Back from a long trip. Happy to be in familiar surroundings again, the comfortable bed, hot shower, regular food. More than 3 changes of clothes to choose from.
Busy unpacking, washing, cleaning, catching up on sleep.
Back into the routine.
Days pass slowly.
But something is missing.
That aliveness, that intensity of living, it’s not there anymore.
Flashbacks of events, people I met, experiences, pop into my head randomly throughout each day.
I wake up in the morning, excitement and anticipation missing. A dark mood descends upon me.
Like a junkie I need my fix but my drug of choice is travel.
I have to get away again.
Where to next?
On my recent drive back to Bangalore from Mumbai, one thing was noticeable by it’s absence.
The Toll Booth Toffee Scam.
Once prevalent in the Tollbooths around the Karnataka/Maharashtra Border, it seems to have disappeared, the original perpetrators no doubt having retired to their Chalets in Switzerland.
It was a simple scam but undoubtedly extremely profitable.
What used to happen is that when you paid your toll, always an odd amount, never a round number, the Toll Booth attendant would apologize for the lack of change and give you toffees instead. 1 toffee for every two Rupees.
By the time I reached the 4th Toll Booth I was feeling the onset of Hyperglycemia and tried to pay the next Toll with the uneaten toffees. 22 Rupees therefore 11 toffees. He refused to accept them and asked for cash instead. I gave him 30 Rupees and he gave me 4 toffees change!
Now bear in mind the retail price for these toffees is Rs 1 each , so they are making 100% profit. Assume 20,000 vehicles a day through the Toll Booth and that is at least Rs 20,000 profit per day per Toll Booth! The bulk wholesale price is probably only around 25 paise per piece so the actual profit will be much much more. A nice little earner.
At the 5th Toll Booth, I decided to make a stand which was difficult as by now my teeth had all fallen out, saliva running unchecked over my gums and down my chin. I explained to the booth Attendant that everyone in the car had diabetes and couldn’t accept the toffees he was proffering as change.
He nodded sympathetically and swapped them immediately for cold hard cash.
Despite spending a lot of my time in India over the years, this was the first time I had spent Christmas in Mumbai. The suburb where I am staying is called I.C. Colony (Immaculate Conception) and after Bandra is probably one of the largest concentrations of Catholics in Mumbai. Consequently Christmas is a major festival in this area. Whilst you could be forgiven for thinking that Christmas is not celebrated in other parts of Mumbai due to the paucity of decorations, there is no mistaking it in I.C Colony. Late on Christmas Eve, The Boss and I prised my little niece away from her Hindi TV serials and went for a walk around the colony to see the decorations. The streets were filled with people considerably better dressed than us, the men in suits and ties, the women in their best dresses, the younger ones looking suspiciously like they were heading to a nightclub rather than midnight mass such were the slinkiness of their outfits.
The decorations were fantastic, the streets lined with stars, trees filled with blinking lights.
Each apartment building had a nativity scene set up in their grounds, a local political party having sponsored a competition for the best display. My favourite was the Football themed one, complete with Jesus Mary and Joseph in center-field!
I was at a wedding the other day.
The climate in Mumbai at this time of the year is very pleasant and conducive to outdoor entertaining in the evenings. Consequently the wedding was being held in a large garden at a local “country” club.
However as any of you who have visited India and spent time outdoors in the evening will know, this is the perfect time for mosquitos to go about the work for which they were unfortunately designed. These ones were huge, the size of light aircraft, and it was only after the third small child was carried aloft by one of the blood suckers that I decided to take precautions
I called over one of the staff and asked them if they could provide any mosquito repellent as I am a reluctant donor at the best of times and wanted to maintain my body’s usual content of 5 liters of the red stuff ( and I am not talking about Pinot Noir here, of which my level is usually much higher).
The waiter dashed off and true to his word, returned after 5 mins with some mosquito repellent.
Not quite what I expected but it seemed to do the trick. Got rid of some pesky wedding guests as well!
I am often amazed by how the Universe looks after me.
Yesterday my car broke down. Not normally a reason for celebration you might say, however it broke down just as I handed the keys over to the Valet parking attendant outside one of my favourite restaurants in Bandra. The car wouldn’t start and anyone who has been in Bandra at lunch time will know that the narrow lanes are so jammed with traffic that it was impossible to push start the vehicle. So always one to try and make the best of a situation, I abandoned the car, asked the Valet to keep a watchful eye over it and went inside for lunch. No sense in being hungry at a time like this.
After carefully placing my order I started making a few calls. My citrus salad and BBQ chicken wings appeared a short while later so I put down the phone and concentrated on the more important matter of satisfying my taste-buds. The wings were beautiful, very tender with a sweet but spicy marinade. Hunger temporarily sated I resumed the calls and by the time the main course of succulent Roast Chicken with grilled vegetables arrived, I had located a very helpful man at the local Mahindra dealer. With the manner of your friendly neighbourhood doctor he asked a number of probing questions (about the car of course) and finally diagnosed that there wasn’t enough charge left in the (now 4 years old) battery to start the car and it would need replacing. By now I was really enjoying the chicken, beautifully cooked as it was, meat just falling off the bone, and he put me in touch with a local battery dealer.
I contemplated ordering another plate of roast chicken but decided instead to direct my attention towards the dessert section. I ordered a lovely molten flour-less chocolate cake with orange sorbet, the acidity of the orange balancing out the sweetness of the chocolate perfectly. The only disappointment was that the Boss insisted on sharing it.
Dessert satisfactorily devoured and a couple of cups of a very pleasant white tea from Darjeeling later, an elderly man turned up on a scooter, (outside the restaurant I hasten to clarify), with a new battery which he duly fitted. I paid the bill, thanked the staff for their excellent service, retrieved my keys from the parking valet, and headed on my way, stomach full and Tommy enjoying a pleasant post-prandial slumber.