Monday, February 6, 2006

Anna Land

Life in Chennai can be very amusing at times. There is just so much that you can learn when you’re in a strange place and you don’t know the language. Even if you’re trying to be a smart aleck and make a sorry attempt to speak the language and get yourself understood.
A conversation with the auto walas is the paradigm of any such doomed—from—start conversation. Now most of us are kinda proud of our almost real Tamil accent, the problem is…at times it just gets a bit too real. The end result, the guy starts a tirade in Tamil and we’re left struggling to find a one-foot plank in a rough sea. That is nothing compared to the humiliation you feel when the auto guy starts speaking in full-fledged Tamil, and you have to brace yourself and quickly tell him…“Anna, anna….Tamil Teriyada….Tamil Teriyada.” (I don’t know Tamil) And then the auto guy will give an exasperated expression as if we’ve stopped him just before the final countdown of a rocket launch, take a deep breath…his eyes gleaming with a wicked smugness, and curtly throw the exorbitant price at you.
But the war doesn’t end there, because for him, it’s just one of the many battles won. Next come the directions to the actual place you want to. You can count your lucky stars if you’ve gotten an auto who knows where exactly he needs to go, and is ready to take you there without saying more than twenty of the choicest words. Or maybe I should be saying…you should count your lucky stars if you get an auto that will take you to the place without creating unnecessary trouble, because for some inexplicable reason, the guys here seem to just be in love with the concept of haggling. They will take you near your final destination and just stop…asking you to pay more money to cross a meager road or go another twenty feet. At moments like these, you just can’t but see red, especially when you’re late for a class.
My most amazing experience (upto now) is recent. I had to go for a rock concert in IIT-Madras. The problem was, I didn’t know the way, nor did I know which bus to take. The only solution – take an auto. My friends had told me that an auto ride would cost about 50 bucks. Now the friend in question invariably manages to spend more on auto than what’s required, so if he tells me any rate, I automatically quote at least ten bucks less. Standing on the main road I manage to flag my first auto.
Anna…IIT…..Indian Institute of Technology.”
He nods his head and says, “Fifty Rupees.”
Ille anna….naapada…forty…anna…forty…it’s not that far…forty is fine…
Resignedly he motions me to sit. I’m smiling ear to ear in my head while maintaining a poise and cool demeanor on the outside. It wouldn’t help if he knew that I had got myself a bargain.
Basking in the glory of getting myself a profitable deal, I sit pleased with myself and the world as the auto meanders its way through the winding lanes of Kodambakkam and T.Nagar to unknown territories. Suddenly he stops in front of a board with the letters “S.I.E.T” painted on it. Things were not working out for me.
To cut a long story short (and also because I’m tired of typing) I ended up visiting at least three different universities before getting to IIT. Serves me right to keep on complaining that I haven’t been around Chennai as much as I’d like to.
No matter what…the auto walas always win!!! Come to think about it…that’s not very amusing….maybe I should revise my first line.

No comments:

Post a Comment