To Leave or Not To Leave
A year and a half ago, particularly inauspicious planetary positions conflicting with my time of birth have made me blurt out "Pune", in a choice of destination between Chennai and Pune. I should have stuck with my old and old-fashioned Tamil da's and dei's. Today, when a PMC bus conductor gives me a ticket, it becomes all the more painfully clear.
My grandma used to tell me in my childhood that nobody can cheat an educated man. She remains unhappy of not having "higher education", and I figure she will be unhappier if I told her that it didn't matter. I have what she considers "higher education" and am cheated daily by those who don't have them.
I fell in love with Pune when I reached here: the slightly sweet cuisine in the over-crowded restaurants, the vibrant art scene reverberating in the newspaper supplements, the trekking destinations all of which seem the same, the coldness of winters that forced new jerkins against my body, and the mysterious women wearing colorful masks outdoors.
I forgave the auto-driver who threatened me with dire consequences, the Pune drivers who have what is called "traffic nonsense", the pothole-ridden road which gave me my worst accident making me bed-ridden for months, and started calling the apartment I live in "home".
When I see the bus-ticket with Marathi letters and numerals, I'm reminded of my foreignness. The conductor doesn't reply to my enquiry about the ticket's cost, nor does he return change. I love the auto-drivers now, especially the eight-seater guys. Not only do I get a seat, free banter in Marathi or Hindi, and preferential stops, I also have an idea how much the journey is going to cost.
Not so with the buses. Yesterday it was six rupees, the day before only three. On most days, it is five. Today was a particularly bad day, so ten. I once asked a conductor about these rates, and he assured me that the rates were changed only that morning and suggested I walk towards the front, because my journey is only two bus-stops long. Who am I to argue that? He is in that line of business and is the most-informed.
You might wonder whether I don't have problems worse than PMC buses. Until recently, PMC harrassed residents in my area in the name of laying roads for the Commonwealth Youth Games. This lasted nine months. All they did was dig them, let people fall in this pothole and that, and finally fill them up with cement or tar, whatever they could lay their hands on. I hope they didn't bury anybody in the potholes.
Then there is MSEB. We have no power for hours, sometimes half-days at a stretch. First, they blamed rains. Then, the roads. Now, it varies from the price of the power to the absence of engineers. However, we now have power failures only for a couple of hours a day. Thank you, MSEB.
Had this been any other city, I would have filed complaints in the respective departments and written publishable rubbish to the newspaper editors. I know that might not be of much use, but it has the advantage of assuring me that I've done my duty. In Pune, thanks to a gentleman called Raj Thackeray, I keep mum and inaudibly mumble desperate nothings. It has been months since he and his sena have chased out thousands of blue-collared workers from the city. But I'm constantly reminded that I could be next, along with the other south Indian "immigrants" making a living here.
I am thankful for the feeling of a second-class citizen; there is a chance I might not have experienced that feeling in any other Indian city. The new city commissioner is especially strict, what with his first priority being to remove the masks off the women's faces. He wants as uniform tans as possible.
Now I must think if I should shift to Chennai, or even better, Hyderabad.
To Leave or Not To Leave
- » Published on October 07, 2008
- » Type: Satire
- » Filed under: