Thursday, 8 September 2016

Yesterday I went to the RTO. I wish didn't have to have gone there. But, I had lost the RC book for my car and it warranted a trip to the government office to apply for a duplicate. I never want to go back there again. There were a hundred people milling around. Most of them looked like touts, with several files in the their hands, and talking 'importantly' on the phone (probably to their contact in the RTO or their client). Those who looked half decent trooped obediently behind their agent from room to room, getting their work done. I too, had gone with an 'agent'. He asked me to wait while he contacted his 'contact' who was coming down with my 'file'. I had no idea what the file contained. Perhaps the copy of the original I had given my agent and a form that I had never seen, that had been filled out for me. Just sitting there waiting, watching the madness around me, made me think.

More than 15 yrs ago when I learnt how to drive, my driving school took additional fees to get me a license - they had two plans - classes and classes with licence. Yes, I had to write the written exam but they told me if I didn't know which answer to circle in the MCQs, I should just stick to answer 'a'. I was also told to tell them I had gone for a round in my car with an official, if they asked me. I neither had a car waiting on the road, nor went for a round. I hardly new how to do parallel parking, let alone drive in Delhi's manic traffic. Yet, I was told that I had passed the test and got my license. Though I only actually used it, many many many lessons and 15 years later!

Is it any surprise that there are so many road accidents in our country or the fact that most of traffic jams are caused due to road illiterate (and often literate) people driving in the wrong lane, or wrong side of the road, When there are road signs, people don't know what they stand for. I'm sure, most times, even the cops don't know! Slow, heavy vehicles drive in both lanes, holding up all the cars behind them. Buses drive in which ever lane they feel like, and stop in the middle of the road to pick up passengers. Bikes swerve around other bigger vehicles, zigzagging through traffic, a nervous car driver's nightmare. Cars do not want to let anyone go, there is no 'right of way' concept. And everyone wants to go at the same time, resulting in - no one being able to get through. It's chaotic, maddening and absolute mayhem.
But, I wrote this post, not to complain about the traffic jams, but the RTO and the bureaucracy. There seemed to be more middle men there than actual applicants. It took me just an hour to get the highest official's signature, but then, I had an agent with a 'good contact'. I wonder how the others (those who don't use an agent or can't afford one) manage. I wonder how much money is passed under the many many tables; how many bribes are passed around; how much each one takes as 'his cut'. I feel guilty for being part of the system. But I don't know how to not be. Maybe I am like as ostrich who buries his head in the sand, but I hope I never have to visit a government office again. 

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Taste of luxury

Last week I thought I would save my self a paltry-but-still-it's-a-saving of 39x4 rupees. Not a large sum by any standards, but still the though of paying just 1 Re for the one and a half hour ride to office in the comfy air-conditioned Volvo buses was exciting. Little did I know that this seemingly great scheme on the Vayu Vajra buses in Bangalore for 4 days would backfire…

On Thursday morning, I put a single penny in my pocket. "That's all I'm going to have to pay for my bus ride today" – I was thrilled, the kinda excitement one gets when one finds one's favourite brand of soap on the supermarket on a buy-one-get-one-free offer – doesn’t matter that a bar costs only 17 bucks in the first place. Well, I didn't quite believe that the fare would only be a rupee, despite reading about it in the paper over my morning chai... you can't blame me, this is India, you know... (Always doubt what you read, and most of what you see too. No, seeing, can often be mis-leading not believing!) So, I popped some back up green notes in my outer pocket too. I headed out for the bus stand, and waited for the bus. Everything seemed normal, except the conductor issued me a ticket for Re 1 instead of the regular Rs 40, and I smirkingly, handed over my penny and took a seat. But as the journey advanced, the bus seemed to be stopping everywhere and the bus just got fuller and fuller. All thanks to the conductor-ess (is that the right term for a female conductor?) who shouted out at each stop – Majestic Majestic, only 1 rupee! The regulars who boarded the bus though seemed a bit clue-less about the scheme and disgruntled to say the least when they couldn’t find seats. Somewhere along the way, the conductoress realized that her calling out was not making things any better, and she stopped, thank goodness! For the bus was not only full but people were threatening to hang out if the doors had been left open! So much for giving the common man a taste of luxury!
This was day 1. Only about 25% of Bangalore knew about the scheme.
On day two I took the ordinary bus…. a little more than what I would’ve paid on my ‘regular’ bus, but I got a seat, didn’t get pushed around (thanks to all the regulars on this bus being in the ac one), and reached office comfortably!

What got me even more worked up was that after the fiasco of the 4 days the BMTC made a huge hue and cry to the media about what a raving success their initiative was…. Really, making the nice luxury buses, the only option for people like me (ie those who aren't pushy enough to travel in the local buses, and also, can't stand to stand for an hour and half with my nose somewhere in the vicinity of some person's not-so-scented armpits), into stinky crowded normal buses. How can they pile on the people in the luxury bus, make them stand and push their elbows into their fellow passengers ribs, and then say they are giving them a taste of luxury??? Of course, if a smooth ride (though a crowded and smelly one) is their idea of luxury – then I guess the BMTC succeeded. No maybe it's the fact that many experienced a ride in an air conditioned bus for the first time… but hell, the buses were so crowded, that the closed doors only made me wanna puke, and really, the sweaty smells were only being recycled over and again…. Way to go BMTC, we applaud you.
I'm only grateful that on Monday morning everything was back to normal, and I could pay my regular 40 bucks to get to office (in luxury)!

Tuesday, 21 August 2007


I’m no environmentalist. Yes, I love a clean city, and can’t stand vehicles that emit black streams of carcinogenic muck, but strangely I felt at home stuck in the nauseous traffic of one of Chennai’s busy shopping areas. Stuck in a jam surrounded on all sides by pollution that was no doubt clogging up my newly cleansed face (after a two-hr long luxurious facial at the parlour), I realized how I missed even the traffic of city life. I never thought I would say this, but it rings true! After negotiating bullock carts, rickety buses and trucks during my 5.30 am driving lessons in Vellore, I enjoyed being surrounded by more civilized means of transport. Nope, I’m no rich snob of a city girl being forced to live in a little town. The town has an ‘own-ness’ (if you know what I mean) that I’m sure I will miss when we shift back to the city.
Just another irony of life, how you miss what you don’t have, even if you hated it when you had to put up with it. How the mind associates some of the worst things with some of the best. Like how the sickening smell of cigarette smoke reminds me of one my best friends and room-mates in Mumbai.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Vegetables ain't so easy...

So, I get up in the morning, and immediately know why I don’t want to get out of bed,
I have an empty fridge, says something in my head.
It’s time I set out, cast aside inhibitions and decide to explore,
Something quite essential for survival – the vegetable market of Vellore!
Armed with purse, umbrella to beat the heat,
I pull on a tee, strap my sandals to my feet;
I ask a shopkeeper for directions and reach the designated spot,
It’s only 8 am – barely morning – and it’s already sooo hot 
And I’m rooted to the ground, with the sight that lies ahead,
I just want to turn around and run back into bed.
It’s a vegetable market alright, if you can see beyond the people and flies,
And the stench, Heaven save me, worse than rotting fish and fries.
I stand and watch bewildered, trying to make sense out of the seeming confusion,
Muster up my courage – am I brave enough for this mission?
Deep breath, I plunge right it, holding my nose,
Through the pack of people, huddled so close,
(You can even smell the sweat in their armpits,
I just hope that their hair hasn’t got nits!)
There’s no such thing as being polite,
Just make your way through, it’s really quite alright.
You have to be pushy; standing lost won’t get you anywhere,
Of manners and etiquette, you mustn’t have a care.
Direct yourself to the vendors with their goods heaped up on dirty ol’ sacks,
They’re hygiene factor really sucks, I have to say, is really quite lax!
Asking the price is useless because no matter how you try,
The answer will come out as a rapid, alien, rural Tamil, undecipherable cry.
If you don’t know the language, don’t make it obvious, they can smell a novice from far,
And you’ll be cheated of your pennies and be given cauliflower that is sour.
Choose the freshest ones quickly; be on your toes,
For someone else might grab the carrots you want, from under you nose.
In the crowd be careful of your purse, wallet, your money,
For if the pick pockets clean you out, it really won’t be funny.
If you’re a strict vegetarian, try to ignore the market’s other side,
Cooped up dying chickens, and the already dead ones – their inners turned outside.
Fish mongers, hacking away at fish heads, tails, eyes,
And, aaagh, yet more of those wretched, wretched flies.
Oh, and did I mention the little dirty stream of stagnant water that runs by,
The stench is unbearable, you can’t ignore it, don’t even try.
That veggies aren’t washed in that watery filth, you can but only hope,
From the smell of things around, these people haven’t even heard of soap!

It was all I could do to shove, grab, pay and escape,
Before, all my poor assaulted senses got bruised outta shape.
Before the odour got into my newly washed hair,
I had to get out, to get some fresh air.
So I emerged, juggling the various bags I now held, and me, my sweat mopping,
I couldn’t help feeling triumphant for doing something as ordinary as vegetable shopping!

Tuesday, 1 May 2007


who would have thought setting up a house would be so much hard work.... it's been a hectic hectic week. tiring, but that sort of sweet tiredness you get when u've been on your feet the whole day, but doing something you love, mmm, just like shopping! u come back home, your arms aching with bags n bags full of goodies, and your feeting just killing you, you curse yourself for wearing those miserable fancy shoes the whole day (who's looking at you anyway!), kick them off into a corner and flop down on the bed like a sack of soggy potatoes. but then your excitement seems to stir a hornet's nest in your head, like a whiff of cool air on a suffocating sultry day, and you start to tear open your packets and packages. two minutes later you're strutting your poor tired feet around the room in that new pair of heels you picked up, admiring your new low waist jeans you'd been eyeing for weeks, and pat yourself on the back for picking up this gorgeous looking top for a bargain. where's the tiredness gone then? well, it's something like that, when your setting up your new house, your very first one, your very own little place. first there's the cleaning, and when your a cleanliness freak like me, it can take days to scrub the previous occupants out of the walls and doors, the windows and tiles, the light fittings and shelves. there's the insect elimination - it's fascinating in an annoying kind of a way, how these hardy little, disgusting ugly roaches manage to survive the HIT, laxman rekha, naphthelene balls and boric acid! then packing and shifting, and unpacking and sorting. the countless people to run after - the carpenter for the locks, the shelves and the hooks, the electirician to fix the lights and fans, the artist to paint your name on the front door, the stores to issue you furniture and a new mirror cos the old one's so cracked and stained, your face looks like a rotting aubergine in it. and then the bit which is supposed to be the most fun - the shopping! well, it's difficult in a place that's so hot, that if you go out, your skin threatens to melt and your sweat glands go into overdrive. and there's no such thing as a departmental store, you have to do your research before investing money in anything worthwhile. yup, you can always manage to get the brands in the end, but only after you've checked out at least a dozen different small shops. oh, but after a hard day of cleaning, packing, shifting and researching, it's a soothing satisfaction, a sweet tiredness in the bones, that's puts you to sleep on the brand new matresses and the just-out-of- the-packet bedsheets that still smell of newness!

Monday, 23 April 2007

Media's shaadi mania

Ladies and Gentlemen, girls ‘n’ boys,
Chuck all your work, abandon your toys;
For the great media tamasha is about to begin,
Get your popcorn and coke and quickly sit in.
Bollywood’s two biggest stars stand to be one,
And we all know how wedding’s can be so much fun.
No matter if we aren’t allowed inside,
We’ll still catch the emotion ‘n’ tell you who cried.
For as Aishwarya and Abhishek tie the knot,
For us ‘unrelated relatives’ in the media, that means a lot,
For though not invited, and we’re miffed about that,
It’s outside their houses we’ll camp – camera n sunhat.
To get you any head peeping out of a top floor window,
And the general ambience, which way the wind does go.

Hopping between the Bachchans’ two residences and Ash’s house too,
They’ve got Z grade security, so the photos will be few.
But we’ll make it up with speculations galore,
On who wore what n who rocked the dance floor.
Which film stars were invited to this marriage,
It’s all there on every edition’s very first page.

Breaking news: Ash’s mehendi has come in fresh from Rajasthan’s Sojat
News update: Rumour is - there’s a whole 15 kilos of that.
The Heliconia flowers are from Kerela’s Kochi gardens,
And Kanpur ladoos for all their family n frens.
Exclusively designed saris come all the way from Varanasi,
Exquisite Kolkatan jewellery for the lucky bride-to-be.
An Arya Samaj shaadi with 11 pundits sitting in,
And Kajara Re booming from the music system.
An elaborate 16 page gold embossed card,
It’s a wedding unrivaled, even if you try very hard.

It’s the century’s Shaadi No. 1,
And if you want to join in the fun
Switch on any news channel
And you’ll get your fill…
Can’t promise you facts, only pure guess work
No cake, only icing, that’s the perk.

Once in a while a wedding like this
Keeps the media on its toes, in case a sneeze does it miss.
But this time the media did slightly disappoint us,
Indeed they did make month-long huge fuss,
They covered every bit from food to panty hose!
But they forgot to come out with speculative photos,
Of how, when the stork visits, perhaps, maybe,
Sketches of the probable Ash-Abhishek baby!

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

These Doctors, I tell you...

These doctors, I tell you, are a weird breed,
True, they do good deed after deed.
But their calling takes over their entire life,
I’m telling you ‘cos I’m a doctor’s wife.
Living on campus, I’m surrounded by every kind
Of doctor that you could ever find…
Pathologists, radiologists, cardiologists, gastroenterologists,
Neurologists, nephrologists, oncologists, dermatologists,
Urologists, geologists – hang on, geologists? No, that doesn’t sound right
And, of course, the surgeons, whom I mustn’t slight.
There are older ones with tons of knowledge ‘n’ experience in their heads,
And younger ones bubbling with enthusiasm instead;
Unkempt ones, unshaved ones, crumpled-shirt ones,
Long-haired ones, sleepy-eyed ones, just-out-of-bed ones,
‘Maybe that one dozed off half-way though a book,
And got up and rushed off, without a care for his look!’
The most pitiable ones – pagers beeping – scurry off to respond,
By now I’m sure, of emergencies; they can’t be all that fond.
From ward to ICU to OT do they spend their day,
Jack’s quite active though it’s all work, no play.
Surgeons rushing off to operate on patients, make them good,
Just wishing they’d got as much sleep as they should!
Seeing line after line of the sick in the OPD,
If it weren’t for doctors, where would we be.
Morning rounds, evening rounds, to think makes my head spin round,
Ward to ward, patient to patient, bed to bed – to see if all’s sound.
And when they aren’t in the hospital, but on a coffee break,
Their real passion comes out, a passion you can’t fake.
Even in a 5-minute respite – it’s ‘patients’, ‘cases’, ‘operations’ and ‘medicines’,
‘Who had what’, ‘who needed what’, and ‘who delivered twins’.
It’s everywhere you go, this ‘doctors’ talk’,
At night, even in your dreams, does it you stalk.
All conversations, whether at breakfast, dinner or lunch,
Revolve around who had what complication, who took the crunch,
Who developed what condition, what miracle drug did its wonder,
Which junior doctor got screwed for what mistake or blunder.
And if you think over time a doctor’s ways you can dilute,
Let me warn you, that all efforts will be barren fruit,

It’s just a matter of time before the IV of ‘doctory’ finds its way into your veins,
And ‘doctors’ garble’ takes over and starts to hold the reigns.
In no time you’ll be rattling about meningiomas and corpectomies;
With a matter-of-factness that you would say ‘wood is made from trees’!!!
You’ll be able to pronounce ophthalmology and spell pediatrics;
You’ll know that ‘bone cement’ is the equivalent of quick fix!
You’ll be saying – I have to ‘suture’ a button on a shirt;
With phrases like ‘got an emergency’, ‘I’m on-call’ do you flirt;
You ask for a scalpel when you really need a knife;
You don’t remember how it was, without pagers in your life!
You aren’t startled anymore when in the middle of the night the phone does ring;
And emergency shunts at 2 AM are an ordinary thing.

You mistake me, good friends, if you think I am complaining,
No, no, these are but jottings of an idle mind wandering,
And wondering too
That if you…

Were to stick a needle into a doctor’s vein,
Any doc will do – sane or insane,
Pull out some blood and send it for a test,
To a laboratory, of course, one of the best,

The blood test would say –

Blood type: Not human, that’s for sure
Diseases: Undiagnosible, but looks hopeless to find a cure!