The steaming cuppa, pic courtesy Abhinava Shriraam

They come in all shapes and sizes. The Man from Madras Musings alludes to airports. Chennai’s is terrible and medium-sized. That of a mofussil town in our State, which MMM happened to visit, was bad too, but much smaller. And of course, the rules that govern security are all dependent on the whims of the local officer. Thus while in Chennai you needed to take off your belt and empty your bag of pretty much all its contents, the security check at the mofussil town was more relaxed – the emphasis was more on getting passengers through the process as soon as possible.

MMM had had a day of fairly hectic sightseeing and he, along with a large group arrived at the airport well in time for completing the formalities. MMM and friends were of the view that a cup of coffee was what was needed to rid everyone of their fatigue. Word went around that the airport coffee was terrible. Someone knew someone at a local upmarket hotel and so a call was made. Coffee was arranged.

Knowing full well that no liquids are allowed beyond the security barrier, MMM advised all members of his group to complete check-in but not proceed to the security check area. The coffee duly arrived but there was now a hitch. The guard at the entrance of the airport refused to let the coffee in.

It was, he said, against the rules. MMM offered to get his guests to go out of the airport to drink the coffee (after all they were yet to clear security) but the security guard would not hear of that – it was against the rules too. MMM was at his wits’ end. His usual go-to person in moments of crisis is his good lady, also known as She Who Must Be Obeyed but in this instance she was occupied in getting her ticket sorted out, there being some last minute confusion. MMM knew better than to disturb her in moments like these.

Matters would have remained this way, the coffee steaming at the airport doorway, had not a lady member of the group taken the matter into her hands. It is MMM’s considered view that women are much better than men in such situations. So this lady goes up to the security man and the conversation proceeded as follows:

“Sir, we need that coffee.”

“Yes madam, but as per rules I cannot allow you to go out.”

“Sir can the hotel’s delivery person then bring it in?”

“No madam as per rules he cannot.”

“So sir, why don’t you bring it in? That way we would not have to step out and the hotel man need not come in. ”

MMM shut his eyes awaiting an explosion from the official. In sharp contrast, it was the smell of coffee that made him open them. Apparently the officer had no objection to his going and getting the coffee and silently obeyed. Evidently there was nothing on this in the rule book. There was much happiness and congratulations all around. The officer, to give him credit, did not ask for a cup but went off to marshal some other passengers in.