Down and Out with Ms Perumalmalai—the Mahesh Rao edition

Bold and wise, Ms Perumalmalai is a millennial agony aunt, a journalist giving advice on personal problems. In this regular feature of The Kodai Chronicle, she takes on your issues with family, neighbours and more.

This time, she had a little help from one of her favourite writers, Mahesh Rao–an old acquaintance from her time in the city, whose book launches she once prowled. The popular author of Polite Society, One Point Two Billion, and The Smoke is Rising conspired with our resident Pity Paati to answer questions crowdsourced anonymously via social media. Here are the results—no holds barred!

1. Dear Mahesh Rao and PP, I’m a writer who came to the mountains to focus on writing my book. But once I got here, I’m distracted by the view or the wifi issues at my day job, the many things that break down–unlike in the city. What’s worse, my city friends are threatening to move here, too. What do I do?

Please don’t be oversmart and try to make me address four different problems in one letter. You sound like you are uniquely unprepared for our leisurely life here. If there is no internet, I simply go and crochet in the garden until it comes back. If the water pump isn’t working, I take a walk to a lovely little stream up the hill and give myself a very satisfying rub down with a wet flannel. We cannot ruin our beautiful vistas just to make sure that you can concentrate and fill in your spreadsheets properly. I have given it some thought and I think it would be better if you were to return to your old life whence you came. It will suit you better. Also, please make sure your friends don’t visit after you’ve gone.

No water? Don’t fret. Just find one of Kodai’s many little streams for a satisfying wet-flannel rub down (Photo: Oleksandra Bardash/Unsplash)

2. Dear Ms Perumalmalai and Mahesh Rao, I need your help. I had a terrible headache so I went to the pharmacy and got myself a tablet. When I asked for water, I was told they only sold 5 litre cans according to the government’s ruling. I support not using plastic to promote a cleaner environment, but is there an alternative?

There is a water crisis in the hills, why are you wasting it on tablets? There are plenty of charming little liquor outlets in town, which will be able to serve you something delightful with which to wash down your medication. Also, my dear friend Agamagildhini [1] [2] makes delicious and very potent peach wine. I am sending you her address. The steps down from her verandah are a little steep, so do be careful if you have been tasting her wine. My second husband broke his hip after one lively night there, but he is fine now, apparently.

3. Dear agony aunt/uncle, my partner can never remember the words to sing when we sing at our farm at night, and our wifi is unreliable so we can’t always get lyrics online, on those long mountain evenings. How do we get through our guitar nights?

There are few things in life that make me shudder like the thought of a ‘guitar night’. In my experience, people’s sense of their own musicality is often gravely misjudged. Thankfully I will never be visiting your house. Since your fragile relationship seems to require this kind of weak drama, I suspect that the end is probably nigh. Why not sing about how you will divide your possessions once you separate? Might I suggest, ‘I get the toaster, you take the heater,’ to the tune of Rowdy Baby.

Please don’t invite Mahesh Rao for any ‘guitar nights’ (Photo: Bry Wark/Pixabay)
Mahesh Rao is the award-winning author of The Smoke Is Rising (2014), One Point Two Billion (2015) and Polite Society (2018).

Mahesh Rao

Mahesh Rao is the award-winning author of The Smoke Is Rising (2014), One Point Two Billion (2015) and Polite Society (2018).

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