A suitcase of hopes

I was looking outside the window-sill, found the rain water outlet so absolutely clean. Before I could turn around and ask, my mother informed me Guddu and Bhatt uncle got it cleaned. My school can be seen across our house, a half-constructed parapet and a little girl running around in white stockings with a nice red-jacket on and her mother calling out her name.

Everything seemed very distant and all the voices drowned in that feeble winter sunshine. There seemed to have been a light drizzle. And there was this crumpled invoice of a failed courier in my hand. That dark steel gray suitcase never reached me. I had not paid attention to it in months. It was sent on the 3rd of August, 2011 and today is the 26th of January, 2012. There was a helpline number I could call on the reverse of that invoice. Some Mr.Kirti answered my call, he tells me its about 5:30 pm in Mumbai and the office is about to close for the day. I gave him the consignment number and he agreed such a parcel came and was never delivered to the rightful owner and they conveniently informed us – Lost In Transit. He was kind enough to assure me the parcel is safe.

Suddenly, I hate myself for not following it up on time. The courier people offered compensation but I stood my ground. I thought of consumer rights and the counter measures, anything not claimed over a period of 3months can be disposed in whatever manner by the courier people. But they said the suitcase was safe.

I began wondering what about the contents inside. This aunty told me she sent an orange saree with a black and gold border, meaning ornate heavy stuff. Mother told me, my favourite saree was also in that suitcase. I was like, oh no – you mean the silver one with that blue and dull gold brocade? She said yes. I was even more determined to get hold of the suitcase. Kirti told me the suitcase was in some godown in Pune. Why on earth, Pune?

I dialed the courier people again, since it’s a toll free 24/7 hotline. A young woman answers my call and I could almost sense domesticity in the background - a cranky husband and a cantankerous kid and our lady was munching on something. I rattled off my missing bag story to her. She could not care a flying whatever, she told me she was eating dinner and she will see into this on Monday. I was very desperate and told her, that one of her colleagues spoke to me and assured me that they’d go out of the way to ensure this got sorted out at the earliest. I don’t want to sound sexist but I hated her so much at that point in time. I came down like a ton of bricks on her and questioned her work ethics and what about that glorified thing called customer care and service and how they could be so careless of a missing baggage for 6 months. Mother interjects that she had packed some homegrown herbs and foods. It was so agonizing to learn that, I almost felt like saying woh sab jaye tel lene but the sarees are heirloom to me and I’d do anything to remove the odours and smells of 6 months.

I wake up in the morning to find my husband packing for his Europe trip and gosh, it was the same steel gray suitcase standing next to his favourite Samsonite. Very endearingly, he told me to have a look and see what needs to be added or subtracted. Of course, I won’t find those 2 sarees – the orange one with the black and gold border and of course, my favourite one, the silver one with the blue brocade. The silver one is with mother and the orange one does not even exist. It was a 4am dream. 

By the way, I have been shopping to my heart's delight without burning any hole whatsoever anywhere. I began the year with an envious Kashmiri collection -a chignon saree,a heavy embroidered party stole and a salwar suit that I admire day in and day out and would hate to see the tailor cut to size. A few days ago, went berserk getting Rajasthani mojris and jootis of the choicest colors and don't kill me for getting about 8 MP handloom kurtas in different hues and dyes. Oh, another update, a friend's mom in Baroda just sent me 2 splendid Bandhej salwar suits in glorious shades. I am already over the moon. And,these are not gifts.

Apathy of the 'police'

A couple of years ago, my landlady's YWCA city wing visited the Chanchalguda jail and she came home with 3-4 items prepared by women inmates and prisoners, the scheme is sold under the name Sudhaar Products from Central Jails and Prisons. It was very encouraging to read that the annual Numaish mela also had a stall dedicated to Sudhaar Prison Products. My husband and i were there last evening. From furniture to bed covers,towels to candles and soaps, there was pretty much everything. There were a few long-serving prisoners who did the PR. We picked up a bar of hand-made soap, wrapped in simple butter paper and waited for the counter-guy to issue us the receipt.There were different counter guys for different central jails - Warrangal, Cherlapalli,etc and they were issuing receipts for every damn item sold.By the way,our soap was from the Cherlapalli jail.The need for a receipt here was more in terms of promoting their cause through social media and all  those with eco-friendly advice of saving paper here can hold their horses. Had the soap wrapper carried some information on that particular Sudhaar product and price, we would have still parted in good faith.

But then,bullies exist everywhere - our counter guy from Cherlapalli here was a very bald man who came close to abusing and threatening us in Telugu to return the soap and that he won't issue a receipt.He must have attended until 12th std but the education was not forthcoming.We tried to understand his logic - he said he has made a manual entry in his sheet of paper that 1 cake of soap has been sold.We were like, good for you but no heavens would come falling if a similar piece of paper was given to us.The Warrangal counter guy was more forthcoming, he was more than willing to issue a receipt but the police ego of his colleague bullied him into meek surrender.Another spectacled half- paan chewing henchman also tried to flex his police muscles with us.But then, truth hurts - we told him, he was useless and doing no service to customers by making a redundant entry in some random sheet of paper,it would be productive if he wrote us a receipt. The bystanders, were as mute as the rocks in the Outer Ring Road. They were happy collecting their receipts and their bags. It was not a big deal but it got into us that the stubbornness needs to be corrected and the  police need to appreciate why a consumer right of a receipt is important for all and especially, being the guardian of the law, it is more important the habit is inculcated by them. I was almost reminded of how police constables wanted easy money but bargain for a receipt and they take to their heels.

Being insistent helps, the head in-charge, a smiling man calmed us down and said, he will issue a receipt.He acknowledged that however small or big the amount, a receipt will be issued. We also told him to train his subordinates to be a little more customer-friendly in terms of listening.But then, a grudge is a grudge. He issued the receipt in the wrong book - the Central Jail of Warrangal and tore the bill with all his smouldering smiling anger, that half the information on the top of the receipt remained with him. The embarrassment was tantamount -- we said thank you, but no thank you. Everybody was left red-faced. We actually felt we were inside a prison and thought how tough it must be for those who are wronged and not given a chance to negotiate. Those in power, clearly love to revel in power without a sneeze or a toss.

Random random random

Another year went by in the city and it still fees like i left school just yesterday. I have a Peter Pan disorder. Also, I am prone to getting nostalgic at the drop of a hat as much as i claim to have moved on. Got some heady knocks and learnt some priceless lessons on the way, especially from near and dear ones and friends and former colleagues.No point  intellectualising family and friends, each has their quirks and we have little choice but work around them, the options are few - endure,indulge or ignore.

I have literally gone places last year from status change to what not.I can't tell you how much i hate packing now, even unpacking is a nightmare. Many  think  i have changed - oh yes, if i am pausing by to catch a breath.

Living is an onward journey, with interesting chapters.I am not of a philosophical bent to say Life aha! It brings sheer joy to know comrades and 4am friends are following their hearts and dreams. Many are enjoying parenthood - the miracle of life does not cease to tire anyone.We don't get to meet or speak in days or years but that they are under the same sky somewhere is comforting. 

I realised i am sentimental about challenges even with family. There are some things which are non-negotiable.I paid less alms last year and i am proud of it. Husband keeps small biscuit packets in the car and they are better than alms. Husband and i distributed surgical masks to traffic constables at signals, those surly guys smiled for once.I gave up eggs for 3 months on a whimsical challenge and celebrated the feat last night with a bread omelette I watch less TV,boring movies, dont touch the camera and read fewer books these days, and i am not fretting. I have an awesome ManFriday who brings tulsi saplings for my garden when i'm least expecting them.

Life is good, the chinks will iron out.