It seems University of California at Berkeley, offers its Nobel Laureates something special. Free Lifetime Parking outside their department, where a board next to the reserved place actually says so.
For all others, ordinary non-brilliant slogging tax payer types , not only do they pay a hefty sum as a yearly parking fee, but they join the hordes of folks who drive in everyday, as early as they can, so they find a parking space, close to where they work on campus.
It is , of course, entirely possible, but probably unlikely, that someone who did not own a car was awarded the Nobel. He/ She still gets a reserved parking space. I also hear that similar stuff is followed at the UC San Francisco campus.
There is also the need to renew these permits every year, Nobellian or not. And the Berkeley Police penalize non renewal , Nobellian or not.
Mind you, no drivers, chauffeurs, beacon lights, or campus police riding in formation ahead of you. Just someone trundling up, in, say, a beat up Volvo Wagon.
I just wondered how things would be if this kind of facility was offered in Mumbai, to some kind of international or even better, national prize winners , say in Colaba, Dadar, and even Bandra, all upmarket areas where parking is so difficult to find.
For one thing, you need to think of style.
They wouldn't tolerate such ordinary boards. It would have to be something spanning the width of the parking lot, with a photo of the prize winner, and assorted photos of well wishers across the bottom of the banner board.
Those owning cars , would of course be delighted, and would probably go in for a fancier model, and ask for a deferred customs duty in case the new one is to be imported. Very clearly, a precedent exists in the form of Sachin Tendulkar. And you never know, you may even qualify for a Rajya Sabha Nomination.....
Those who did not own cars, would simply go in for vans and wagons that can carry many passengers. Probably under the advice from their son who wants to start a car hire business , and what can be better than a great daily waiting area from where to operate.
Nothing fazes the Mumbai entrepreneur. Particularly the non-e type who mostly innovates on-the-spot There will probably be some observant folks who will figure out a time, when the parking space would not be used. They will observe the weekly frequency, timings etc. They may even make friends with the chauffeur, if the car has one. So many in Mumbai fear driving, and even small cars today have hired drivers.
It would not be impossible to see a vendor of some sort, or a food cart occupy that place during the car's non occupation. He might even name the food cart after the worthy who owns the parking space.
Then there will be folks who do not get discouraged by the presence of the car. I mean what can be better than the trunk of the car for displaying ready made children's clothes, trinkets, small toys, all displayed in something that can be suddenly folded on a moment's notice. Sometimes , the bonnet of the car might be more useful, all depending on the make and model of the car.
An event such as the prize winning individual being away for a biggish length of time, with family and car , would be like a windfall. Some opportunistic entrepreneur, would rent out that place by the half hour at preposterous rates, knowing that in Mumbai, there are always those who have more money than patience. A fast food set up during late evenings would probably get the chap a percentage of the daily profit.
One might wonder where law enforcement came in, in all this. Just imagine. A passing cop glances at the parking place, frowns at a couple of cars trying to double park, waves his hand around, nods at the prize winning gent getting into his car. He may even salute. Same place different time. The vendors are in full force. Some quiet talk happens, some stuff becomes invisible to law and order and the cop rushes off to detain a biker riding without a helmet.
A new vendor lands up one evening. They try to shoo him away . There are arguments. Questions are asked about whose father owns the place in question. A typical Indian flavour to the conversation, doesn't allow politeness. A direct question; "does this belong to your father ? No ? then stay out of this ...."
It's time for the prize winner parking lot grantee to return from wherever he has gone. All the blatant trespassing signs disappear overnight. He drives in; nay, he is driven in. And he stops.
There is someone languidly sitting , chewing away on some grass, looking at the four wheel contraption from under heavy lidded eyes. A grand swish of the tail to swat a fly, a snort, possibly a superior sniff, and she continues her activities. The cow has just wandered over from the famous temple down the road, where devotees offer grass and greens to her. She is full, and set out for a short walk. And she amazingly saw this empty space and thanked her stars. With all that traffic, stalls and hawkers, she would never find a place so lovely to relax for a while.
And I would not be surprised at all, if i heard about the Prize winner's offspring making an application in court or the government, to make the parking place an inheritable place, and going all the way up to the Supreme Court to ensure that it happens.
Some things don't ever change in India.
I cannot see anything remotely similar happening in Berkeley.
Gosh. All these law abiding citizens, driving past occasional empty Nobellian parking spaces outside various departments. Not a single person deploring waste of space, and temporarily putting his/her car there, hazard lights on, bonnet up , trying to fool the cops, and not a single person looking up and asking the cops "Do you know who I am ?".
And , come to think of it, not a single cow ..... !
(Things might change. Just heard about a Kenyan Lawyer offering 50 cow, 70 sheep, and 30 goats to President Obama, for his daughter, Malia's hand in marriage. Don't know about Berkeley, but Washington DC needs to look out for its parking spaces. )