured cats and dogs in our usually rain-short city. Undounted by the rain, MMM decided to honour his commitment to attend an event that was being held at a college deep in the southern fringes of the metro that we know so well. Arriving by noon at the place, MMM was asked by the security to drive on. MMM obeyed and drove on until he came to a fork. A signboard bearing the legend “No Entry” very clearly declared the road on the left to be out of bounds and, so, deducing from this that the road on the right was the only way, MMM went ahead.

Sailed may have been the mot juste, for what lay on the right was a vast sheet of water. But you know how it is, what with working for the Chief and walking hand-in-hand in life with the One who is also known as She Who Must Be Obeyed, MMM never questions instructions. In that he is more or less like any member of the Light Brigade. And so he went ahead. It was only after driving on for some time that MMM realised that the waters were rising and the wheels of his car were making squelching noises, thereby indicating that they were negotiating what may well have been a tank bed.

Lord Ullin’s Daughter was the poem that came to MMM’s mind (The waters wild went over his child etc) and he decided to reverse, not wanting to be discovered the next day like the Scottish peer’s daughter with one hand stretched for aid. The reversing through water was an adventure by itself but MMM will not bore you with the details. Many prayers and much effort later, MMM and car reached dry land. MMM made it to the event late what with all these water sports en route. In contrast to MMM’s rather bedraggled appearance, everyone else there was shipshape.

It was then that MMM discovered that everyone else had happily driven through the road on the left, disregarding the No Entry sign. Like Robert Frost, they had taken the road less travelled and been successful, while MMM, conformist that he is, had nearly come to a watery end. In Chennai, or for that matter anywhere in India, it pays to overlook road signs and traffic signals.