If the written word had measurable decibels, this would be one of my loudest posts. I don’t rant for I don’t trust myself with impassioned screaming where I may spell Punjabi expletives incorrectly (the ignominy!) I also calm my blood down before writing my opinions down because to have one’s genuine piece being read and rejected as Post Menstrual/Marital/Mid-age Stress is but the single biggest discouragement any writer can get. Plus, over-use of ‘annoying’ is so annoying.
I was asked a few moments back about my most tiring experiences as a customer. There are 2 which jumped red lights, broke their lane and came honking to mind with holy stickers on their wind shields. Sadly, these two are as regular in my day-to-day life as my milk man’s thin moustache every morning is. If you too like me stay in New Delhi, these may not be anything new for you. I would still like to ask you though – are you too being served thus?
Those young lads manning MCD parking areas all over the city know more about us than even we know. They know we are short of time, perhaps looking at how little we open our windows and how hurriedly snatch the tickets from their hands, before crumpling them and stuffing the ball into our top pockets. They also seem to have realized that we stopped caring for Rs. 10 long back, and especially now when it got converted to mere coins from full-blown currency notes. Why else will they tear the tickets as you see in the picture above?
I got this parking ticket at PVR Naraina parking lot. Notice how it has been torn. While the rate for parking the car is Rs. 10, the counterfoil is torn such that Rs. 20 is what is visible, asked for and paid. At India Gate, the boards listing the expensive charges have been systematically defaced to "sell" this fraudulent idea. At New Delhi railway station, umbrellas and barricades are placed such that cars coming in are misled into entering the 'Premium Parking' area, where you pay Rs. 100 per entry. In Dilli Haat, the paid parking (with such tickets) even covers areas outside the legally designated areas for parking. Yes, you can park your big car where 'No Parking' boards exist. It’s everywhere!
At many levels, we are "promoting" this cheating at a massive scale pan Delhi. Either we have no idea, in case we do not notice the slip properly because the movie or the sale is about to begin. Or, we know the story but are too embarrassed to argue with the parking guys over a meagre Rs 10. What will the car behind us think, after all?
Try putting your foot down to be served right, instead of on the accelerator to find that elusive parking spot or vacating it for the next in line. Try asking him to check the part of the counterfoil he has left under the thick rubber band. See his face then, hand over the right amount, say good night and then sleep tight knowing a youngling is not discussing with his friends what an owl the Audi driver was. It feels good.
Toffees for Change
Parents or no parents, the cashiers at so many stores seem better equipped to handle toddler tantrums and sudden urges for sweeties than most of us who popped real-life babies. Why else would they buy packets of Kissme toffees or Cadbury’s Eclairs to give you instead of change which they are always short of? Of course, one may say they are spreading sweetness but oh boy, try calculating what the store is making by giving you a sweet that cost it a paisa instead of the Re. 1 it hands over in exchange and with a smile that would put the frogs’ to shame.
Our neighbourhood Safal – the one shop which promises fresh vegetables and executes its promise of freshness only once a week from 6 am to 6:30 am, be there or miss it! – is where you find a cash register full of coconut toffees. No matter what time of the day you get your vegetables billed there, they will never have spare change, though by God's grace, they will always have these toffees.
Initially, I used to refuse taking them leaving behind the change which was my due. The shame-faced cashier used to produce a few coins from somewhere then. Gradually, as I saw through his scheme of things he saw through mine and I was asked to take-toffee-or-leave-it with the confidence of a politician in the Parliament. So, I had no option but to take toffees, and collect them. Yes, sir, I did collect them. (If they were popular ones, I would have bought a packet to add to the kitty) I collected them not just to see by how much an average customer was getting duped per visit but also because one fine day I wanted to take a handful back, in exchange for onions and potatoes and ginger.
I did exactly that. Stumped, the cashier did not know how to ‘sell’ me the vegetables in exchange for sweeties, or how to refuse. Stumped, the old uncle who had just popped his into his mouth stopped sucking on it. And magically, the woman next in line raised her voice against this practice too. That she was diabetic and this was promoting sugar-intake was a little off the mark from the real reason to reject this phenomenon but it helped. Suddenly, there was the clink of coins and everyone got their change.
From food courts in popular malls to our favourite general stores, the toffee-for-coin is rampant. What does it take to see through the act? I know it takes quite a bit to refuse a kind hand handing you gooey chocolate filled toffees but look close. Apart from the parking guy’s pocket the vegetable cashier’s belly too is shaking in amused disbelief at its dumb customers. And you know as well as I do who they are.
To be subtly swindled and served thus got my goat. Regularly and by the neck on bad hair days! So much so that finally the goat was ready to offer itself up as mutton to end the ordeal. Up until the day I left her at home, because I had decided to stand by my right to be served right. It’s very easy. It’s very important. It’s also as patriotic as painting a flag on your face every Independence day or for India's cricket match.
Are you being served right?
Are you being served right?