Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Nothing changes ....or does it ?

Mumbai is having civic elections, and suddenly television is full, of various parties showing up what is wrong with Mumbai and blaming it on other parties. There are folks promising good water supply, green spaces, cheap housing , security for citizens, and all kinds of things , hitherto considered Utopian in Mumbai.   No one believes these lofty claims, and everyone has seen through the greed of the politicians.

At the ground level however, things remain the same and no one cares.

Over the last several years I have been doing the rounds of courts, as part of the handling of paperwork related to my late parents .  A lot of my time is spent sourcing stamp papers of various denominations, and getting all kinds of documents prepared, and notarized.

I had blogged earlier about doing this in Pune, and the amazing experiences one had there, in unexpected places selling stamp papers , amidst building ruins,and bus-washing places.  I thought Mumbai, being the state capital would be a bit different.

It was. :-)

At one of the courthouses in a western suburb which is a huge bus and train terminus, you get accosted by various black coated folks asking you what your work is. Some  say they will do it for you, and quote atrocious fees. So you kind of flit around in the courtyard chock-a block with advocates, and settle on someone.

 Then you get in line for the stamp paper.  There are stamp papers which must bear your name, and stamp papers which needn't. Naturally , mine are the former, and i get in a queue, that snakes artistically below a high window. Advocates, can buy their stamp papers on grounds without much gradient.  I reach the window, only after i climb on two large stones, and a huge cylindrical drum, only to learn that the denomination I want is not available/finished, and so I get the higher one.

 A lot of typing, disappearing, xeroxing, climbing stairs, later, I get what I need.  Actually I badly need a cup of tea.

I need to notarize stuff . Its on the 3rd floor. There is an elevator, but I am told it is only for judges.  I wonder what happens to older people, those with handicaps and so on, and I am told, the elevator is unreliable, and it stops at random.   I stay away.

Things are in place for higher levels, Us lower humans simply watch and listen. 

Then someone told me about a courthouse , in the eastern suburb, where I could go. Last week I went there.

Broad roads, lots of trees,  there didn't seem to be darting advocates anywhere.  I reached at around 10:30, to see a bunch of cops, and someone who looked like a plainclothesman/detective, standing and chatting. Before I could feel good about the nice environment, I found out that they sold NO stamp papers at this courthouse.  The guy who had the licence to do so, cheated, and had his licence confiscated. They hadn't yet found an honest replacement.

But every missing stamp paper thing has a silver lining. I was told by the staff of a Notary  at court, that I could get stuff "franked" ; ie you typed up the stuff and some bank authorized to do so would"Frank" it for the amount of the stamp paper.

After a huge search, I found a bank at the bottom of the hill where I reside, and traipsed down there,  by the side of the swank new 8 lane (or 10 lane; depends) road. The sidewalks have been given step motherly treatment, and most places you tangle with huge digging being done by the utilities. Someone has washed the courtyard outside the bank, and I land up inside with wet footwear and no entrance mat. The front office guy is very helpful, and I see a hope.  He asks me to pay at the counter.

The cashier gives me a look reserved for those "guilty until proven innocent", fingers the currency notes, and returns one back saying "Give another one, this one has a tear".  

I thought banks were supposed to replace soiled notes (so long as the pieces were connected naturally) . I request him .

"No. We do not replace notes. We are not the State Bank. Go there." And he glares.

I replace the note.  Once again the suspicious look.

" OK. Take these receipts and you will have to wait for an hour! "

There has been  no other customer  except me,  my documents for franking are with them, and I have no choice.  I decide to sit and wait it out, reading noticeboards, messages on my phone about valentines deals and some such.

Ten minutes later the front office calls me , and has me sign for my franked copies.

I rush out on my way to the court, for notarizing the papers.  I alternate between good and bad experiences.  I've just had a good one. I wonder what bad one lies in store.  I soon find out.

 I need to dash through fast traffic, perpendicular to it,  and cross across, through all kinds of construction debris under a flyover, to the other side to get a three wheeler to court. A few jumps and leaps later , and to the vast amusement of some folks, I find a vehicle to take me there.

The driver knows some shortcuts, and it costs me half as much to reach there today. I am thrilled.  I rush in to get my stuff notarized at the fellow who did it earlier. Work done, fees paid, I need to get home fast, and I find a 3 wheeler after much effort.

 It is noon.  He needs to get back to school duty in 45 minutes but is willing to do this quick trip.

He has much to say.

" One day left for civic elections. This place is a madhouse today. People brought in from outside on payment, to walk in processions ad shout at meetings. All these fellows hold illegal meetings and block roads. The supporters are plied with food and alcohol, and they act rude. Why must I vote for these chaps who call themselves social workers on a dais and revert to being a goonda the day after elections ?  I do this school transport work as my social contribution. What have they done?"

We are on the highway, and he speeds up.

" All the children of leaders are in the fray. None of them have worked a job from 9 to 5. How will they know the problems of people in Mumbai ?  Do they know what it is to miss a daily wage that puts food on the table ?  .....At first I thought I won't vote; but now I will. That's our only chance to throw the bad guys out...."

We reach my neighborhood, and I get off so he he can rush back in time for his school duty.

Its been a day of pluses and minuses changing by the hour.  There are times when you feel encouraged, and then , possibly disgusted.

No one really worries about the ordinary person in Mumbai.  Big projects are announced , started and  presumably completed  and whats most important, paid for.   So everyone gets their cut.

But there is some hope. Like the rickshawallah. 

He waits for the red light to change,  as he watches an election candidate jeep with flags, run through the  light, and just miss someone taking a U-turn.

I turn around and walk back to my building, amidst a bunch of trucks, loading up on wood from so many trees that have been cut on campus. Why ?  I don't know.

Like I said, the day has alternated between good and bad.  

At my level, nothing has changed....



  1. Can't believe that you are describing much hyped 'economic capital' of much hyped 'developed nations' in the much hyped '21st century'. Sometimes everything around is so static that the words carry no meaning!!

    1. The more they announce changes, the more we regress sometimes. Globalization, is only somewhere at the top. A "G" word, in these scamy days. What else did you expect ?....:-))

  2. THe black coates can always buy from this side that side .. I had a horrific incident at chandigarh court house in sector 17.. where I stood in the line for ages while the lawyers were busy buying tickets .. Put it this way I had t ospend some time in a JAIL because of that ..

    THese are the same guys who are supposed to protect the law ..

    sad sad situation all over , I wonder if there will be a change EVER.. other than the rickshaw-wallah tooo NOT stopping for that red light


    1. Bikram, I'm so sorry to hear about the jail ! And a bit of a correction. My rickshawalla did stop at the light. Its the election jeepwalaah that sped through....

    2. thats what he is saying..

      today your rickshawala stopped, only change he (Bikram) is expecting that, rickshawala too wont stop in future.

  3. May I ask why this place is called "gappa"?

    1. Gappa, means (in my language, Marathi), folks sitting around and having a good chat ....Folks read my posts, I read theirs , and its all like e-gappa ....

  4. They say, everything changes and yet nothing changes ! Perhaps we are in that phase !

    And we have been here for a long while now ! :)

    1. Sigh. Sometimes I think we are even going backwards....