A wait to remember
A popular misconception as far as blog posts go is that the lesser the updates, the more the blogger is busy having a life, as opposed to ranting about the lack of it. In Appendix A, I debunk this myth but for now you can be assured dear reader that I have not degenerated into this decrepitude of depravity. Simply put, I’m more jobless than thou.
Our story begins on a Wednesday morning, the kind that evokes the same sort of dread that the sight of Ganguly’s chest hair does in opposing captains. Perhaps it was the worldfamous Madras weather messing with my head or there is such a thing as “too much vettiness*”, but in any case I found myself afflicted with a sudden bout of masochism, which even drinking Horlicks instead of my morning coffee could not cure. In first world countries, people indulge in sophisticated acts of self-abuse: slashing wrists, drugs, marriages, etc. Au contraire, we Indians have a government approved safe method embellished with red tape that would put even the Gulag to shame. And it was with this in mind that I decided to head to the nearest aRghTO to obtain my license. A license to kill quite literally, given the amount of road accidents that occur every year.
The aRghTO offers a unique experience for it is a place untouched by time, technology, and the Internet- the filtered essence of what a Sarkari establishment is really about. Sure you have movies like Anniyan and Ramana, and comedy shows like Satyameva Jayate and Anna Hazare which drive home the need for a corruption-free society. But expecting such media to change the aRghTO is like trying to break an adamantium wall with a Natraj pencil. Thus I waited amidst a sea of people- old men who probably weren’t around when Henry Ford introduced the automobile and youngsters who make you go “Jesus, Kidsthesedays!”. And so I waited, lost my body weight in sweat and then wondered as to how much of a character building exercise this place was.
- Patience Nothing prepares you for life like waiting for hours in an ocean of sweat.
- Bonding Nothing helps people bond like a common adversary, and a 3 hour wait results in close ties with people around you, irrespective of social status, IQ or Thala/Thalapathy preference.
- Skillset Greasing Palms, Respecting officers, sucking up,… the list is endless.
In short, the establishment encourages you to develop all the necessary skills to be a good human, except of course driving. However, I was soon forced to snap out of my reverie and assemble outdoors for the ultimate driving test. Naive I was to not realise that the real test would be the fact that the photo on my application looked nothing like me. Like school boys waiting for the chief guest, we were made to stand in the sun for almost an hour, and trust me, there is nothing that lends some perspective to your life like the noon sun trying to fry what’s left of your hair. As I was lost in ruminations about the quasi-metaphysical strings connecting the Higgs Boson and T.Rajendar’s beats, I was once again brought back to reality by the arrival of the inspector.
The aRghTO inspector is really hard to miss- in a queue of anxious people waiting to pass their test, his eyes look like that of Paris Hilton’s Chihuahua, totally uninterested. As the man got down from his vehicle, several asslickers ran to greet him with cold drinks and biscuits. One chap with a rejected application was literally begging him with pleas which included his starving family, old mother, sister of marriageable age and dog with a kidney failure. As I watched in awe, a Bolero whizzed by, 2 ministers stepped out to have a private word with the inspector. Requests were made, a suitcase containing the annual income of a few middle class families exchanged, grim nods of the head and as we watched in silence, the Bolero drove away. I kid you not, this part is true. I decided then that when I grow up, I would become an aRghTO inspector. Now to the part where I’m supposed to talk about how my driving skills bedazzled the man but frankly speaking, he was probably more interested in the packet of biscuits and the stain on his shirt than my driving.
As I trotted back to the office, I assumed that the major chunk of my work was over and the processing would get done soon. Right? Wrong. I returned and joined a line longer than the longest gult name that I knew and then Murphy called. They say that with great power comes great responsibility and therefore as long as there are power cuts in Chennai, its denizens will remain irresponsible pricks. As the unruly Sabarimalai-esque crowd was told to wait sine die, frustration tended asymptotically to 1/(Sin 0).
When Gandalf said “Thou Shalt not Pass”, he was probably referring to time, for time passing is a science that makes even String Theory wet its pants. As the clock ticked my youth away, I memorized the various patterns on my palm, got to know that the smelly, sweaty foul-talking fellow behind me was actually a PhD in biosomethingortheother (serious!) and got down to solving P vs NP when power finally returned after three full hours.
Long story short, I finally did get my license and have successfully been causing havoc ever since. All’s well that ends well and all that pointless jazz but it did strike me as to how wasting whole mornings is taken as a part and parcel of life in India. Perhaps it is this frustration, accumulated in the aRghTO that leads to most accidents on the road. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any time to devote to analyse the socio-political causes of this because I had to return home to crib on twitter.
*vettiness = velagiri