Conversations with Strangers

I have noticed that I have start being a bit more chatty with strangers that I meet these days. The following are some pieces of information I have learnt from rank strangers.

Our watchman complained about robbers trying to whisk away vehicles in the wee hours. This was the second attempt in our apartment building, so I went to talk to the sub-control set up near Padmarao Nagar Park. The constable there told that only two days back they had caught one such robber, late at night in the Srinivasa Nagar area. It seems that most of these vehicle robbers and bike-gangs stealing chains are youth from rich families, who are addicted to alcohol/drugs. Most of these thefts are impromptu, based on finances and the pocket money cycle. They steal bikes and sell them for any price they get, sometimes even Rs.1000-2000! Since there is no pattern to these thefts, the police have been largely ineffective in finding out who they are and thankless that their job is, the times that they have caught these offenders, the rich-politically aligned- i am all powerful- super-dads have come to their wards’ [1] rescue and all their police work has ended in them getting to see the offenders go scot-free. If only those super-dads had funded their son’s vagaries properly, some random unsuspecting persons would not have lost their vehicles/jewelry. Just when I was feeling sympathetic to the lone policeman’s cause, I was brought back to reality. The constable started asking questions regarding completing graduation in a single sitting. It seems he plans to become an Sub-Inspector soon and for that he ought to be a graduate. He was enquiring if I knew some place where one could just GET a degree. Then he went on to make his career-plans even more clear. The city , it seems, is not a nice place for constables like him from Godavari to start their SI career. A small time place would be perfect, especially with the election season coming. The small time people/complaints are too much of a bother for too little benefit, he says. All he would do is get SET with some local big-shot and that would be enough. Though one cannot generalize based on the above statements, but I am sure this kind of attitude is all pervasive.


There is this soup-vendor on the way from Big Street to Parthasarathy temple in Triplicane. More about the prasadams at Parthu’s here. The last time I went to the temple, I stopped by to have some tomato soup. One year on, I did the same again. This time around I started asking a few questions. Now this stall had some Self Employment Group’s name on it. The guy started getting a bit defensive after a few questions which I thought he deemed them to be invasive for his business. After telling him that I was a non-local and that I had been a customer a year back, he toned down,  freed up with his answers  and even added the ” the moment I saw you, I knew I had seen you before” line. Now for the soup-deal. It is a franchise system, where one has to pay Rs.15,000 upfront. Each day he buys 4 containers of 4 different flavours, worth Rs.200, with an additional transit burden of Rs.50. On an average, he gets about Rs.250-300 per day, setting shop at 5PM selling one cup at a retail price of Rs.10 and closing at around 9PM.  Though  the franchises of a particular company have their own half kilometre no in-fighting radius, there is competition from other company franchises. So for 4 hours a day, considering the worst-case estimates, Rs.6,000 is guaranteed per month. This, apart from the day-job of a driver at L&T. Done with the soup I moved on thinking that if one is ready to put in their life into any which thing, there are bound to be ways to earn a decent living anywhere.


Indian Railways has these trains called Rajdhani Express. Supposed to be one of the better services offered by them. Starting this May, Airtel has taken over the maintenance of these trains, as I learnt from a fellow passenger who does a weekly Bangalore – Hyderabad trip. I was told this but there was no sign of the change. As luck would have it, an old rake had come and the up-gradations to the facilities were yet to happen to this train. The maintenance team was still Airtel’s, but there wasn’t much difference when compared to the normal Sleeper class. The toilets were stinkier than normal if I might add. The food was okay, but the chai-paise seeking staff was not. More on the economics of tea later. Let’s hope that in due course, things will change in this regard in all classes, on all trains. 


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I am a hypocrite.

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