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Phone -a- friend

The test by which you will know a Mumbaikar is the sense she or he exudes of personal indispensability coupled with a knowledge that rules do not apply to her or him.

india Updated: Apr 04, 2009 14:49 IST
Jerry Pinto

The test by which you will know a Mumbaikar is the sense she or he exudes of personal indispensability coupled with a knowledge that rules do not apply to her or him. If you’re in a theatre or a cinema, the mobiles that ring are signs that their owners believe that they must always be in touch with the world or it will collapse into anarchy. Which is why they do not turn them off.

In the air
The worst of the lot are to be found on airplanes about to take off from Mumbai airport. The little girls have waved their arms and pointed to the farsh pe lagi battiya which will take us to the nikattam dwaar and the pilot has told us that we will be taking off south-south west and then turning right right left and the last of the nimbu paani has been schlurped noisily up and suddenly..

“No, why are you taking Munnu? I told you to take Tunnu. Munnu has dance master coming. Tunnu is free.” Someone is talking on her mobile phone. This might cause all 200 or so of the passengers to come skydiving from the air, it might interfere with navigation and send us gliding above the Siachen glacier, but does she care? The issue of Munnu and Tunnu has to be sorted out.

In another corner of the airplane, someone else will be taking a call about a deal. This is a deal for Rs 20,000 worth of jink. This jink was supposed to reach the Mathura mandi at noon. It is still in the junk yard somewhere with the kaapper.

No, he will not stop talking even though we are now about to take off. Instead, he starts to shout, competing with the roar of the engine and the chortling of the god of death, now perched on the wings of the plane.

Road rash
If you’re in a traffic jam, the honks are signs that the car drivers are sure that the rotation of the earth will flag if they don’t get to work on time. Get out of the house a little earlier? Factor in a traffic jam or two for a city that is known for arteriosclerosis of the roads? That wouldn’t work either. The home front would collapse without them.

To make way for the vehicles for whom speed is truly indispensable — ambulances, fire engines — would be unthinkable. In the queue for my quarterly pass this morning, a woman breaks the queue. It’s not much of a queue since I buy a first class pass. There’s three of us, with me second. Ms Fourth comes steaming in and goes straight to the head of the line.

“Excuse me,” I say, as politely as I can. “There’s a line.” “First class,” she says, meaning that there’s another line for first class passes, another sign of the way Mumbai makes way for you if you have money.

“So are all of us,” I point out. “Third class person,” she says but goes to the end of the line. When I have bought my pass and walk past her, she smiles a saccharine smile.

“Are you a Parsi?” she asks. “No, a Buddhist nun,” I say. “Third class person,” she says again, her smile fading. “No, just dispensable,” I say. But she isn’t listening.