Sunday, 22 November 2009

The 8th Wonder of the World

INDIA IS MY COUNTRY AND ALL INDIANS ARE MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS”

How many mornings in your life have begun with this pledge? Innumerable right. And yet, it says something about our country that we seldom fail to understand.

It stands for the deep rooted conviction in the fact that all Indians are brothers and sisters, related by motherland. Since we have ONE mother (i.e. India), its safe to assume that the siblings share one father.

This is something which every Indian proves every day when he is on the road.

When he rides, or drives or walks……He is living proof that the road….is his BAAP KA MAAL, (Father’s Property)
Think about it, the road is India’s and we are its children. So the next time when you are riding haphazardly, and someone screams behind you, “TERE BAAP KA ROAD HAI KYA??” Proudly say, “YES !!!”

In fact, go ahead and say, “HAMARE BAAP KI HAI BHAIYA.”

I was in India this October. One of those holidays, I had rode all the way to Jayanagar from R.T.Nagar. Its like a 45 minute ride. On the way back, my brother accompanied me, on another vehicle. Honda Activa. 102 cc automatic step through scooterettes, and might I add, one of the finest on Indian roads.

He overtook me at one point, and I did the same after a while. Little did I know, this was as good a gesture for a challenge as slapping his face with a gauntlet. Hence began a road race through some of Bangalore’s most crowded roads. And boy was it a rush. In my prime I was uncatchable on Bangalore roads. Junior here seemed to carry the gene pretty well. I always considered myself an instinctive rider. He does too.

The first leg of the race was through the metro-work-in-snail-pace-progress filled roads ofBasavangudi. And well, he thumped his friend’s activa over humps of every size imaginable, while I glided his activa with care. I mean, the vehicle wasn’t even 6 months old. Babies’ necks don’t stand straight in 6 months, this was a machine. So I rode quick, but carefully.

I saw a grey figure whip past me, one hand on the accelerator, and the other showing the “L” Sign with the thumb and forefinger, raised up high.

Bed-wetting-teddy hugging Junior was taunting me.
The race continued on an even pace, until I got lost somewhere near Golf Course (curse those new deviations) But he knew the place like the back of his hand. And by the time I had got back on track, he was home sweet home. I could imagine him and his smug grin and the “L” sign on his hand. I gunned the vehicle to almost 70kmph on the last 2 stretches. But the damage was done. I lost to my toddler bro.

What amazed me was the subsequent observation I made of the Indian roads.

The world complains that it is haphazard and unruly and crowded. Arjun wrote on his blog about the many many hazards on Indian roads. And I agree with him. Our roads are crowded with 2 wheelers, 3 wheelers, 4 wheelers, 18 wheelers, 2 leggers, 4 leggers, and during Dasarah, 6leggers (Mahout and Elephant) The 2 wheelers can be further broken down to engine and non-engine. The non engine can be further broken down into pedalled, hand dragged, hand pushed,seater skate boards for the physically impaired, so on and so forth.

So if you are a foreigner reading this, this would be a right time to drop your jaw.

If you are an Indian reading this, lets see that proud smile.

Coz believe it or not, these unruly roads are our lifeline. And these unruly roads make us some of the best drivers in the world to be reckoned with. Roads laden with potholes which the whole pro-western crowd cries about are actually a boon. A road with potholes keeps all drivers on their tippy toes. Show me one Indian driver asleep on his wheel (unless he is drunk). You just wont find them. We are precision drivers who have to keep an eye on the road’s skin structure.Coz it changes more often than Paris Hilton’s boyfriends. The pothole you saw last weekend might just be filled up, and a new pothole would be available a few co-ordinates north-west to it. The topography keeps changing, and the Indian driver needs to be alert. I’ve seen cases of drivers asleep while at the wheel, over here in Dubai and heard fatal cases of sleepy drivers in Saudi and Qatar. And the roads are impeccable. Other than a few over-worked truck drivers inIndia, the common public using the roads are actually more alert than F1 Drivers. We are pretty much the top guns of the road, the world over.

When I joined a driving school in Bangalore. I was told to adhere to one rule only. “LOOK STRAIGHT”

The usage of the side mirrors is a joke in India. If you have them on your new Maruti today, they wont be there tomorrow. Believe you me, the best way to keep your side mirrors intact is to keep them folded, or keep them at home.

This one rule of LOOK STRAIGHT. The drivers who are in a hurry will look to their right and left and over take you anyway. But for safe driving, just look ahead. And you’re halfway there already.

Owing to the crowds on the road, The average speed an Indian rider can reach is about 50kmph. This is about the same speed as the Mongolian Wild Ass.


High speed accidents in Dubai cause this.


High speed accidents in India cause this.





You see, the Indian roads are pretty perfect as they are.

  1. Dynamic potholes keep drivers guessing and thereby more alert
  2. High speed accidents result in a broken headlight and black eyes
  3. Cows are nature’s moving speed breakers
  4. Girls are nature’s moving speed breakers –THE SEQUEL. (At the risk of sounding an MCP, they actually drive like the car/bike was a nuke submarine in a mine field, which is awesome. We need them like a nuclear fission needs slow and fast moving sub-atomic particles)
  5. Crowd means less boredom, look around at the “speed breakers”
  6. All are equal. Whether it’s a millionaire in his E Class Mercedes, or a bespectacled nerd on ascooty, the road doesn’t discriminate. Ask all the silver sedan owners who cover up the infinite scratch marks with stickers and their wives’ mascara.
  7. You need papers to drive on those roads, they come in denomination of 10s, 20s, 50s and 100s with Gandhiji on them (Depending on the size of your vehicle)
  8. Two words : DHOOM MACHALE
Print it in the Lonely Planet and all the tourism guide books of the world. Indian Roads are the 8th wonder of the world. Which operate so efficiently based on Trust, Instinct and sheer dumb Luck. If you doubt me, Youtube Indian Traffic / Indian roads. Enjoy ;)

All those who say that the current situation of roads in india is a cause of accidents, trust me, 80% of the developed nations in the world also have deaths on the roads. I’ve seen some of the best roads in Dubai and Riyadh. Yet ppl keep banging around here a lot. And there are no potholes even. They need to get some of those.


Goes to say that an accident isn’t necessarily the fault of the road. It’s the imbeciles who are given the driving permits. They just don’t have the necessary traffice sense. We Indians don’t have it as a sense, we have it as instinct.

Infallible.

Think about it, why change something that’s actually perfectly fine. So you waste a li’l time, big deal. Tokyo is one of the worlds most expensive cities, and the most congested. Same goes forLondon, Dubai and quite a few ‘Merican cities too. Consider your city in the elite group of such cities.

So relax with all the “BETTER OUR ROADS” grumpy nonsense. In fact, petition a few more potholes.

When I become President of India, I’ll order all cities to host a day every 6 months where the elephants will be taken onto the roads and allowed to play Hopscotch.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

You meet the most awesome people in a Toyota

Honda might kill me for taking their line and rehashing it, but then, I just couldn’t make do with a title carrying other words.

This is my consecutive third post regarding the people in the public transport industry, and I’m beginning to think, that I’m beginning to learn more from these people than a lot of wise cracking teachers I knew (not all, but most of them who haunted me through the schooling years).

Anyway, I left office in a real stressed out mood today. Morning began with a training and presentation session I had to give at a client’s office, which was a cleanly coordinated disaster, I mean, it was like I had planned for my train of thoughts to conveniently derail in front of the more experienced engineers. But well, I managed to hold off somehow.

Anyway, NOT the point. I rushed back to office and had quite a bit on my hands which I completed way after my closing time. Followed by frustration that A project I had worked on for a while with a lot of effort was seemingly gonna go down the drain ‘coz some other sonnofagun had outdone mine and my colleague’s awesome design. Although I am sure the other design is a dud.

I finished my prayers, after which I caught a bus from my office (first time, as I usually use the taxis there). The bus ride was okay, and Instead of catching another bus to Dubai, I got down at the square in Sharjah and jumped into the next taxi available. A Toyota Camry (Same as Khan Chacha)

At this point I questioned myself, was it worth paying 20 AED extra for the taxi, to save me the 30 minutes of walking. I was too tired to answer that question, so I rested.


The taxi driver in question was a burly man, again a Pakistani or Afghan, the kind who beats people to pulp when he’s bored, with bare hands. With a close cut beard. Nothing like Khan Chacha’s amiable face. This guy had a rougher exterior. He looked like those Pathan bakers who pull out scalding hot bread from the tandoors, with bare hands.


I’ve this thing, I sit in the rear seat of the taxi, not because I like having the feel of being driven around, but its because I have the whole seat to laze up in. I rest my head on the C pillar and doze off listening to, in today’s case, Mohammad Rafi.


The taxi caught up in the middle of a road, traffic jams for the simple reason that it was the weekend. I closed my eyes, and after a while, I had the feel that our car was still standing still. What the heck, I continued listening to Rafi saab crooning.

The nagging feeling didn’t leave me, that we were standing still for a while longer than necessary. I opened my eyes a peep, and I see Tandoor Khan half on his seat and half hanging out of his door.

Goes without saying that my eyes peep popped open. I was thinking, “HUHHHH?????”

I must tell you that this was one of the main roads of Sharjah. Where crossing the road is nigh impossible. This guy was hanging out of his door, touching the road. My brain was thinking, “DUDE, you dropped a quarter??? Here have mine, Lets just go before a trailer uses us for a tire wall.”

But nooo, he continued reaching down for the quarter as cars whizzed past him. I was too shocked to even ask him what he was doing. And just as I am thinking, “GODDAMN QUARTER GET IN HIS HAND.” He goes from Doing the unthinkable to doing the abso-frikkin-lutely Stupid. He reaches back to his belt clip, clicks it open and jumps out of the driver seat to go after the quarter.

Needless to say, I am smashed with the realization that I am sitting in a driverless car, without the handbrake up, in the middle of a busy road on the weekend (where motorists use the freeway as a speedway). I might as well have started saying my prayers, when I saw him pick up the quarter and stand up.

One second I’m like, “PHEW, FINALLY GOT HIS QUARTER”

And then he runs, across the front of the car and towards the shops lining the main road.

And I go, “I AM A SITTING DUCK IN WABBIT SEASON !!!”

He runs to the place between two parked cars and bends down and throws the quarter on the ground and runs back towards the car. My mind thinks, “HOLY CRAP IT WASN’T A QUARTER IT WAS A PIECE OF TISSUE OR SOME GARBAGE HE WAS CLEANING OFF THE ROAD, followed by HUHHHHHH?????”


My eyes remain fixed to the ground where he threw whatever he did. As he ran back to the car, My eyes opened as wide as possible to see a little greyish thing. The thing opened its wings and staggered towards the pavement.

My jaw dropped, and immediately closed in a big grin as realization struck home. Tandoor Khan had stopped in the middle of the road, risking a minimum fine of AED 500 (more than a day’s target), not to mention the wrath of the police out there who are insufferable, to save a dis-oriented pigeon who wanted to commit suicide by jumping in the middle of a busy road.

My mind raced back to the hundreds of pigeons, dogs, cats and other animals who’ve been mercilessly run over by cars and bikes here and in India. And realized I was sitting with a rare breed of road users.

Tandoor sat back in his seat, gave a last glance to the bird to make sure it was headed back to the pavement and not towards the road again, and gunned the car down the road in case the police were following. I gaped at him in awe, as he resumed his burly manner, listening to the urdu news crackling through the AM frequency.

I closed my eyes with a grin and rested on the door cushion, thinking, This guy made my day, so did that suicidal pigeon. What are the odds ?!?!

I opened my eyes a peek to get glance at him, and saw him look at me, sprawled on his backseat with my head on the window sill, in the rearview mirror. I closed my eyes and rested with Rafi saab crooning “Aaya re khilone wala” and I heard the soft click of the doors being locked. And the grin widened.

In case in my sleepy stupor, I happen to pull the door handle, I might fall off right? He made sure I didn’t.

This blog is named after a bird I adore.


Tandoor Khan saved 2 pigeons. One from death and One from absolute irritation at the whole world and possible falling out of a car.

2 Birds with 1 Stone. Couldn’t have been more apt.

Narated By Abu Huraira: Allah's Apostle said, "While a man was walking on a road. he became very thirsty. Then he came across a well, got down into it, drank (of its water) and then came out. Meanwhile he saw a dog panting and licking mud because of excessive thirst. The man said to himself "This dog is suffering from the same state of thirst as I did." So he went down the well (again) and filled his shoe (with water) and held it in his mouth and watered the dog. Allah thanked him for that deed and forgave him." The people asked, "O Allah's Apostle! Is there a reward for us in serving the animals?" He said, "(Yes) There is a reward for serving any animate (living being)." – [Bukhari Vol. 8, Book 73, #38] & [Muslim Book 26, Chapter 39, # 5577]



P.S.

I’d like you, dear reader, to try and tell me what can you guess about this man from reading this episode.

Because I have made an inference. I just want to check if I am right.


P.P.S.

I questioned myself if it was worth it. Needless to say, every penny paid :D

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Epilogue to "Khan Chacha"

Epilogue

In hindsight, Encounter with Khan Chacha and Satan clearly marked out the stark differences between that generation and outs.


Them:
1. Passionate about whatever they do. Giving 100% not because they can, but because that’s the only way to do stuff.

2. Planning in advance, with a contingency plan.

3. One word, Experience. Being a driver, chacha knew about the problems a car would face.

4. The world survives on helping each other.

5. Style and Pure Class. He would gun the car on stretches of road where it was needed, and was very careful about his positioning in the lanes.

6. Still make sacrifices for the younger generation.

7. Patient.

8. Striving to better self. Chacha’s target was 300 AED a day. He did 400 as his basic target


Us:
1. Selective Passion, depending on whether we want to do it, or because we have to.

2. Too much in the speed lane to stop and plan.

3. Yet to learn the importance of knowing the intricate details about what matters most to us. 8 out of 10 among us cant differentiate between a sound made by a loose bearing and Himesh Reshammiya bellowing through our stereos.

4. Help yourself.

5. Had the speed of a cheetah, and the manoeuvrability of a penguin.

6. Wouldn’t sacrifice our afternoon siesta for the sake of even Armageddon.

7. Always bladder filled.

8. **SNORE**

Khan Chacha

Wisdom is an ability in which you learn most profound things, from the least expected sources.

To elucidate, knowledge is thrown at us from all possible directions, some useful, some crap. Its upto us to pick them up and process them. Specially at times when we don’t want to be educated.

I wouldn’t say I am a wise person, but I did come across one. Who was kind enough to share it with me. Which led me to think, “I am such a numbskull !!!”

He’s a Taxi Driver.

Tuesday evening I got dropped off at a signal by my friend, from where I jumped into the nearest taxi available. I was greeted by this man who is old enough to be my grandfather.

He was fairly wheat skinned, possibly an Afghan or Pakistani, white hair crowned with a black prayer cap. But his best feature was the snow white beard framing his face in the most regal manner. The kind of royalty on his face that makes you immediately respect him. And the kind of a big broad shouldered frame which made you want to cuddle in his arms and crib about everything in the world. Okay I’ll get out of my 5 year old self.

I was having a rough week as I had had two major brawls with my close friends. For trying to be honest about something. This apart from other issues haunting me.

Me : Assalam Alaikum Khan Saab, Bur Dubai chale

(Peace be on you Mr. Khan, to Bur Dubai please)

Taxi Chacha : Walaikum as salaam, Main to nahi chalunga, par doosra driver bhej dunga aapke saath. Sach baat batau to poora din zaleel hua hu, abhi abhi workshop se nikla hu aur meri halat bohat kharab hai.

(And Peace be on you as well. Well, I wont be able to take you, but I will have another driver drop you, In all honesty, I have had an insulting day and returned from the workshop just now, I am very tired)

I asked if I should get down, and if he wanted to go home and rest. He said he would go home anyway, but would leave me with his partner driver to drop me to my home.

For those who don’t know, In UAE, every taxi has 2 drivers. One for the daytime, and his partner for the night. This way, taxi operates 24x7, and drivers get to decide with their partner which shift goes to whom.

There on ensued a conversation which made me realize some simple truths I’d conveniently chosen to forget in my week long cribbing mode.

Apparently, Chacha’s driving partner was a younger man, a newbie in the taxi world. I don’t know his name either, but I will use the name chacha gave him……Satan.

Apparently Satan was the reason why Chacha had had a very very bad day at work (sounds familiar doesn’t it). So Chacha had told satan for quite a while to get the car serviced, seems some bearings had come off, and satan kept procrastinating saying, “karenge karenge”. Which means, “I’ll do it, I’ll do it.” Which in turn means, “HAAAH In your dreams!!!!”

Eventually, Chacha let the car in the workshop on Monday evening, and early morning on Tuesday, went to the workshop to get it, which was again delayed for almost half a day…or maybe 3/4ths of his shift. No surprise that the workshop will filled with Satan’s minions. So After a lot of pushing and pulling at that front, he got the car, and by the time he was on the road, he had managed to do just 1/3rd of his daily target. Which meant his monthly target percentage would come down. Which meant he would get lesser salary this month. All because Satan was too lazy.

Chacha went on to tell me how satan had once jumped a red light, got caught by a policeman, and had no knowledge of Arabic or English. The smart cop told him, “Accept either that you jumped the signal, or you were speeding and couldn’t stop on time.”

Satan weighed his options and thought, “Haah, a light should be a lesser punishment than the speeding, speeding could have killed”. And he pleaded guilty for Red Light Jumping.

Cop went, “HAAH, Sucker!!!”

All in all, He was slammed with a fine of 30,000 AED. Which amounts to about 3.9 Lakh Indian Rupees. Obviously, Satan came crying to chacha for help.

And Chacha told him a loophole through which his fine could be waived. Chacha’s condition was simple, “DO NOT TAKE MY NAME.”

As you might have guessed, He got the partial waiver, AND he took Chacha’s name.

Another story about how the front tyre had gone bald and Satan was too afraid to go to the depot to get a change. He sent Chacha instead, saying that “I have a red mark in my file, they will fine me for the bald tyre and lack of Stepney”

Chacha promptly went and got it done, and when the question came about who was responsible, the authorities knew his partner was the clumsy oaf. Chacha had a clear record.Because of this, Chacha wasnt being assigned a new taxi either. As his partner had the Accuracy of a pelican.

I told Chacha to stop helping him.

Chacha let out a sigh and told me, “I don’t bother much now. My elders used to tell a story of a traveller who saw a scorpion sinking in a bucket of water. The scorpion struggled to get out, and the traveller put his hand in, and took the scorpion out, which conveniently stung him. The man dropped it back. And people asked him, “Why did you put your hand, you know it’s a scorpion and it will sting.” And the traveller replied, “It is my habit, I cant let him drown, and he stung me according to his own habit.”

Just like that traveller, I cannot change this guy, but if he is in trouble. I cant stop myself from helping.”

And then he pointed his forefinger to the sky and said the magic words. “I do it in the name of Allah. He knows my deeds and my intentions. And those who do it for him, they leave it to him with faith."

Here was a personification of the phrase, “Neki kar aur dariya me daal” (Perform Good deeds and throw them in the ocean)

A big grin crossed my face and I opened my eyes to this age old lesson.

What made the maximum impact was, that even after all this crazy day antics he had been through, his shoulders were still firm, his neck was held upright, he had the same voice which makes you call out to your enemies and say, “Touch me, my grandpa will tear your limbs with his bare hands.” And his demeanour was nothing but Energetic.

I was Stunned. This man was fighting to survive and keep bettering himself, at an age when he should be snoring on porch chairs with a cup of tea resting by him alongside open books written by dead poets. And he was full of life at it. Not a hint of complain.

I felt like saluting him, and slapping myself. I couldn’t help but deciding that this is how I am gonna live my life.

Journey was coming to an end, he slowed down searching for Satan to take over.

Now I knew for sure this wasn’t the same satan who possesses little children and makes them talk in weird voices. But when I saw him, All I could think of was, “You serious?? This guy?? He isn’t even capable of possessing his own undergarments.”

He turned around and gave me a grin like he was happy to be alive. And then he drove like he wanted to die.

P.s. Chacha is going to get a new partner, an old timer like himself, from his own village back home. And both the old timers are eager to get started. And they will be getting a brand new car too :D