Thursday, February 28, 2008

Life In a Non Metro!

The Indian Govt does not classify Bangalore or rather Bengalooru as a Metropolitan city. Though statistics show that it is the 3rd most populous city and the 5th largest metropolitan area in the Indian sub-continent.

Either way, when I initially moved into this city I literally had stars in my eyes. I was just another S/W Engr. but Bangalore held the city-charm over me since I was a kid as I am from a small town where there is little/no life outside the family. So Bangalore to me was, to be frank, Life in a City!

I loved the place and was moving in there. What more could I want?

But, it was really nothing that I had dreamed of. It was just the same. The only thing that was different was the cost of living. But I made my peace with that as I'm single. The one thing that I did like about the city were the auto-wallahs. I paid them the minimum charge to travel almost double of the distance at my hometown for which I usually shelled out Rs 50. But then even this was snatched away when, for the first time, I hailed an auto at 9:30 pm to catch a bus for the journey home over the weekend.

"50 rupai" (50 rupees)

"Huh???" (I gave my dumb-struck reaction at the amount he was demanding. It was more than 4 times the usual rate.)

"10 baj gaye" (It's 10 'o' clock)

Panic stricken, I checked my watch and saw the minute needle wavering between 6 and 7 while the hour needle was wavering between 9 and 10.

"Kahan? 9:30 hi hai" (How come? Its only 9:30)

"Nahin madam, nahin aatha" (No madam, not acceptable)

As I struggled to weigh the pros and cons, he started moving and I panicked. My bus was at 10:00!!! I stopped him and jumped inside the auto. All through the short journey I wondered if he had truly taken me for a ride. I got down at the bus stop and absently put a 50 rupee note in his hand. I immediately dialled some friends and cross-checked. To my infinite relief, I was assured that it was OK and this is how it worked in B'lore after 8:00 pm.

The same trend continued in all other future journeys that were undertaken after 8:00 pm. Shopping trips...Late night movie shows...Late dinners...or just general gypsying-around in the town. My purse dutifully supplied the money that I handed over to the auto-wallahs with a slight pang, every time. To be fair, I also did make some lucrative journeys in autos fitted with the latesht electronic meter. I always paid Rs. 5 less (as per the meter) in the latesht ones as compared to the (old) manual meters.

It was much, much, much later that I came across a true-good-at-heart auto-bhaiyya. Frankly speaking, he was more of a uncle. I mean, he was middle-aged. Anyways, it was 8:30 am on that fateful day and my roomie was just back from a weekend stay at her aunt's place. She rushed in, loaded with her overnight bags.

"A... tumhare paas change hai?" (Do you have change?)

"Purse mein hai, le lena" (Its in the purse)

I was putting on final touches to my appearance as I prepared to take the late shuttle to office. From the corner of my eye, I saw my roomie rummage inside my handbag and pick up my purse and rush out. I checked myself for the last time and picking up my coffee mug, went to the kitchen to dump it in the sink. I returned to the room to exchange a few tit-bits of news and bidding her ba-bye, I picked up my bag and left to catch an auto to take me to the bus stop for the late shuttle.

I walked out into the street and found an auto almost immediately. I jumped inside after giving him instructions and then proceeded to imagine (read as day-dream) myself at some vague point in the future, driving around in a red colour Maruti SWIFT. I kept up this steady stream of dreams (Hey! Am I mistaken or did that sentence rhyme?) until the auto pulled over and I saw that I had reached. I stepped out, still slightly immersed in the day-dreams and absently felt for my purse in its usual place in my handbag. I did not find the reassuring bundle and proceeded to search again, this time looking down and concentrating on trying to find it. To my horror, I realised that my purse was NOT in my handbag.

My roomie must have forgotten to put it back. And the fool that I am, I didn't even think to check! Hell! I looked up into the lined face of the auto-wallah. I gulped nervously and told him.

"Bhaiyya...woh...purse...main...bool...gayi" (Dude, I've forgotten my purse)

He smiled... "Kya???"

Aaaarrrghh! Did I look like I was joking?

"Paise nahin hai bhaiyya...purse bool gayi" (No money dude, I've forgotten my purse)

He stopped smiling and his face hardened, slightly.

Ahan! He heard me loud and clear now. Phew! At least he knows whats going on.

All through this conversation, my hand kept rummaging inside the purse absently. Suddenly, I felt some notes. I looked down eagerly and saw some food coupons! Darn it! But, hey wait...maybe...

"Aap yeh rakh li jiye na...koi bhi hotel mein le lenge...paise ki tarah hi hai...khaane ke liye de sakte ho" (Can you take this instead? Its food coupons you can use in hotels. Just like money. But only for eatables)

I kept talking as I tried to explain to him the concept of food coupons. He didn't seem interested with a couple of brightly printed paper slips depicting a girl sipping cappuccino from a huge F.R.I.E.N.D like coffee mug.

"Jaane dijiye..." (Its OK. Forget it.)

Instead of making me feel relieved, it only made me feel more guilty. I tried again and again to make him accept the food coupons. He refused, this time with a small smile and reassured me that it was really OK. I was dumb-struck. Who is this guy? I continued to mutter explanations about how I had forgotten and how sorry I was and how he can REALLY use the food coupons and that they were not fake and what not!!! He brushed it all aside and said it was OK. That's it. Just that. "IT'S OK"

"Nahin..nahin...chaliye...jaane dijiye" (No, no, come on...its OK...forget it)

With this parting reassurance, he sped off to find his next savari (client). I stood on the road for a full two minutes, still clutching the food coupons while my mind raced to try and believe what had just happened. I then realised that I had a bus to catch. I began half-running, half-walking to cover the short distance to the bus stop while simultaneously crumpling and stuffing the coupons back into the handbag. I reached the bus stop safely and found the usual known-strangers (bus-mates) waiting there and I lounged against the railing with a sigh. Phew! That was close!

The rest of my journey was uneventful and I did reach office on-time. I ruefully related the days events to my teammates and even called up friends to tell them of my little adventure. Oh yeah, I called my roomie too and she sorry-fully told me that she had forgotten to put the purse back and had left it lying on the bed onto which I had promptly dumped my wet towel before I stepped out.

Through the day the face of that auto wallah persisted in coming back to me. Till date I remember him every time I step into an auto and I have made up my mind that if I do happen to run into him again, I would dutifully and gladly give him a good bakshish.

I wish there were more auto wallahs like him and less idiots like me. The world would be a much better place then. Wait...I'm getting too dramatic here...what I mean to say is that Bangalore would certainly be a much better place.


saradindu said...

Okay.. here i am .. again... ready with a comment on something you wrote.. so buckle up :) ...
Hmmm .. honestly and little bluntly,if i may say so, the writing style hasnot changed, so i am not going to change my comment style either. let me start off with the good things first. Good introduction, Great kickoff, which was exactly what was lacking in "watzzatt", anyways lets not get deviated into that. The comparision,to start with, is very appropriate between the small town and the so called non-metro. The main topic of auto-wallahs is hit at the right moment and with a right note
too.A good description of the first experience, of being literally robbed by an auto-wallah, followed by projection of the same as a regular experience is very appropriate. And then the climax with the true-good-at-heart auto-bhaiyya. Well this one's my fav in the "piece", sorry can't help calling them piece, can i ??

Anyways the part dealing with the the roomie picking up the purse for the change is written in a very hurried manner, the moment one reads those few sentences, a
reader can visualise everything happening in front of his eyes and see that things are going on at a little quicker pace and also as a reader something in some part of
his head starts clinking that something is going to happen very soon. This is a skill that does not come naturally to many writers, and as that skill is depicted here so naturally it can be quite easily overlooked by many too. In short, this part was awesome. Moving ahead, the pitch slows down , quite correctly if i may say so, as she gets on to auto. It is followed by the beautiful description of the nervousness and tension throughout the event. The addition of food coupons brings certain amount of humour as well.Full credit for that to you.
Final concluding paragraph is very much appropriate, making it sound and feel very real and appropriate.

Okay , now is the time for the real bad stuff.Nobody likes them, least of all me, cuz they make me look like an evil or something.But its part of the game, Anyways, back
to business.The mistakes are mostly very stupid which could have been done without very easily.
Let me start. The second sentence in second para should have had an "although" to start with (if i can gauge the meaning correctly) and last line of the same para,
"so life in blore to me was , to be frank.... " would have been much better. Next
the line "But, it was really nothing that I had dreamed of. It was just the same" is a line which is expected of primary class students. Again, please monitor the usage of parenthesis. One point in creative writing you should try to remeber, always try to do without them. Your skill is tested in portraying your ideas without using them as frequently as you have used them.Translations are fine but others are not, for eg "(I gave my dumb-struck reaction at the amount he was demanding. It was more than 4 times the usual rate.)" should not have parenthesis around them.
Did you not realise that "(Hey! Am I mistaken or did that sentence rhyme?)" is a cheap shot and You could have done without it.
Next, not a fault probably,just a tip in fact, when you are done with the climax in such a sweet and exquisite manner as you have done, try to wind it up asap. If you keep on dragging the end of such a beautifully described climax, you yourself are reducing its effect on the reader.I hope you got what i mean. And finally, a
mention of the title which you have kept so appropriatly at the end , in no matter what way, would not have hurt.
Overall i would give this piece somewhat between 5-6, not because of the mistakes that you have made, but because of the kind of mistakes that you have made.

Anyways good news is, at the end, these mistakes always happen when you start,they go away themselves as you write more often and if i go by the date, its pretty
old one, so by now i do not expect these mistakes to be there. Anyways just keep them in mind. Hope the praise and the pointers come in handy. keep writing.

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