A few days ago, my blogger fellow and author of the travel site “About India” asked in a poll which city in India has the worst Auto drivers.
My reply was Bangalore, because in the 8 years I’ve been in India they went from decent to really bad, the degree of badness being proportional to the proposed and granted hike in basic fares.
In the current of the last year they went from 14 rupees for the minimal fare to 18, and the drivers not only try to cheat you more, they also refuse to take you to even more place than before. When the fare was 10 rupees for the first 2km back in the days was when I had the least problems getting where I wanted, that too on the meter.
Now that I live in Mumbai it is a HUGE relief to not have to deal with all the pathetic excuses the Garden city drivers usually came up with to or not take you anywhere: too much traffic, too far, too near…Or the reason they chose to try to extort more money before you even stepped into the Auto: Traffic jam, the looming dark clouds about to bring rain, night fare (at 6pm yeah right!), have to come back empty, meter broken (assuring you the inflated fare they quote is the legal and correct one)…to the reason why you need to pay extra upon arrival: extra service tax, too much time waiting in traffic, “I’m poor you are rich”, no change.
From my experience in Mumbai, very few drivers refuse to go somewhere, and when they do refuse it’s during rush hour, where they would prefer a longer or shorter ride, it’s still annoying of course but the times I had issue after 6pm, I usually always found one ready to take me after 5-6 requests, and it never took more than 15 minutes. Back in Bangalore when i was working as a French teacher on occasion I once asked about 20 Autos all refused to take me home, so I ended up walking the entire 6 kilometres back to my place.
Drivers in Mumbai tend to go on the meter without discussing far more easily than in Bangalore too, only once while stuck in Bandra with my cousin, her husband and our two respective daughters were we asked to pay 200, which isn’t even more than the metered fare to go back home anyway as on another occasion the guy took me on the meter and I paid 190 rupees, so clearly 10 rupees extra on a long drive with an Auto’s performance being tampered by the load of 5 people in it isn’t such a huge cheat.
Another thing I highly appreciate in Mumbai is that drivers almost always have the change, even if the change is just 2 rupees, on occasion I just walked away from the vehicle not really minding about the one rupee change only to have the driver call after me to give it to me, only once or twice did the driver not have the change, but said so after emptying all his pockets and then say “Sorry ma’am no change” in Bangalore they just take whatever money you give them and wheel off, no sorry no nothing, they almost take for granted that if the fare is 22 rupees and you give them 30 that you are gifting them the balance, and if you give them the exact change they try to beg you to pay an addition 10 rupees for all the reasons mentioned above.
Now of course the Mumbai papers have put into light the fact that Auto Drivers in the city aren’t honest, as apparently about 95% of them tampered their meter replacing the official dented gear with one with less dents spinning faster, but they also noted that the tampered gear was the same standard cheat gear for all drivers. So yes they cheat, but it’s 95% of them cheating you with the same illegal hike in fare, it’s not them quoting random amounts based on the look of the patron. And in all fairness, Mumbai’s standard fare is lower then the one in Bangalore too, and god know the Maximum City is getting far more traffic jams than the Garden City. Where I live right now, it takes about 3 kilometres to reach a certain supermarket and commercial center I like to visit, the fare is always between 18-20 rupees depending where I picked up the Auto, back in the old days when the minimal fare was 14 in Bangalore, and that I was also living at about 3 kilometres from the mall I was paying around 21-25 depending where I would pick up the auto. And that was a few years back, Bangalore has since then hiked up their legal fare as stated above, so it nearly takes me a cool 30 bucks to cover that distance there. And that is when they used to agree to take me on the meter, because as I said that has become less and less easy to get.
In a way this is good that Mumbaikars are starting to crib about autos now, because hopefully it will prevent the cheating to escalate further, but then maybe it is true that in general drivers in this city are a bit more professional as well. I remember the first time I lived in the city in 2004 it was as easy to get an Auto as it is now, the fare is maybe slightly higher, I don’t remember any need for a conversion table back in the days, the price of the fare was one rupee less than what the meter stated or something.
So is that simply due to the fact that in a huge city like Mumbai, where people are pressed for money to simply afford a hint of a life (decent or not) it would be simply too stupid to risk loosing a fare by trying to extort more money or refusing to go somewhere? My guess is that it has something to do with it.
So while Mumbai has been able to maintain a certain decent standard of service, Bangalore has even managed to outdo Chennai in the race for the worst city to get an Auto, I have less experience with Delhi, but from what I heard they are still so far ahead in the game when it comes to crappy service.
Back in 2008 I once wrote a blog entry titled “No life without wife” which was pretty much about how courier companies, and repairmen take it for granted that there will ALWAYS be somebody home and that they can show up whenever, or not bother letting you know they showed up to find a closed door. I also added that joints families were only bound to become more and more common in the coming years and that a change in habits was in order.
This very article has been brought back to my memory just yesterday when I had a spat with the management of the common club house of my residential enclave. They have that highly discussable rule that states the whole staff goes on lunch from 12pm until 2.30pm and that during that time no one can use any of the clubhouse facilities (even though the doors are still opened). This becomes an issue for toddler moms like me, who have only one or two hours a day to hit the treadmill there. In my case Ishi goes to school at 11.30am and finishes at 1.30pm, efficiently leaving as only possibility to exercise for me the single hour of 11.30 until 12.30 as I need to fix lunch and have shower before picking her up. Yesterday was the first day I could hit the gym since taking the club house membership due to several factors, and no one mentioned anything about lunch breaks to us when we took the membership, and it is not written in any clear way other than one tiny line in fine prints at the middle of a sheet on the message board tuck away in a dark corner of the lobby.
I got to raise the issue with the manager who simply refused to listen to me, telling me that he didn’t get what the big fuss was as I could come any other time, and leave my daughter at home to do so. I told him that I didn’t have any full time maid to do the job, and that it was ME who was on duty from 6am until at least 9pm on most days, with just this one freaking hour to just come and exercise. The guy’s response to my “I don’t have a maid full time’ was….wait for it….”Oh you don’t??????” On a properly puzzled tone as if he was just about expecting everybody to or have a hired help or live in a joint family set up.
So yes we are back to what I was writing 4 years ago, India still has this notion that there is someone at home at all time, and that in the event of a family living the new nuclear way they must necessarily have a full time maid to replace the family network support…SIGH!
With the grand arrival of nuclear families, the notion of dual income families also made its grand appearance, and with it the nasty trend to assume that the women who stay at home are doing…nothing! this last notion however has been picked up from the west, my mom has been told for the 10 years she didn’t “work” raising a family that she has basically been doing nothing.
And I for a fact find it rather ironic to see a country like India where a generation ago no one frowned much at seeing a woman stay at home, has now an increasing percentage in urban India thinking that a housewife or a stay at home mom is pretty much having a leisure life, and that her time doesn’t particularly count, or if it does it counts as only a tiny fraction of the time of a “working professional”.
My maid regularly makes that assumption, that if she can’t come at 9.30am as decided she can just come in whenever she wants because me being a stay at home mom means I’ll be there, I had to correct her several time on that issue, and I’m still not sure she gets it fully other than she understands the absolute necessity for me to be out of the house to drop my daughter off to school and leave again to pick her up. Repairmen still don’t get why they should bother telling me at what time they would show up, courier companies don’t see why they have to keep their online tracking accurate enough so that I can plan when to stay home to pick up a parcel simply because they will not call me or leave a not if I’m not there, and that is for those parcels I am expecting because that is something I ordered mind you, I still have to perhaps consult the stars to predict when which credit card company, internet provider or what not will suddenly decide to send us something by courier (no regularity in their habits there to help me in my predictions).
The other moms at Ishita’s school all agree that they find it ludicrous that one should assume that we do nothing simply because our job is to stay home and take care of the kids, we do it by choice or by necessity, whatever the reason, we should be respected, but sadly our time is less valuable, and have to face such questions as “Are you working somewhere?” and when you reply rightly “Yes I take care of my kids” be told “oh so basically you just stay at home and don’t work”. When our status as SAHM has been established, it is apparently appropriate to ask one “So when are you going back to work” pretty much implying that while we are raising toddlers we aren’t doing anything productive.
Then there are the ones in the fashion world having come with pejorative words such as “mom jeans” “mom outfit” or “mom hair cut”, all having for distinction to describe a lack of style.
I find these even more insulting than the allusion to the fact we don’t work, mostly because it assume that we shouldn’t have any excuses to look frumpy because we are after all staying at home not working and yet here we are all wearing basic tees, and sturdy practical trousers with flip flops instead of a designer outfit and stilletos, and that eek with all the free time we are supposed to have we have nothing better than tie our hair up in the first scrunchy we found lying around.
Flash news, the infamous mom outfit and mom hairdo is simply yet another professional attire, so unless you are going to make fun of ladies wearing pantsuits to office, or doctors wearing shapeless scrubs, please leave our basic tees and kurti alone!
When you are running after a budding Olympic sprinter the whole day long, being vomited on, splattered in food, on all four mopping a pee puddle, did 2 batch of laundry while dancing to a nursery rhyme your tot wants you to perform for him/her and spend the rest of the day or cleaning crayons off the walls or running errands with a kiddo strapped to your hip, tell me where exactly wearing an expensive shirt, a pencil skirt and designer shoes fits, leave alone an expertly done bun or cutting edge do that needs you to blow dry into place daily?
In pretty much the same way you would not suggest a corporate player to show up in his arena in sweat pants, stop saying that us as SAHM should sacrifice practical at the expense of fashion…that just won’t do.
Yes stay at home mom work, they work hard, they are on call 24/7, from the instant their kiddos wake up they are on duty, being whatever they need to be at any specific given time: chauffeur, cook, nurse, counsellor, teacher, tutor, play buddy, maid, repair woman, public relation agent, coach, confident…briefly put a MOTHER
The working hours are long, the job not always clean and glorifying (as in fishing a tiny favourite toy out of the toilet). Like any professional we keep day planners with all the special events, meetings, and tasks we have to absolutely remember along with the phone numbers of all the other moms of our darling little one’s friends to coordinate play dates and keep ourselves informed of events in the life of our tots we might have missed.
And yet some people think that because we stay home we have more time than those who go out to office and more, they feel the need to rub it in our face.
In this respect I think India is getting at par with the western countries there, they went from not batting an eye lid at a woman staying home, to just go on degrading the good names of SAHM the way my own mom had to be insulted back in the days.
But hey time to stop writing for me, and resume my day of nothingness: Waiting for a batch of laundry to finish washing so I can hang it, check Ishita’s ethnic outfit for stains as tomorrow they celebrate Republic day in school and all kiddos have to be in Indian wear in one or more of the National flag colour (luckily the one I already own is orange and teal which could pass as green), I need to fix us some lunch and have it ready by 1.20 because then I go pick her up in school and will go to the playground with her and then by the time we make it home god forbid her majesty has to wait more than the time it takes for the food to hit the plate or else I get a cranky meltdown, then it’s her nap time, and I need to fix a wardrobe door she yanked on and is threatening to come loose, and need to fix a post nap snack and figure out what to have the maid cook for DH’s dinner before hitting the playground again, and oh go get a few groceries and do a trip to the pharmacy….nothing really.
Once upon a time, when I was a teenager still learning English in high school (yes English is indeed not my native language), my course book said something about how British love to talk about the weather, whether it is a stereotype or not, is left to debate and I won’t go there.
What is however interesting is that it seems talking about the weather in India is the number 2 topic among Aunties (the first one being juicy neighbourhood gossip and probably talking about what goes into the shopping cart of a gori lady).
Of course this is also a favourite with shop keepers who upon asking you where you are from will say something like “Ah! And how do you like India?” and then proceed to say “How are you handling the climate here? India is terrible”
And while talking about the weather is a popular auntie/shopkeeper pastime, keep in mind that there are a few rules should you do so:
1) You need to crib about the weather, no matter how nice it is, where you live must always have a bad weather, unless you are comparing it to Delhi (Yes, Delhi is horrible yaar, all year round they have the most horrid weather).
2) The weather is lovely but always where you don’t live: “I hate the humidity in Mumbai, Bangalore is so much nicer all year round”. Although it goes without saying that if you live in Bangalore the weather is rotten because you live there, but still so much more pleasant than Delhi…or Mumbai (getting the hang of it?)
3) If you really MUST say something positive about the weather it must be tainted by at least one flaw: “The winter we have this year is so nice and cool, but it’s too dry, my skin is killing me” or “It’s nice to have cooler days, but everybody is sick with a cold/flu, it’s horrible”
4) The present time weather always has to be worse than the same weather at the same time a year ago: “Oh my I don’t thing we ever had such a rotten monsoon ever, it was so much better last year”.
5) You have to find a way to blame whatever sneeze, sniffle, foot wart, or eczema you are suffering from to the weather, because you can’t talk about your health without talking about the weather that inevitably regardless of the season and regardless of how pleasant it is has to bring the plague: “ugh I came down with a cold, this is because it suddenly became so cold last night”
6) If you go away on a weekend you have to mention how so much better the weather was there compared as to what it is here, regardless of whether it is true or not. So yes that means that even if you just went to Elephanta island for a day and the climate was hot and humid as it is in Mumbai you have to brag about how so much nicer it was over there (are you still following?)
7) You must read weather related news and share your meteorological wisdom with the group keeping in mind all the above rule: “Yes the weather is horribly cold, but that’s El Nina’s fault, this was mentioned in the paper”
Indeed, talking about the weather in India is a safe topic, a topic all will want to discuss to some extent, one that surely won’t get you in trouble in a neighbourhood’s gossip match, and as long as you remember the rules stated above (which are all variation on the “Cribfest” theme) you are safe.
Meanwhile from the safety of my little blog I will confess that I love Winter in Mumbai, that it is the only season that doesn’t make me miss Bangalore, and that I’m not looking forward to the days it will become hotter, which according to that TOI article I just shared above should not come until March thanks to El Nina. Of course to be a good sport I blame my dry skin and monstrous cold to the weather…
I’ve been down with a monumental cold for the past week, courtesy of DH who got the good sense of catching it first and been a gentleman passing it on to his wife, daughter and even mother in law.
I started with a sore throat I treated aggressively with paracetamol, and tulsi tea by the litre, despite my preventive measure I followed right after DH into the stuffy nose, bout of fever and heavy cough that had me, go for D-cold, cough syrup, fever reducers, and Vicks vapo rub (which for the first time ever I’ve been unable to smell).
It’s been a bit over a week now, and while most of the symptoms have gone away, that lingering cough is here to stay, and as far as cold remedies go, I tried decongestants that only decongested my wallet, paracetamol that just took care of my fever and body ache 9I never expected much more from it), Vicks vapo rub, that did absolutely nothing, cough syrup that only muted the mighty cough for an hour, strepsil that just tasted good but didn’t reduce the fire in my throat, Ricola a Swiss brand of herbal lozenge that used to work back home but set me a ridiculous 100 bucks for a box here and did nothing except bring back memories from my childhood (not that I can object to that side effect), steam inhalation, gargling which both soothed me for as long as it lasted making we want to just live in my steamy hot shower and never have to come out of it.
I tried the so called efficient and natural ways in the form of tulsi tea, ginger and lemon in hot water, and honey, none prevailed or offered me more than an hour or relief and none bought me a good night sleep.
Left alone by both allopathic medicine and Good Girl Home Remedies, I am now resorting to Naughty lady ones: Brandy in hot water with a drop of honey and a pinch of pepper. And guess what? So far that is the one that works the best, granted my cold is a week old, but where all other failed, this one is giving me a few hours of relief at a time, and let me sleep peacefully a night.
While I would have no ounce of shame divulging my home made remedy to my friends and neighbours back home, I sure can’t just admit to the other mothers in Ishita’s school that I’m dealing with my sore throat and hacking cough by drowning my neurone in a hint of brandy, that of course would not be proper Indian lady behaviour now wouldn’t it?
And so today’s discussion went “Hi Cyn, how is your cold doing?” me “A bit better, but still hanging in there”, them "Yes this cold is just a nasty one, it’s been doing the round, and nothing works to get rid of it”, me feeling a bit smug at hearing that indeed tulsi doesn’t do the trick on that one “yes I tried it all, tulsi, Vicks, ginger, steam…nothing works”…If they knew!
The lesson learned with that nasty cold, is that next time I’ll skip the cough syrup and go for something that feels and taste a bit better at the default of not being socially acceptable…ha!
Fish Pedicure! That is something I first heard of a few years back when an upscale spa in Bangalore started offering that service, articles in newspapers talked about that tiny teeth less Turkish fish that eats dead skin.
My curiosity was pricked, but the service was not only a bit far from my place, it was also costly, I don’t remember the exact figure, but definitely too much for the 10-15 minutes of watching a school of fish go at my calluses.
Last year for the first time, I saw them into action at the Inorbit Mall in Navi Mumbai, in a city where the only entertainment was the mall, and new attractions in said mall in high demand, the said fish tank station seemed to always have too many feet in them, so I didn’t even enquired about it, and before we knew it we were back in Bangalore, which still had only the service offered at select spas.
Back in Mumbai we went, and it seems these fish pools are just about everywhere, there is one at my neighbourhood’s beauty parlour, there is one in the complex where my local supermarket is, there is one at a nearby mall, and I’m sure quite a few spas and salons in my area must have them.
In fact since back in Mumbai I’ve noticed that a significant portion of the well off people living there must have a foot fetish of some kind, as not only you will find these fishes around, there are also a lot of foot spa, Thai foot spa, and hand and foot spa around. In a city where life goes fast and people spend a significant amount of their time running around I guess it could make sense.
The curiosity of ever trying offering my feet to “Dr Fish” as some want to call them came back, but I never acted on it until my mom came to visit, we passed one of these fish pedicure station in mini-mall/supermarket in my area, and she asked what it was all about, my daughter has been in love with that fish tank for a while because she loves watching them swim, so I explained the whole thing to her and she said this was one of the things she had to try while she was there, but we left it at that for the time being.
Three days later we were at a nearby big mall, and my daughter quite obviously went to go watch them as she knows where the tank was (she seems to have a fish radar in addition to the Doradar she came equipped with), and this time we decided to give it a try.
The lady washed our feet with antiseptic and we were told to dip the feet in the tank making sure not to have the feet touch the bottom so that the fishes could have access to all sides of our feet. Within a nanosecond of immersing them, I had half the tank attacking my feet, the sensation is ticklish, and had me laugh nervously, pass the first 2 minutes the experience starts feeling confortable enough though, and I looked at the fishes mesmerized, my daughter kept quite fascinated at the sight of the fishes kissing mama’s feet, and minutes after minutes I could really feel a relaxing soothing sensation in my feet, after 15 minutes, we were told to remove our feet from the tank, and the lady dried them, and gave us a nice lotion massage.
My feet felt so light, I even commented to my mom it was like walking on clouds, as for the dead skin, well to be fair they removed quite a bit, but I have chronically dry feet, and even they could not work wonder on my rough heels, but still enough for me to feel a difference.
I think more than the skin eating part, the fishes offer a soothing massage no other foot massager can.
I might want to do it again, but the next time I’ll probably do it in my local beauty parlour, the idea of being in display of the entire mall while enjoying some relaxation was a bit odd to me.
And I am back from my hiatus, with a gigantic cold I’m still trying to get rid of but well back to blogging, a short post today, but more to come soon I promise.
You know you are in India when a conversation at the pharmacy could go like this:
Me: Hi, I need a pack of D-cold, a strip of crocin, a bottle of Otrivin nasal drop and do you have aspirin in this dosage for my mom? (mom behind me listening)
The pharmacist gather my medications, and use his calculator to total the amount and say:
- You are one run short of a century!
Me: Really? Just 99? Oh my! I’ll do better next time (I was a bit to cold foggy to come with a much witty “Will do better on my second inning)
The pharmacist tell the cashier who then smiles at me and say “So is it out or not out?”
Me : “Definitely out, that cold is killing me”
I pay and leave.
Now you know you have been in India long enough, or have been married to a cricket fanatic Indian husband long enough to get the joke, my poor mom who is not even a fluent English speaker asked what it was all about as she never heard prices quoted that way, I had to translate in French and giver her a cricket for dummies 101 so she could grasp the funny conversation I just had with my local chemist. I for myself find it hilarious and yes it did make my day, as back then my cold was starting to get to me (it got worse after that though).
You just can’t escape cricket when you live in India.
2011 has been a rollercoaster year for us, and as of January 1st last year we were in Bangalore at the end of a short trip to find a flat there to move away from toxic Navi Mumbai, back then we just had finalised on a place, we were looking forward to being back in the garden city by February.
Little did we know that along with the relocation came money issue at DH’s previous company and a long stretch of 6 months of not getting paid (the company still owes DH 5 months worth of salaries as of now), and that in a desperate effort to get us out of this mess, DH had to accept a nice better paying job back in Mumbai, we moved back to Bangalore in February only to pack our stuff again in August. In 2011 we lived in 3 (yes THREE) different apartments in 3 different locations and 2 interstate trips. It left us drained, physically and emotionally, and in such loathing of packing and moving that we hope it wont happen again until we move into our OWN place one day, not another rental, and headache as to figure out how to make the best out of the square feet allocated to us only to have to put the puzzle on the table again in a few months or years.
Here is to a 2012, sans relocation, dedicated to home and family.
Happy New Year to you all!
And with this post I am officially starting my 2 weeks hiatus, see you on the 15th