Everytime I get locked out of my apartment, I go for a walk!
It is a practical response. The irritation and sweat is dissipated in minutes.
Once that is done, I head to the handy-man I know. The man who makes duplicate keys.
For the nth time, I was locked out last week and I did the routine but never expected the handy-man to be at his post so early - 7.30 am.But there he was. On the pavement of Adyar's main road, enjoying his morning tumbler of tea, with dozens of rusty keys strung on metal wires displayed on a dirty, wooden shelf.
He picked up his dirty bag, a bunch of keys and some accessories, walked the 800 metres with me and after a patient operation which lasted less than five minutes, unlocked the door, took his fee, suggested that I should change the lock and left.
Life isn't easy for Neelankarai Nagaraj.
Countless have been the times when the local traffic police have got rid of him with a whack.
On other occasions, he has had to grease their palms.
When it rains, he seeks shelter in the booth meant for the security officer of the automobile showroom behind him.
And despite the frustrations of labouring on a street, Nagaraj sticks to his post. Neelankarai Nagaraj is as important to me and you as is Besant Nagar Bhaskar, our dhobi who has now stopped washing clothes and only irons them.
Bhaskar's cart is stationed strategically - the residents on four streets of my colony can access him easily. And a pile of quickly-ironed clothes are delivered at our doorstep in a matter of minutes.
If we take some time off to count the timely services that all the shops on the fringe and inside our colonies provide us, we would then realise how important they are to our lives.
Pharmacies, tailors, cobblers, cold storage units, fruit shops, electronics service counters, bakeries, saloons. And the countless provisions stores.
They may have started as pokey nooks. But with time and better business, they too have become smart. You can call them on the cell phone. You can get home deliveries. And they are open 7 am to 11 pm.
What would life be for all of us without them?
The age of the shopping malls and swank A to Z stores is with us.
Will Neelankarai Nagaraj and Besant Nagar Bhaskar survive or fade away?