Abhinav Jain does not waste his time waiting for the light to turn green.He immediately begins some serious stereotyping!
It takes me a half hour to get to my office in Gurgaon, time which I judiciously invest in planning how to avoid the boss during the day, how many coffee breaks to take that day, and what songs to download in office. Ah yes, and I spend time standing still in the middle of a sea of cars, bikes, tractors and trucks at the third most common thing on Indian roads after potholes and lazy cows- the traffic signals.
Now, when the light is red, it is a strangely empty phase of your life. Like those phases in the elevator, loo or a bad date, when you need to just wait till it gets over. You can check your hair in the rear view mirror , though its a rather girly thing to do. Or, like the typical irritating and nosey Indian male, you can stare at other people waiting in their cars around you.
Which is what I do.
Now, maybe I am one of those people who stereotype people. You know, the kind of guy who thinks every Bengali wants to participate in a strike at least once a week and every northeastern guy is born with a black belt holding up his diaper and every Indian living south of Madhya Pradesh worships Rajnikanth.
Because whenever I look around at people in their cars at the traffic signal, there are some typical kinds I find:
The Corporate Honcho
40ish years old. Balding head. Smart black business suit. He reads a Business Newspaper through his gold rimmed glasses as the powerful AC whirs silently in his Honda Accord.
A uniformed driver holds the steering wheel. Even the driver looks well fed and bathed. He belongs to the upper strata of drivers. Class drips from the car and everything in it. But for a man so rich, the guy reading the newspaper looks as uncomfortably stiff as an electricity pole.
He looks a bit grumpy. Like a guy who had too many mooli ke paranthe last night and woke up this morning to find the flush was broken. Maybe his son doesn’t listen to him. Maybe he is worried about closing that all-important deal with the Japanese. I don’t know. But I don’t want to be this guy when I get old. I know this much.
Meet the College guy, who has been described as the “Ameer baap ki bigdi aulaad” by Bollywood since Stone Age. The kind that bullies bespectacled nerds and ogles at
giggly girls at college. The car won’t be very big here, unless Daddy is
Generally a Santro/Swift/Esteem. The back windshield plastered with stickers which say ‘Speed Demon’/ ‘Extreme Speed’/’No Fear’ and other phrases with similar philosophy. Infectious Punjabi/Hip Hop music blaring from the speakers. And, a lot of dents and craters on the car body as if the car substituted for a Pakistani, when an angry, hand pump toting Sunny Deol could not find one. Finding him at the signal on my way to office is not easy due to two reasons:
A. He does not get up this early in the morning.
B. Even if he gets up and gets ready, you need a tank or a Haryana Police Hawaldar to make him stop at a traffic signal.
Call Centre Cabs
I don’t know how things are in other parts of the world. But in Gurgaon, the sight is as common as thumkas in a Bhojpuri movie.
White Qualis or Innova. Young men and women cramped inside. Office cards hanging around their necks. Tired eyes. Crumpled clothes. These are the Sams & Jims and Marks of India who work in the Call Centres of Gurgaon, which outnumber the entire population of Alaska and Ibizza put together.
Tired after a night of explaining how to switch on that washing machine to super dumb people in the USA, these youngsters just lie slumped at the signal, unable to move because of lack of energy and space in the cramped vehicle.
Though in very few professions you to get to spend the night with each other, this car looks more like a sleeping lounge than anything else.
Young, sophisticated, rich, mannered and elegant men
These are men in their twenties who cheated in their exams and got into good Business schools and are now young managers in Big Companies.
They don’t look tense like the corporate honchos in the Accords since they haven’t got all those heavy-duty tasks yet.
They don’t look tired like the call center guys since they got back early from the office last night claiming tummy pain and enjoyed a prolonged and refreshing sleep after the India Australia match. These are the perfect, most balanced and most wonderful men anyone can expect to see at a traffic signal, or on the planet, for that matter. Incidentally, I belong to this group.
You see, trying to notice the different people waiting with you for those few moments at a signal is like trying to stuff Mayawati in a butterfly net. Different people. Different lives. Different emotions. Stuff above is as inadequate as my answers to the class X chemistry question paper. But I need to shift the gears and go now. The light just turned green.