Sunday, March 13, 2011

Revenge: sweet & garnished

The two best ways to get the better of one's opponent: Pursue the illogical path or refuse to fight. All the serious guys and diplomats can go back to work right away, this blog may not be for you.

(Which serious guy was looking at my blog anyway, whom am I kidding, eh?)

Woman gets into Delhi bus. Conductor leers "Where are you going to, Madam?" Woman ignores the tone, gives the money and tells him the destination. Conductor gives her a ticket and continues to leer, "Here you go, Madam." She takes the ticket. Then she says in a very dignified tone (guess what): "Thank you". Later her friends ask her what sort of mad woman she is, who ever says "thank you" to a Delhi bus conductor. The answer is, well, no one. Which made it all the more priceless: his expression when he nearly fell off his perch, glared at her suspiciously and muttered "Is that so?"

In our office we had an office boy who only deferred to the boss. The rest of us were treated with impatience bordering on contempt while the young fellow struggled to find his feet and fortune in the big city. The idea was to tell him what to do & then to turn completely deaf. But once the senior most architect snapped and gave him a mild rebuke. To his horror the lad stood in the middle of the office & yelled his head off. All work was suspended, all eyes were riveted on the fight scene. Would the general shoot the soldier or would he run for cover? The eyeball match did not last too long and the senior said gently, before turning back to his work, "Who would have thought some one who read the Bhagwad Gita all day long would be so full of anger?" A miracle occurred that day and our office boy now treated one more person like a human being (while the Bhagwad Gita got more dog-eared and rest of us still waited for our Krishna moment).

Ok, so those were the Gandhians. We can't all be like them. Some of us like our revenge, we gloat while our enemies splutter indignantly or beg for mercy and no logic stands in our way.

I stepped out of my Gole Market office one day and found the buses had been diverted because of a religious procession. I was at the mercy of an autorikshaw driver who refused to start his meter & was asking for a flat rate thrice what I would need to pay him in less desperate circumstances. But then I had no choice and we set off towards Gole Dak Khana & thence towards India Gate. Less than a kilometer down the road we discovered another diversion ahead and I quickly calculated there was no short route towards my destination & I would have to leave this auto & walk a bit to catch another mode of transport. But wait, what about my revenge?

Soon we were almost at the diversion. By then the driver had mentally sifted through all the options, discovered that getting me to my destination in the decided fare would not be worth it, and tried to re-open negotiation. "The road this side is blocked," he ventured. But he was destined to froth & fume, to watch (by then with relief) as his prey slipped away from his fingers. (In those days that was the appropriate description for the ones who sat in the rear seat of a Delhi autorikshaw: prey).

I leaned back in my seat and studied my finger nails. "And what" I asked him sweetly "am I supposed to do about that?"

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Con sense

My maid was sick and her husband brought home a "Babaji" who gave her some dark pellets to cure her. Of her reluctance to give him all her earnings was what her husband was hoping, and of her skepticism was what Babaji was hoping. The latter got his answer right away when she peered suspiciously at the pellets and declared that there was no way she was going to eat goat droppings. But hats off to the rogue, he was caught, but did he blush? did he hide? Never. He immediately proceeded to explain how a goat roams around the whole forest and eats 300 types of medicinal herbs and thus its droppings are actually worth far more than the 100 rupees he was charging.

My guess is this is where we are going to beat the Chinese next. In the pharmaceutical industry. Those poor devils face international censure when they kill tigers, make balms and what not. Then they package it all in snazzy looking bottles & sneakily sell it where they can. Our Babajis just take a short walk behind a goat and sell this wide spectrum drug wrapped in a bit of newspaper (its good for everything, if you go by the notice outside the doctor's tent, it only doesn't cure the whatchamacallit one gets from eating animal waste. You've got to take your bleak chances on that).

If one is not too keen on keeping an eye on the behind of a goat, there are numerous other opportunities. A whole lot of 5 rupee rings set with colourful glass could get a profit of 2000% if sold by a knowledgeable looking guy with a glib tongue. All he needs to do is read your hand and give you the appropriate colour that will guarantee you eternal happiness or your money back (after eternity, naturally). He will, for good measure, make you feel guilty for spending twice that money on a movie, or a piece of butter chicken. This is your Eternal Happiness at stake, dimwit!

My mother is very secular in her disposition to all religious salesmen who regularly turn up at her doorstep (and on everyone else's, just in case you thought they particularly hated her- although they should, she never gives them much more than a curt brush off). The saffron clad one tried to ask her plenty of questions so that he could invent her future appropriately and get something for all the time he was wasting, but got no more than a hostile stare. The cheerful couple who came to give "Good news" were bluntly told, "Yes, I know. Jesus is coming." The poor guys couldn't even sell a Bible to one who knew it all.

No one, however, makes the mistake of going a second time to her mother's place. The ones who turn up on a Saturday to take away your misfortunes for a few coins especially give her a wide berth after she offered to take their Shani maharaj and the misfortunes upon herself. "After all," she explained, "I am an old woman and you've got your whole life ahead of you. Come now, give that to me...." For a particularly pesky "Holy man" who wouldn't take no, or go away while she ignored him and worked in her backyard, she pulled out a shallow stool and said, "You may as well sit down if you wont go away." A year later he breezed in, cursed when he saw her, and breezed out. No more than 15 seconds in all. She's training them well!

Con men come in all shapes of course. On my way to my office one day I was fooled into parting with some cash when I thought I was helping to get a pregnant woman to hospital. A colleague told me that this was a common enough trick those days. A few days later, pillion riding on a motorbike, I saw this group of people pulling the same wool over people's eyes at a traffic light. It was a good opportunity to apply balm on my wounds (no, not the Tiger one, not still thinking of that are you?). I put on my most sympathetic expression and beckoned to the pregnant one. She slowly ambled towards me passing by 4-5 cars full of soft-hearted people who would have easily parted with much more than I was going to. When she reached me the light was about to change.

"Tell me," I asked her solemnly, "Do you have your baby every day at this very crossing?"