Tag Archives: travel

Valparai Tales! Part 2.

Contd from…

As I sweat in the Bangalore heat, while doing absolutely nothing apart from just breathing, which you would all acknowledge is a very crucial, and from what I know the most important factor for our existence, I think back of the vacation I recently took. And promised a second post on.

In my mind, as I say the word, Valparai, I close my eyes to be welcomed to memories of our four wheeler rushing through the short winding roads through hills, while green stems and young branches fell out of line by the side of the road, swaying to greet us. We are rushing past them, honking at each hairpin bend, serpent turns, waking us out of the slumber of hill travel every now and then, fascinated by the depths which greeted us to our right and the heights which beckoned us to our left.

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Oh the twists and turns! More than a Jodi Picoult book.

I see a kaleidoscope of butterflies pass us, yellow this one. My reflexes are too slow to brandish the phone camera for a shot of them. I simply close my eyes to capture the moment. Sometimes, I wish I had a pensieve to keep these memories untouched. But in its absence, National Geographic will have to do. The Sun, which at the base of the hills was unforgiving, seemed to be playing hide and seek with us as we travelled upwards closer. The clouds ran helter skelter, giving us a peak a boo of the scorch every now and then. It was almost lunch hour when we reached the outskirts of Valparai and unbelievable as it may sound, or read, there was rain, just like Google weather had predicted! Bless technology and the genius minds that worked behind it.

Valparai is so untouched by commercialization, that it was difficult to find a place to stay. We ended up finding a place that seemed like it had been vacated after its occupants had packed bags and moved to the city for better earnings. They offered us a single room for ten people when actually advertising as a home stay! I wondered how the others would react for I was already prepared for a little adventure. Standing at the crossroads of the little town, I sighed audibly with relief when I looked up at the three storeyed building, catching the occupants of the top floor room, my friends, look out at the tea estates as far as the horizon permit, with enthusiasm and unwavering excitement.

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If there was audio, you could have heard us singing too!

The evening that we spent there has to be my most memorable in quite a while. Walking through tea estates, and (this time) long winding roads, with no vehicles to honk at us, no bikes to rush past us, no traffic at all, paradise was not even on my wishlist then. We sang as the sun set, clicked photographs of trees that formed patterns different to each of our eyes, posed by the side of the road wanting  to post pictures online but never doing so, because we knew words would fail to describe the serenity we felt then. And we also didn’t want to lose those minutes buried in the phone. That says a lot about the place, doesn’t it? We saw people though. Some smiled at us knowingly, others gave us a pass, ignoring us as a brief little intrusion in their small town. A shopkeeper asked us our religion, offering a temple, mosque or a church to visit around accordingly. He chatted with us for over five minutes, but did not once try to sell his wares to us. So much for calling it a small town.

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Bouquet of flowers, a friend calls it. Anyone knows what these are called?

Graciously Yours!

Valparai Tales! Part 1.

As another three day long weekend came up, the crowd of Bangalore, like me, decided to move away from the city to the surrounding hill stations where temperatures dipped and the real feel was more in the fresh early 20’s rather than the tiring late 30’s!

What do you expect when seemingly an entire city starts to move away from it? Well, apart from a lot of money for the tolls and travel agencies? A lot of traffic! So much so that at 2 AM, we were stuck in traffic for almost an hour. Well, a lot of people got to see a SpiderWoman on the top of our vehicle! Shh. Well, the vehicle carrier was lying unused. It must have been lonely and sad.

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Replace one of these monkeys with a woman! And remove the rest from the picture! Or you could keep the rest too. She doesn’t mind. I asked.

The SpiderWoman was tired after her two minute stint. After all, greater responsibilities requires greater power! So what would the next stop four hours later be for? Food! Breakfast combined food with ogling at a cute little bundle of joy, who was peeping out of his father’s arms and watching the early morning bustle at the road side eatery while his mouth hung open and eyes remained wide and bright.

The places we crossed, cities, towns all seemed to wake up the same way. The faces change, but the places remain the same – similar yet different in ways a traveler can’t distinguish in passing but only admire. The lone milk vendor on his cycle, the newspaper guys distributing the morning’s load, the vegetable sellers lining up for a swift morning, the jogger here and there, the early risers already on their way to work, more men, less women, more elders, no children, some yawning, others charged for the Sun’s next rotation.

A full belly and long travel dozed me off to sleep! I woke up next to find myself away from the cities and into the forests of the Western Ghats! Not to mention with a ‘Nearly Headless Neck’ and an almost bursting bladder.

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We stopped to answer nature’s call at the open air toilets provided by the Forest Reserve at one of the checkpoints, and lo behold! Their grit was eye opening! And their ways, harsh reality.

Let’s break this down for you. The gritty stuff? Well, their toilets were not gender biased – all unisex. Go figure, how! The harsh reality? Well, only 1 out of the 10 toilets had running water available. And when I say running, I mean 24X7 running, because the tap was broken beyond repair. Just like the 10% among us hold 99% of the wealth and waste it because they have no idea what to do with it.

What do you think when at an elevation of 340 metres, the heat is blistering and burning your skin but Google Weather reports that the 3400 metres’ elevation which is your destination is expecting rain? Well the obvious one is, ‘Google must be wrong. Finally!’. Apart from the obvious, I came up with, ‘Is it really possible that this same high and mighty Sun and sky will be shy and cloudy in another hour and 3060 metres?’. And after that I hit my jackpot!

‘Did the women of India really choose to cover their heads and faces with their attire because the men culture wanted it or because the women wanted to save themselves from the heat, the open countryside is subjected to? As if breathing fire wasn’t enough, they’d have to let it simmer their skin too.’

Looks like some of the heat got to me too!

To be continued...

Graciously Yours!

Unravel the Travel!

As promised (to no one in general), here’s a continued set of anecdotes from my trip to Gujarat!

Let’s begin right from the beginning of the trip, like is the norm unless I choose to write in reverse chronology. That’s a good idea but for another day!

Anyone who’s spent even a day on Bangalore roads would know how terrible a nightmare they can be, especially if you have a flight to catch. So  for my own mental peace and for all practical purposes, I left from home, four hours before my flight was to take off! And lo behold, I reached in just about an hour and a half, much to my annoyance and my cabbie’s surprise at my annoyance. The good people at the flight customer support counter however sent me off on an early flight as reward for my unacceptable promptness.

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That’s a long way to go! At Ahmedabad Airport.
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That’s a lot of lights! And white. At Mumbai Airport.

We came across not one or two but three locations where there were rubber band sellers – and when I say rubber band sellers, they were only selling rubber bands! A handcart full of crimson, kale, azure, gold, grey, fuchsia, violet, saffron, striped, polka dotted rubber bands! Out of curiosity, I asked one of those vendors what the price of the bands were and he said 1 rupee! Yes, you read it right – freaking 100 paise! 1 rupee! My first thought was how are they even surviving! My second thought was to buy a dozen or so of the bands. My third thought was exactly how much is the production cost of these bands if people are managing to sell these at such a nominal price!

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You get transported to the era of mutinies and sepoys with your first step in. At Diu Fort.

At one of the beaches, my sister was polite enough to do the human thing of clicking a picture for a couple of guys who requested her to. One of them started making small talk with her asking her if she was a resident of the town, did she know any good places to eat, et al. Having answered in monosyllables, we started walking away when one of them called out to her asking her, “I’m from the States. Would you want a picture with me?” Surprised, she refused. He insisted again asking, “Are you sure you don’t want  a picture with me?” While I was wondering if I could place his face to any of the Indian Americans I’d seen on the USA shows, my sister was muttering, “He’s freaking flirting with a 20 year old! He is almost double my age!”

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That’s vandalism, in modern times! At least something is changing with times. At Diu Fort.

We had visited a set of caves, to which there’s dispute about whether it was a geological formation or dug by the Portuguese for formation of the Diu Fort. Either ways, it was a beautiful maze of earth cut out in a variety of eerie and curiously un-human ways. There were stairs ending into nowhere, rocks hanging out precariously, cuts in the ceiling which didn’t seem to explain the purpose or history of its creation! And because it was so huge and devoid of many tourists, there were spaces where you couldn’t see another person as far as your sight and the maze allowed. The silence was harsh enough for you to hear your own breathing and each step you took creaked the twigs and dry grass below. I was thankful to have gone there during the day! In the midst of this little nowhere, was a bunch of DSLR equipped photographers capturing a to-be married couple’s shots. The pictures will turn out to be pretty, I tell you!

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Photoshoot, in progress. At Naida Caves.

When I recounted the saga of being stuck on the highway in a three hour traffic jam in the early hours of a new day, I did not mention a first I encountered! I managed to locate and confirm my first constellation sighting in the skies! It was the Big Dipper constellation, as confirmed by the StarTracker app I use, when I was very sure that it was Big Dipper! I wish I could have captured the night sky as pristine as I saw it, but technology has its limits and sometimes, what you see is too beautiful to be captured as is on camera. The camera just cannot do justice.

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Grainy, but memorable. At a resort in Gir.

Graciously Yours!

Life Notes #11.

Once in a while the Life Notes series of posts should be revived. They are so easy to title! 😉
***

I went on a tour to the Indian state of Gujarat with family recently. It was fun filled, exciting, adventurous, reminiscent of the two decades we have spent together. Sure we had our tough moments too but very well overshadowed by the good moments!

The driver we’d hired was peculiar though. He had a fascination with keeping the car clean! Within an hour of starting the drive, when food was mentioned he immediately requested us to not eat in the car. As the trip progressed, his fancies for taking care of the car started to become nightmarish for us. We couldn’t use the pouches at the back of the seats because they’d become shapeless then. We couldn’t put up our cramped feet on the seat. We had to check the soles of our footwear before getting into the car. We had to try and dust every grain of the beach sand from our clothing lest we carry it into the car – even if it meant waiting in the noon Sun for an extra half hour drying ourselves, our clothes and the stuck sand! There was a moment when a couple of us were sitting in the car waiting for the others to join and there at the side of the road, as our car stood, replete with dust (because well, Indian roads are dusty, especially when travelling between cities) our driver was dusting the car’s body with a cloth. Why on earth would someone do that in the middle of a 50 km drive? It would all just come back!

So needless to say, in our seven day trip I was dreading spending the 40 hours or so in the car travelling, with that guy at the wheel!

The last night of our trip was planned such that we’d be travelling overnight to our final destination. It was also our first night travel while he was at the wheel. Around 1:30 AM, we got stuck in a traffic mess on the highway. And we’d just crossed a scene of an accident ten minutes ago. In the pitch darkness of the roads, the night only lit by star shine and vehicle headlights, even overturned stones may seem like human skulls. If that wasn’t enough to spook me out, we found out that there was another mix up that had happened ahead and we would be stuck in the car for a while ~ too cold to step out, too stuffy to stay in. We switched off our car lights and music to save fuel. And good we did, because the jam finally cleared three hours later! About 25 kms from there, we again crossed an accident spot. By now, I had tremendous respect for the driver because not only did he have a steady hand but he was very careful while overtaking other vehicles or maintaining the speed limits! Though I had noticed this over the week, that thought never got a chance to come to the foreground, because of his affinity to keep the car clean.

His sole job was to ensure that we travelled safely and on time. And he did that brilliantly, not failing us even once. Yes, he wasn’t the most charming talker or accommodative enough when it came to his car but that is not what was earning him his bread and butter. His driving skills were, and they were top notch.

Note to self : It is so easy to judge people, make fun of their personality if it differs from ours, without thinking or asking why they do what they do, without bothering to know what makes them them. Where’s the fun in being empathetic and sensible all the while? But would you rather live easy or live right? 

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Stop those attacks of judgment on people. #BeBetterThanTrump #HadToMentionHim.

In the background is a 15th century well cut out of hard rock to preserve water. It has 162 steps of descent and is located in the Uperkot Fort in Junagadh, Gujarat, India.

Graciously Yours!

2016 flew by!

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We are pleased to announce that another trip round the Sun is almost complete! Ushering in the new year! Hoping it be it brighter and better for all. Picture courtesy : Gopal Goel. Idea courtesy : Yours truly! 😉

What is time?

The ticking of the seconds hand. Dawn giving way to dusk. Mondays coming back! The turning of the pages on a calendar. The change of calendars itself!

Wikipedia has a more interesting explanation :

Time is a component quantity of various measurements used to sequence events, to compare the duration of events or the intervals between them, and to quantify rates of change of quantities in material reality or in the conscious experience.

We are at the edge of changing of calendars now. We throw out all things 2016 and bring in 2017. It’s a chance for people to start afresh, break away from the routine and monotony of dreams being chipped off, make new resolutions again and hoping this would be the year when they get completed!

2016 was a mixed year. Like any other year. And as we have less than 24 hours left to complete another trip around the Sun, I am going to grab this chance to end 2016 on a happy note!

  • Here’s to parents who are supportive, understanding, strict yet loving, caring and worrying, give me so much freedom that I want to go and put my life’s reins in their hands.
  • To the sister who relishes every chance to laugh at me, life would be incomplete without her constant support.
  • The mentor who toes the line of friend, philosopher and guide to the dot! Thank you for reminding me what my dreams are made of.
  • To that friend who stitched my open wounds and has been my pillar of emotional support. I wish people saw you in the light I see you in.
  • To the Sherlock fan who makes it a point to keep a smile on my face, whose care melts a little of the walls I built, each time.
  • To friends with whom I explored places, wandered down new lanes in old cities, sang to tunes, danced till our feet hurt and welcomed sunrises happier and livelier!
  • To the new city, new people I met – some drifted away, others came close – all taught me more about life, myself and that there are so many things to do in life that an existential crisis should start having an existential crisis about its’ own existence!
  • Special mention to the co-workers and seniors who encouraged me to follow my passions, enjoy work, be fearless, learn from mistakes and keep stress at bay.
  • To John Green and Hank Green for reminding me every day to be awesome, to Elon Musk for really being awesome, to Justin Trudeau for giving me hope, to Warsan Shire for making me fall in love with your words, to Praveen Sethia for keeping my laughs alive, to those life stories which fed me with courage, faith, honesty and dreams, and to those innumerable supportive bloggers and friends who make me look forward to writing and keeping the flame of my passion alive!

Here’s to a happier, healthier, crazier and love filled new year for all of you! ❤

Welcome 2017. Be better than 2016.

Graciously Yours!

Pssst : Do you even recall what your 2016 resolutions were? How much of it did you manage to achieve? Let me know! And then I’ll share mine! Till then, I am trying to recall exactly what they were! 😀

Travel Trivia!

What is one of the perks of living with friends and in a city which has innumerable weekend getaways around? Simple! Weekend getaways with friends. Okay, I promise the rest of the post is more sensible. 😉

After culminating the latest one, I thought I’d pen down some travel trivia for you to go bonkers over!

  • No matter what clothes you’re wearing – shorts, skirts, full pants, or even pullovers, people will stare! And this happened to me at 5 in the morning, at a little eatery by the highway where we went to enquire if there was a decent washroom we could step in! Thanks to the cold, I was so covered in layers I could barely see my skin, yet they were staring. Still wondering why.
  • Oh India and public hygiene! At which hour shall thee improveth? The bladders of women are tested to their limits and liquid diets are a strict no-no. Petrol pumps have never been more interesting and highway eateries more scanned. All for a place to answer nature’s call.
  • When buying food  for a trip, remember even if every one refuses that they’ll not eat fruits, they will! When hunger strikes, the count of apples and oranges will reduce. So be an angel in disguise and buy those for everyone!
  • Also, if you go to the beaches, like I did, pick up those shells! There’s no better memory of a beach you can collect. Assuming with naivety that you wouldn’t want to carry along sands or dead crabs or seaweed with you as memory!

Graciously Yours!

Picture Courtesy : Nitesh Jain (my footwear hasn’t been captured so well before!). 😉

Trip Courtesy : Mukesh Agarwal! For the consistently stupendous and amazing planning of our getaways! Your ‘coolness’ knows no bounds! 🙂

Grabbing eyeballs!

The security check queues at the airport can be long, more so if you’re travelling just at the outset of one of India’s most celebrated festivals, the festival of lights, Diwali; also if you’re travelling from Bengaluru, the second home of most Calcuttans, to Calcutta, obviously their first.

What better way to pass the time than to Sherlock around a bit? Presenting to you a list of the kinds of women we came across in our fifteen minute queuing up experience!

  1. Apparently effortless : These women are my favourite! Combining style with comfort, book in hand, hair tucked behind ears and travelling light! At 7 in the morning, when you see such women moving around like they were made to travel and early mornings at airports are a daily commute for them, you envy them a little. Just a little. Because that’s followed by the thoughts of my room being in a mess due to packing and unpacking every weekend for the past three weeks. Then I settle in my place of grass in peace!
  2. The young moms : Every time I travel, I come across young mothers with their first borns cuddled in their arms, trying to put the babies to sleep, or entertaining them with clucking noises, pointing out interesting looking people, or randomly distracting them from crying! A few lucky moms have such friendly, quiet and smiling babies that their travel turns to be a anecdote filled one, a blessing in disguise!
  3. Oh so prim and propah : These are few and far between but can be spotted from a mile away! We were lucky to land one such sighting. They look like they’ve landed out of a fashion magazine. They behave like they’ve been landed right out of the sky. Some times their expressions are so contorted they look uncomfortable in their own skin! They are prim and proper, mostly rich and extremely out of place in a bunch of commoners. So much so that the one we saw was actually maintaining a hand’s distance from the women in the queue.
  4. The shaded beauties : You’re inside the airport. The sun isn’t at its’ best. The light isn’t too bright for shades to be used. Yet, you do. I wonder why? Are you hungover from last night’s parties? Have you been crying your eyes red? Are you trying to avoid letting people know you’re seeing them? Or are you, oh my God, escaping the world? Take those shades off, for light’s sake!
  5. The casual chic : Me! And many like me! Simple three step process : Get out of bed. Put on clothes. Dab kajal. Brush your hair (and teeth). Done! Okay, I know that’s four steps not three. But whatever. My style. My rules.

Diwali Bonanza Offer!

The queue jumper : Need I say anything about them? Except that the one I met yesterday very cunningly crossed over the ropes to go join the next line when the guard wasn’t looking. She saved all of two minutes! And earned a lot of angry glances.

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What does the men’s queue look like? Any takers who’d care to elaborate? 😉

Graciously Yours!

 

Picture Courtesy : Colorbox

Ideas in collaboration with : Sakshi Malhotra!

The Pixel Way.

Four days ago, I was awkward, silent and judgmentally observant. Four days later, I am lively, chirpy and still observant but not judgmentally! Oh and 104% tired!

What happened in these four days, you ask? PIXELS ~ the photography club at the company I work in. They organised a three day trip to Kodaikanal, Madurai and Rameshwaram and those three days have by far been the best in the last couple of months! Except the family reunion, of course! Jeez Mom, don’t doubt my love for you fellas! 😉

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#EarlyRisingPerks! P.C. : Ajit Singh

Waking up to such scenes may be difficult but when you have friends to capture them for you, there’s nothing better! 😉 Kodaikanal at 13 degrees Celsius in the morning is the best way to wake up to! Until you realize that the geyser in the bathrooms doesn’t necessarily spout hot water.

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VIBGYOR and beyond! P.C.: Nishant Aggarwal
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Clicking the clickers. P.C.: Deepanshu Tiwari.

Sightseeing had never been this interesting! With so many cameras clicking around me, for once I didn’t have to bother about capturing places. I only had to live through moments in the best way possible.

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Making Memories ~ One Day At A Time!

Sometimes you meet the most unexpected people in the most unexpected places. Period.

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Wanna go for dinner, Darling!
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Note the logo. Says the Professional, captures the Amateur. (Hint – Baskin Robbins!)

The names of the restaurants, schools, colleges we came across were hilarious! Apart from these, a few that stood out were Booty’s. And the *drum roll begins* ‘American University of India’.

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Yeah, visiting date and time at the temple noted. #VandalismMuch

From temples to beaches, parks to caves, waterfalls to forests – we covered it all. And the one most obvious thing which I couldn’t manage to squeeze in? Shopping! Such a relief, I tell you 😉

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The Flowing Light. P.C. : Janakiraman G.

And that right there is how each of these talented photographers’ create magic! The Pamban bridge connecting Rameshwaram island to the Indian mainland is one of those marvelous pieces of architecture that we’re forgetting about.

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Nothing tires us ever. Except office!

Three days of fun has never been called long and short in the same sentence! Until now. To each of those who came together for this trip ~ thank you for making the heat, the hunger, the pain, the sleeplessness and the wait at the temples all bearable! 😉

Graciously Yours!

 

The Presence of The Past.

They say if you blink, you miss it. We waited impatiently, clicking pictures of others and selfies of ourselves, being photo bombed and photo bombing others, all the while creating memories which we probably wouldn’t refer back to again. Not because they wouldn’t be memorable. But because we create too many of them these days.

We were waiting for the lights at the famous Mysore Palace to go on. They say it looks enchanting. It is a work of technology which brings out the magnanimity of the work of art. It requires a single flick of a switch to light up thousands of little bulbs. 98,260 to be precise.

The Sun had set. Darkness had fallen. People were still clicking. Cameras were flashing. And just like that without any warning, without waiting for the clock to strike a particular hour,  the lights went on! And enchanting it was!

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Who would have thought a century ago that beauty could be kept locked up in pixels? Who would have predicted that you could hold the whole world worth of information just in your hands? How different our achievements are from those of our forefathers. They took pride in bigger and better; we in smaller and faster. They built with brick and mortar; we build with silicon and carbon. Their memories faded with time; ours with obsolescence. Their achievements were the heritage; ours is technology.

Graciously Yours!

 
Picture Courtesy : In collaboration with Ashwini Bhat.

Calcutta Cabbies #1.

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I was running late. And I had to cab the shortest fare distance to make it on time! And I knew I didn’t have smaller notes.

All three combined in Calcutta? You know it’s not a good start to the day!

Frantically searching for a cab, I saw a lot of occupied cabs going my way! First empty cab I saw was taken by another female.

I was already past my time.

Another cab rounded the corner and the available cab driver eagerly awaited my destination. On informing him about it, he immediately agreed. Afraid, he wouldn’t have change, I asked him before sitting in the cab if he would be able to encash my 100 rupee note against the smaller fare which was likely to be due. He agreed again!

A cabbie on the streets of Calcutta smiling and answering my questions? And all answers in my favour? I was dumbstruck! He must have sensed my excitement. I sat in the cab. He started driving away.

Cabbie (jovially!) : You’ll have to pay me double.

Me (laughing) : What for?

Cabbie : I am taking you across for such a short distance. I am also going to give you the change you need. A mere 25 bucks extra won’t pinch much!

Me : Actually you should be charging less considering I am taking you very near to one of the most religious places in the city! Wouldn’t you want to take the blessings of the Lord and also pick up some passengers? Double benefit!

Cabbie : If that be the case, then I won’t charge a penny from you.

Me (shocked at his polite and humorous demeanor!) : I won’t get down from the cab until you won’t take what is due to you.

Cabbie (still driving and I noticed from the shortest route available!) : How will 25 bucks extra matter to you? These days at every celebration, parents double the price of the kid’s phone. I am just asking for double cab fare.

Me : My parents aren’t like that. They need all details of every spending I make. (Though I don’t remember when either parent did that, but then I had to defend my parents somehow. Simply, because they are not like that.)

Cabbie : Tell your father tonight you met an old uncle who agreed to drive you around and you paid him extra.

As I approached my destination, he asked me particularly where I wanted to be dropped off because he didn’t want me to walk even a bit in the Sun, which as I now recall, was very harsh!

After a bit of friendly haggling, and ten bucks extra later, I made my way with his good luck and my smile!

Yes, I paid him more than his fare, but I don’t regret it! I think his people skills deserve that at the least!

Graciously Yours!

P.S. : The whole conversation happened in Hindi and a little Bengali here and there! To make things simpler, English has been used as the medium of expression.