Phoren Boogeyman!

Having lunch at a busy suburban café in Mumbai. I turned in my seat to signal for the waiter to bring the bill.

As I did so, a father at the table behind me admonished his 3-year-old daughter who until now had been ignoring all requests to sit still.

“See that Uncle” he told her, while pointing in my direction. “He is getting angry. He will take you away to America! Do you want to go to America?”

The Great Toll Booth Toffee Scam!

The Great Toll Booth Toffee Scam!zaOn 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.

At first I was quite amused and a little grateful, Tommy needing regular doses of sugar throughout the day. However there is only so much toffee a man can eat, even if he does have a tapeworm as long as your arm.

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.

Lamborghini – Coming to a village near you!

Lamborghini Bangalore

 

I saw this sign in Bangalore the other day. It has made me realize how quickly things have changed in India since I first visited back in 1996. Back then there were only about 3 types of car you could buy. One of them the (in)famous Hindustan Ambassador beloved by taxi drivers in Calcutta and until recently, Politicians nationwide. While nice to look at and boasting a very comfortable back seat the Ambassador is just a reworked Morris Oxford from the mid 1950’s and, with very few updates since then. It is still available today but sales have plummeted and I think it won’t be long before it is phased out. Especially now that Audis and Mercedes are the politicians preferred mode of transport.

English: Indian Government Hindustan Ambassado...

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now nearly every type of car in the world is available in India, some of them, like the Lamborghini, completely impractical for the prevailing road conditions.
I don’t know where in Bangalore one could drive and enjoy a Lamborghini to its full potential. The roads have more craters than the surface of the moon, and wherever you do find a smooth bit of road it is punctuated by some of the biggest speed humps conceived by man.

 
If I had the sort of money that would enable me to buy a Lamborghini in India I know what I would do.

 
There is a beautiful stretch of highway running from the toll-booth just south of Kolhapur in Maharashtra to the toll booth at the village of Hattargi in Karnataka. Just over 80kms of smooth undulating concrete highway lined with Bougainvillea. There is not much traffic and not a policeman or speed camera in sight.

Kolhapur to Hattargi

 
I would build a garage in Hattargi, preferably underground, because as we all know, every self –respecting billionaire has to have an underground lair (think Bruce Wayne and Oliver Queen). I would stable my Lamborghini there and whenever I get the urge for speed would fly up from Bangalore, and spend the day racing up and down the highway.
One would, though, have to pick the time of day carefully as one wouldn’t want to be doing 200kph while the farmers are grazing their goats in the central median strip (the best grass is in the middle of the highway) or when they are heading back from their fields in their bullock carts.

 
The best thing of all, is that the toll is only 30 Rupees, so it would be a very cheap day’s entertainment!

 
Apart from of course, the initial 40,000,000 Rupees needed to buy the car!

 

The Peasants are Revolting! – The Retail Strike in Mumbai

Closed Shops in Mumbai

Closed Shops in Mumbai

For the last week shopkeepers in Mumbai have been on strike. All the shops have been closed in protest against a proposed new tax.
This article explains better than I can why the retailers are protesting:
Retailer’s Strike
We had some foreknowledge of the impending strike so we had stocked up on goods last weekend but we only imagined that the strike would last for 2-3 days.
Now 7 days later the effects are being felt. Chemists are still open and so is the local wine shop (thank God!) so you can buy the essentials, but non-essential items like bread, milk, eggs etc. are not available. The local retailers association in each area is enforcing the strike so even if a shopkeeper wants to open, he is forced to close after a “persuasive visit” by the association reps.
I went out this morning to try and buy a few items. Most of the shops remain closed and to compound the problem there have been no deliveries for 3-4 days so any shops that do open are running very low on stock.
One should never doubt the resourcefulness of the average person in need though, and little systems have been set up to work their way around the strike. Outside some of the closed shops a delivery boy will be sitting and you can place your order with him and if they have stock it will be delivered to your house the same day. Other shops open for 10-15 mins at a time and then close before they are visited by the strike enforcers. Groups of shoppers gather on the corners and compare notes as to what shops are open and where certain items are available.
As always the poor people suffer the most. Those on daily wages who couldn’t afford to stock up in advance, and the shopkeepers with low profit margins who rely on daily business to keep afloat.
The Police are starting to worry that if the strike continues people will start looting the shops. Hopefully it won’t come to that though and the strike will end soon.

If it doesn’t though, I will be drowning my sorrows with wine and popping Paracetamol to get rid of the hangover!

Will Bangalore have to be evacuated by 2023?!!!

Water Pots lined up at a communal tap

Water Pots lined up at a communal tap

My regular readers among you will know that I have been living in Bangalore for the past 6 years. You will also have read my previous post about the water shortage and how it affects my life (Here)

I read today a report on the woeful state of the City’s water infrastructure which states that “The Government of Karnataka will have to evacuate half of Bangalore in the next ten years, due to water scarcity, contamination of water and diseases.”
It goes on to say that “the groundwater in at least half of Bangalore is contaminated with sewage water. In 1790, a British captain had described Bangalore as the land of a thousand lakes. Today less than 200 of those 1000 lakes remain and are no more than sewage tanks. The sewage water contaminates the ground water and percolates into the borewells.”

Despite reports like this, the Government does not seem motivated to take any drastic action and the attitude of the average person towards water doesn’t change. It’s not just a problem confined to Bangalore but is prevalent in all the main cities here in India. While Mumbai City doesn’t have a water shortage the state of Maharastra (which Mumbai is the capital of) is suffering it’s worst drought in history. I read in the weekend paper about women in water-starved villages on the outskirts of Mumbai having to travel for an hour each way on the train to fetch water, even taking their dirty laundry with them to wash at whatever water source they find! Yet while sitting in a friends house at the weekend I look on in horror as the Bai (housemaid) comes in to wash the dishes and leaves the tap running for 20 minutes!

For more on Bangalore’s water woes read here:

Will Bangalore have to be evacuated by 2023?

Photo by: Mckaysavage