I don’t remember ordering this but have to confess it tasted much better than it sounds!
The morning started badly. I woke still tired, with a headache and residual nausea, the after effects of the previous evening’s over indulgence.
A mild comment here, an innocent request there, became irritations, niggling away inside my head.
The morning matured into midday and the irritations became magnified, the constant churning of my mind blowing them out of all proportion. Irritation becoming frustration, frustration becoming anger, anger giving way to despair.
In an effort to dispel the black clouds inside I went for a drive, all the while, fictitious story after story unfolding in my head, fuelling my self-pity.
Pulling up at the traffic signal, I sat lost in my internal drama.
A tap on the window.
A young man stood with his hand outstretched, begging for alms. Handing him some coins, his face lit up. A beautiful smile, beaming with gratitude, eyes twinkling …………….. the smile of an angel.
My heart melted, the lights turned to green and I drove off.
Looking back in the mirror, the angel stood smiling where I left him.
The angel had only one arm.
Sometimes my sense of humour gets me into trouble.
After a wonderful lazy lunch at the Polo Club in Bangalore’s Oberoi Hotel, I handed over my docket to the Valet parking attendant, and said with a grin “mine’s the blue one over there”.
The poor chap took me seriously and rushed over to the Porsche Cayenne that I wished were mine and proceeded to try and open it with the key of my way more moderately priced SUV. I had to rush over and stop him before he damaged the lock.
What I had intended as a joke ended up embarrassing both him and I!
One thing I really appreciate in India is the way trash is recycled/repurposed. Everything has a use or a value to someone and it gives me a sense of well-being knowing that what I no longer need can be of use to someone else and not end up dumped in the landfill.
Unlike in NZ where the cost of repairs meant it was cheaper to throw things out and buy new ones, everything here can be repaired or recycled at a minimal cost and sometimes for a profit. The food processor and rice cooker in our house have been repaired more times than I can remember and I am not sure there are any original parts remaining in them by now.
A whole sector of society survives on recycling. Our newspapers for example are collected once a week by a man who comes on a bicycle with a portable scale, weighs the paper and cardboard we give him and pays us by the kilo for it. The same with any metal or plastic items.
Even old carpets can be traded in for new ones with the carpetwallah who pushes his hand-cart past the house with a surprising (and given the noise he makes banging on our gate, irritating) frequency.
Other things that we don’t want I put out on the curb as someone always seems to find a use for them. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure as they say and it is really quite amazing how quickly the items disappear, even the most innocuous or seemingly undesirable pieces.
Yesterday evening I put out an old pair of shoes which I no longer had use for, thinking that I would probably have to throw them in the trash the next morning as it would be unlikely that anyone would want them, the smell alone making passersby cross to the opposite side of the street.
Imagine my surprise when the next morning I found only the right shoe remaining on the footpath. I can only assume that a one-legged man, quite possibly (in fact almost definitely) a pirate, had come past during the night and found the shoe to his liking.
I wondered how long it would be before someone missing the opposite leg, maybe another pirate, would come along and take the remaining shoe.
I didn’t have to wait for long, my neighborhood obviously a hotbed for unshod pirates. It was gone the next morning!
Now how to get rid of that parrot I don’t need anymore?
The last time I came through here 3 months ago I was fined Rs300 by an over-zealous cop for driving my vehicle without a document I had no idea I needed (see here)
Hubli despite it’s comparatively diminutive size, seems to have more traffic cops than the whole of Bangalore. They are on every corner and seem to have a vendetta for anyone driving in from other areas. Meanwhile the locals blatantly flout every traffic law and regulation with impunity.
So 3 months later I have returned, stopping for lunch on my way up to Mumbai. I pulled off the highway and spent the next 5 minutes crawling along behind a tractor in 1st gear as it swerved from side to side trying to avoid potholes and doing its best to dislodge the population of a small village perched all over it.
Frustration at this extremely slow progress getting the better of me I spotted a gap in traffic, pulled out and accelerated at warp speed finally getting out of 1st gear and changing up into 2nd.
Suddenly a traffic cop ran out from behind a tree and stood in the middle of the road pointing at me. Bearing in mind the last time the cops shook me down in this town, I contemplated ignoring him and continuing on my journey. But not wishing to sully the glistening paintwork of my beautiful car with the blood and bodily fluids of a policeman I decided it might be better for all concerned if I stopped.
“Why have you stopped me” I asked
“Overspeeding” he replied using a term peculiar to India.
To me one is either speeding or not speeding, so I am not sure where overspeeding fits in.
“What is the speed limit?” I asked
“Where is the sign?”
What speed was I doing? I asked
“Over 40” came the reply. “Come with me”
Reluctantly I got out and followed the cop to where 3 of his colleagues had set up camp in the shade of a tree with a radar gun on a tripod.
The senior-most police officer announced in a haughty manner befitting of a Maharajah of old, “You were driving very fast”
“Really? How fast?” I asked
“74” he replied
In second gear! On a severely potholed road! Wow. I was amazed for a second or two but suspecting that my diesel SUV had not miraculously transformed into a Ferrari overnight, I questioned his findings.
Telling me to look at the radar gun to see my speed, I wandered over and read the display.
“It says 30” I told him.
“That’s someone else’s speed.”
“Where is mine”
“It’s deleted. But you were driving so far above the limit we are booking you for reckless and dangerous driving” he told me, thereby increasing the fine amount by 30% in one fell swoop.
Well I had a good run, I thought to myself. Seven years of being the only safe and sensible driver left in India was a pretty good effort, but I have finally succumbed. I think it’s called assimilation by osmosis.
I argued a bit more trying in vain to retain my unblemished status but when you argue with a donkey it is never likely to see your point of view.
I paid up, retrieved my license and returned to my “Ferrari”, head hanging in shame and with a noticeably lighter wallet.
An hour later lunch completed I headed out of town. Rounding a corner another policeman sprang out in front of me. A barrage of expletives echoed around inside the car, not just from me but also from the usually dulcet toned Boss sitting beside me. Barely restraining myself from running him down I pulled over and dispensing with all niceties demanded an explanation as to why he had the temerity to pull me over.
“Do you have a license?” he asked, with one eye on the traffic.
He jumped out in front of another car with outstation number plates and waved it over in front of me, ignoring all the local vehicles driving past.
Returning to my window he asked:
“I have everything! A marriage certificate also! Do you want to see that? Why the hell do you keep stopping me? I was stopped an hour ago!”
“Where?” he asked
“On the Bangalore Rd” I told him
“Where are you going now?”
“OK, happy journey” he wished me, shaking my hand and waving me on, anxious to attend to his next, hopefully less argumentative victim.
We have been getting constant power cuts over the last two weeks. Up to 4 times a day and lasting for hours at a time.
It’s extremely frustrating of course. Although we have a backup battery supply, with power cuts this frequent it doesn’t take long before it is drained out. Also a lot of the appliances that we need to use don’t run off the battery supply and inevitably it is just when we need to use them that the power disappears. When the mixer is needed for the cooking for example or I have just put a cake in the oven.
However we have discovered a puzzling but effective solution.
There is a complaints number you can call when there is no power supply. The complaint is then sent by the call center to the area power station. If we register one complaint nothing seems to happen. So what we do is this. We have 4 mobiles in the house so we phone from each mobile and register a complaint, giving a different neighbor’s address each time. This way they will take it a bit more seriously and won’t think it is the same person complaining all the time. It usually takes about 2 -3 complaints and the power miraculously comes on almost immediately.
I have this mental image of a man in the electricity department falling asleep in his office and as he slumps at his desk he knocks the power switch off. He is a deep sleeper so the first call doesn’t wake him. The second or third complaint call finally rouses him from his slumber. Realizing what he has done, he turns the power on again!
The Indian Grand Prix takes place this weekend in DeIhi. In countries with hotter climates than Europe it is common for the Formula 1 Teams to send their drivers ahead of time to help them acclimatize to the conditions before the race weekend. I am a big Formula 1 fan and also a big fan of the driver, Kimi Raikonnen. So imagine my delight when I spotted Kimi on a motorbike waiting at the traffic lights in Bangalore yesterday! He must have been in India since finishing the Japanese Grand Prix two weeks earlier because he has put on a bit of weight from all the lovely Indian food he has been eating and he is sporting a great tan! Good luck this weekend Kimi!
I never used to.
In fact I used to look on in admiration as they roared past on their brightly colored superbikes decked out in matching leathers and helmets.
What changed my opinion?
7 years of driving in India!
Now I can’t stand them.
They meander across the roads thinking they are invincible and impervious to any road laws or even the laws of nature.
Every single scratch or dent on my car has been caused by an errant motorcyclist.
I have had a young boy sprawled across my windscreen, his scooter underneath my vehicle, after a head on collision caused by his inability to wait like everyone else at a red light, and come down the wrong side of the road, where I unfortunately happened to be driving, innocently minding my own business. After rolling off the bonnet and dragging his scooter out from under my car he phoned his Mum who miraculously materialized just 2 minutes later. The scooter was obviously of more value to her than her son as before enquiring after his wellbeing she demanded Rs2000 for repairs to the scooter!
I have looked on in horror as two grown men somersaulted 20 feet through the air because they had decided to take a shortcut at high speed up the inside as I turned left, ripping off the front left wing and wing mirror in the process. Amazingly, considering their attire of suit pants, cotton shirt and flip-flops, and needless to say, no helmets, they were unscathed! Fortunately for me it all happened in front of a policeman who soon dispelled the rapidly gathering angry mob, who were under the usual assumption in these cases, that the car driver had just decided to ram a motorcyclist for his own amusement. Unfortunately for me the repairs to my car cost me Rs25,000.
I have even been chased for 3 blocks by a motorcyclist who eventually blocked the road so I couldn’t proceed. Two minutes earlier, while I was waiting peacefully at the traffic signal, he had pulled up beside me inserting his motorbike in the narrow gap between me and the car alongside. Apparently when I drove off, the side of my, (very dirty), car had brushed against his white pants and left a mark. All this was explained to me in furious Kannada (the local language here) with lots of heated gesticulations and pointing at his soiled trousers. It took me a while to stop laughing and when I jokingly offered to buy him a bar of soap he wasn’t too impressed.
There are some things I understand and turn a blind eye to. 3-4 people on a motorbike? Some families can’t afford any other mode of transport. No protective clothing? Again it comes down to affordability.
What I can’t understand is stupidity. Why would you turn right from the far left lane without warning and across 3 lanes of traffic? Why would you drive on the wrong side of the road into oncoming traffic? At night without your lights on?
And the thing that bugs me the most?! Texting or talking on the cell phone while riding a motorbike! What are you texting? “Hi Darling, I am about to die”?
So many times I have had to take evasive action to avoid a motorcyclist swerving erratically from side to side, his head at 45 degrees to keep the phone wedged between his ear and his shoulder, while he gesticulates in the air with one hand to the unseen person on the other end of the phone.
I mean why? What is so important that it can’t wait for you to stop?
And then it struck me! Of course! I am in Bangalore, the home of outsourcing.
Whenever someone in the US or in Australia phones up their bank or insurance company they get put though to Manjunath or Shivkumar on his Hero Honda. All these guys on the motorbikes are working for call centers!