Texting while driving, jay-walkers and the soaring summer heat and depleting water levels are preoccupying Chandana Chakrabarti this month.
Being one of those who fervently took to the streets in solidarity the day Anna Hazare went on an indefinite fast against corruption and continued till the day he called his fast off in Delhi, I am now wondering how on earth am I going to keep my promise of not being a bribe-giver this summer in Hyderabad. The temperature is soaring, the already low ground water table has sunk further, bore wells have become bone-dry, municipal water pipes drizzle drinking water for an hour every third day, and water tanker booking has a waiting period of one month. I hear people are now digging bore wells to depths where they might strike oil. But like the old saying goes, when all doors close, a window does open somewhere. That window for water this summer is the bribe you can opt to give to the water tanker guy. Just double the amount you pay for the water and in the dead of night, you can have your sump filled without having to wait for a month for your turn. Corruption I shall fight, for which I have to stay alive. And to stay alive through summer, I will need to pay that bribe. Will our netas and self-righteous opinion makers deny me the right to protest against corruption the next time on?
I always thought that if I were to be taken blindfolded to one of our metros I’d be able to distinguish one from the other just from the look, smell and feel of the city. Not anymore. A recent trip to Kolkata had me scouting around New Town and Rajarhat, precisely where Kolkata is fast expanding with its new condominiums, gated communities and world class infrastructure. I had to keep reminding myself that I was in Kolkata, not Gurgaon. The yuppie vibes I got were so un-Kolkata. Similar is the experience in the newest part of Hyderabad, described as the city’s financial district, where plenty of cranes are seen working overtime.
Who would say it has anything to do with Hyderabad, be it food, lingo, look or feel? Another dose of yuppie vibes! Gurgaon again seems a closer cousin than the land of nawabs. Drive down Kerala for instance, in any direction, and what you will find is villa after villa, resembling the ones in Oman or Saudi. If it wasn’t for the verdant environs, one would think one is in Muscat! Does development necessarily have to be the end of diversity?
Ambidextrous or brainless?
Bongs have a penchant for names. One name I have always liked is Sabyasachi, another name of Arjun, meaning ambidextrous. Perhaps, I imagined that just naming a child Sabyasachi would lend the child the ability to use both his hands equally. I am flabbergasted by the number of Sabyasachis I see on our roads every day. I have never stopped to ask their names. It does not matter what their real name is. They are truly ambidextrous and deserve the name.
These guys don’t merely talk on their mobiles while driving. All of them are busy texting as they ride on their bikes or drive their cars. It’s another matter that they will soon end up claiming an arm or a leg of another, while keeping their two hands busy doing different things, their limbs controlling the vehicle, their ears glued to music, and their overworked eyes and mind, just occasionally on the road.
If there were prizes for jay-walking, Hyderabadis would bag it. Jay-walkers abound on our streets no matter where or how busy the road may be. Their pace and style of walking is characteristically nawabi. They are also perhaps romantics at heart, for if it wasn’t for the hustle-bustle of the street, one would think they are revelling in a moonlit stroll, blissfully oblivious of the humdrum around. Perhaps, they are inspired by the romantic tale of a young prince and a beautiful commoner, on which this city has been built.
They amble across the busiest junctions just when the traffic lights turn green. No traffic commissioner and no police have so far been able to discipline jay-walkers. I shudder to think what will happen when people start to saunter on the streets or drive wearing Google’s wearable computers that would sit on their forehead waiting to throw up a virtual screen with all kinds of information at a verbal command, be it directions, eateries, movies, discounts and what have you?
(Chandana Chakrabarti is a multi-talented personality with an abiding interest in art, science, culture and contemporary affairs.)