Monday, September 7, 2009
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
I hate to admit that there have been not quite many blog-worthy incidents in my life for sometime now, but what happened today just left me aghast. Ok, considering that I have been harping about how other people are the not-so-good ones, going by my previous posts, you might expect this one to be the same. But NO! This time it’s ME :(
I did something unwittingly that has been at the back of my mind, ever so slyly pricking my conscience and questioning my supposed humane demeanor; something which I did in the name of trying to be ‘practical’ and ‘worldly-wise’ and not get swindled. Here’s what happened…
My building manager called a few of us and told us that our drain was clogged and we needed to get someone to do the dirty work of unclogging it (Yes there are people who actually get down into the **it to clear it). Since most people had to head to work and college and I (along with a few other seedy building characters) were the only ones who were left, I volunteered to get the job done. (Come on! Those seedy characters would only land up in deeper **it, so to speak). I had to head to one of the corporation centers, get a BBMP cleaner, watch over him and see that he does the job properly and then bargain a proper wage for the job. Sounded pretty simple.
Now when it comes to bargaining, I SUCK at it. But I thought I had been getting away saying that a lot of times and did not want to let the thought obstruct my ‘sense of duty’ right now. So I waited till the work was done, all the while making up the ‘negotiation’ conversation in my mind, plotting to get the best ‘deal’. The waiting was hell…
Ok, he’s taking too long; does that mean he’ll ask for more????... The stick’s not helping in clearing the debris completely so OMG he’s shoving his hand into the drain to clean it!! Now he’s DEFINITELY going to ask for more!!! (At this point I feel a LITTLE bad for him, but no, the negotiation ordeal needs much more thought)
I make the first move; I go over and casually say…
“Ok, looks like the work’s almost done. How much?”
He thinks and mutters
No way!!! The manager just gave me three fifty!! What will he think of me if I tell him I was not so tactful and managed to save only fifty bucks! I pitch the age old bargainer’s line
“What? The other cleaner who came last week took only one twenty”
He does not listen, goes to the road to tie up the long bamboo sticks. I just turn to look at something for an instant and I hear a cry. It’s the cleaner. He’s writhing on the ground with fits.
I react - Ho ho ho, I know this trick! A nice way to swindle more money out of me – the darned sympathy trick! He’ll probably be alright in a minute, walk up to me and say that the noxious gases from the drain caused this and I had to pay him more! No way am I going to fall for this!
So I just stand there and not do anything. People gather. Somebody from the building runs to him with the iron rod he used to open the drain. I move closer lest the people think I’m some sort of hard hearted ass. I keep wondering what the fuss is all about, all the while waiting for the guy to get over with his act. I am more worried about the money.
Finally he becomes still. I wait. He gets up groggily, looks around not knowing what to do. Ok ok ask damn it! I know how to deal with you! He goes back to tying his sticks. But an old man from my building stops him, thrusts a cup of coffee in his hand and makes him sit down. Ok, so now he gets more money AND coffee. He finishes drinking it, throws the plastic cup and begins to walk away. Where is this dude going??? I call out to him…
“Hey! Your money”
I only take a hundred rupee note and ten five buck notes, and slowly thrust it into his hand, wondering if he still had energy to bargain after wasting it on that little skit of his.
He takes the money, does not count it, does not even look at it, thrusts it into his pocket, totters towards the sticks, ties them up haphazardly and walks away groggily. As he leaves I notice a bruise on his foot, he's bleeding. He must have grazed himself while having those convulsions. That’s when I realized that…
He was not pretending… he did get fits.
I am too disgusted to notice at that moment that I did indeed get the better deal after all.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
I recently watched one of those Soap dramas disguised as news stories on TV 9. This time it had to do with good old Shivajinagar. However, the channel thought otherwise and engaged in one full hour of ‘area-bashing’ where they hurled insult after insult aimed at this quaint locality. The energetic hustle and bustle was ‘suffocating dirt’; the hundred-year old streets were ‘pathetic’ and the age-old landmarks were ‘ugly’. Yes, I agree the place is a little messy, but these guys went about the whole thing as if they were associates from the London School of Aesthetics!
Anyways, this post has to do with a totally different experience set in the busy streets of Shivajinagar. A bizarre experience that somehow seemed to undo all the ‘un-sophistication’ about the place that that inane channel purported -
I was in a hurry, as usual, to get where I wanted to go; head down, determined and with a firm stride, criss-crossing all those roadside stalls on Shivajinagar. Then suddenly this guy came in my way and I ran into him. To quickly get away with the embarrassment I mouthed a sullen sorry as I quickly glanced at him – very old grey T-shirt and jeans that were torn and dirty, unkempt hair and grubby hands and feet. Looked like a middle-aged man who could probably look smart if clean. No shoes. I expected him to throw sour kannada slang at me and I mentally prepared myself with my own set of half-baked kannada sentences and words. I was pleasantly surprised as he said in perfect English – (Ok we’ll name him Grubs for convenience)
Grubs (smiling) – “Would you please show me the way to Bellary Road?”
Me –“Well…um… I don’t know exactly, why don’t you ask these other people?”
I point to a bunch of guys who were smoking beedis and chatting away animatedly in kannada.
Grubs – “Oh I did. They don’t seem to know. I’m Alan by the way. What’s your name?”
Ok where exactly is this heading to? I begin to form a vague outline of the whole scenario in my head. I know what he’s going to head towards…
Me – “Well I’m Jacob…”
Grubs – “Good, good. Where do you stay Jacob?”
Ok that’s it, stop it right there. What if this dude’s part of an underworld gang that deals in selling kidneys of young men! Don’t tell him where you stay dude! But…
Me – “I stay in Fraser Town”
Grubs – “I beg your pardon?”
Grubs – “I stay in the Railway Station. I had a fight with my dad and he threw me out.”
I thought it too inappropriate to ask ‘City or Cantonment?’ so I decided against it.
Me – “Oh”
Grubs – “Can you spare me some money Jacob? Just…”
Ah ha! I knew it all along! There it came finally, in chaste, Anglo-Indian English!
Me – “No, no, no… I’m broke, and I’m going home for food and drink”
That’s exactly what I said! Word to word… Ha ha, ‘going home for food and drink’!
Grubs – “Just six rupees, I can buy a samosa. I’m very hungry you see”
Me – “I told you I’m broke…”
Well of course I had SIX RUPEES on me! But I wasn’t going to give in to this man. Unbeknownst to us, both of us were getting into a bargain for charity…
Grubs – “Ok two rupees. I can buy a cup of chai. Living in Bangalore has become so expensive…”
Ok now I had to relent or it would mean a sharp jab to my ego, and freshly fermented guilt; all on account of a paltry sum of two rupees.
Me – “Ok here”
Grubs (taking the money) – “Thank you, thank you so much. Pray for me”
There, he HAD to say that in the end. Well all I could do was hope the guy had his cup of hot chai (or who knows what he wished to do with it. Not that it matters what you do with two rupees anyways), as I walked on wondering which station I’d pick if dad threw ME out…
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Monday, March 2, 2009
Life is a conincidence
Thursday, January 15, 2009
We all stood there, silently, like sad mourners in a graveyard; only, we did not know if the being in front of us was dead or dying. Nobody dared debate that now. I stood there too, with my earphones stuck in my ears… But I could not hear anything, so deeply engrossed and amused was I with the absolute lack of action among any of us standing there. What was I doing?! Something clicked and I pulled out my earphones and tried calling for an ambulance. All lines were engaged. I assumed someone else in the crowd must be trying too… Yes, I tend to an optimist in the wrong places. As I was punching away on my phone, trying other numbers – friends, reporters, photographers, a bunch of policemen decided that the man was dead and grabbed a few plastic gunny bags from a near-by construction site and covered the body with it. A few seconds later, the body started twitching and convoluting. Someone screamed that he was still alive. I screamed at the policemen to get an ambulance instead. This is what I got in return, in angry kannada – ‘You public never allow us to do our job. Get back there!’ Does your job include letting life slip away you pot-bellied creature…?
A Hoysala van arrived. More policemen. After debating for many more precious seconds they pulled out a beaten and mangled stretcher from the van. Finally! Just as some of the cops bent down to pick the body up, an oaf of a policeman who looked like he was in a higher position, given his snooty half-closed-eyes-arched-eyebrows look, stopped them calmly. ‘Nillsrappa’ he said, as he languidly fished out a swanky phone from his pocket. Wow! It was a camera phone ri… everyone’s gaze shifted to the phone. Eager, simple eyes followed him as he shot pictures of the dying man from every angle. A whole bloody minute later a cocky nod announced that he was done. The man’s life could have been saved in that time! The policemen lifted the man from the sticky blood-pool and placed him in the ill-fitting stretcher, twisting his limp body and limbs this way and that to settle him in. The stretcher was then put into the van and the van sped away.
The drivers involved were let off since this wasn’t a ‘proper’ accident and, apparently, the victim was at fault – he came between a bus that was moving forward and another bus that was taking a reverse. What was to be done now? It was just another accident. A burgeoning city like Bangalore is used to all this anyways right?
As for me… I boarded one of the killer buses,and the murderer drove me to college…
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Spoil not my mind
With tales of success
And dreams of reaching
High and beyond.
I am happy here
With my sheep and my soup
Grazing my cows
In the valley of peace.
Oh shepherd of my soul! Sadly... nobody pays you for being at peace with yourself...