Just like I believe Sridevi looked far better without the nose job, I think life is more enjoyable when it is a bit imperfect. For all us city dwellers who juggle several priorities and commitments, organising our life down to the last quarter hour is the basic tool we use to pull it all together.
But every now and then, we mess up. This morning, I got dropped off at Maharani Bagh at 11am for a noon appointment only to be informed that the person I was supposed to meet isn’t around and wouldn’t turn up early either. Of course, I felt stupid. Here I was, in a posh south Delhi colony, car-less, clueless and with one hour to kill. When in doubt, I usually walk. So I stride off down the road in the direction of what I hoped would be the main road and a market.
The peace and quiet of south Delhi’s residential colonies never fails to surprise me. This part of the city comprises large single family homes and despite many of them being converted to apartments, it still has a very quaint old world feel to it. Many homes were built in exposed brickwork, while others looked like Spanish haciendas reinterpreted. This is a rich part of town and like elsewhere in south Delhi, I saw several plots being torn down and reconstructed. Old single family homes turning into swank looking apartments, all replete with wood finished deck-like finishing in gates and balconies, and a lot of glass.
My walk turned out to be about fifteen minutes long and my destination was Cafe Coffee Day in the New Friends Colony community centre market. My solo coffee caper turned entertaining when a dapper set of people sat near me. What started like a congenial family meet soon turned into a sugar coated but ugly spat over (what else) property.
The middle aged uncle berated his nephew who was apparently in charge of the the construction of apartments on family property constantly, dressing him down for his rudeness and also accusing him of irregularities like changing specifications, not keeping him informed, delays etc. While all the while punctuating his stream of accusations by saying you are like my son. He even called him ‘dear’ and ‘love’ a few times, while the young man seethed and defended! I sat there thinking about the emotional nature of property, about the heartbreak and turmoil, anger and misunderstanding that went on behind every house that got torn down to make way for a set of apartments.
On the cycle riksha ride back to my appointment, I looked at the homes I passed with fresh eyes indeed!
Random things can amuse you when you are in an amusable frame of mind. Today, mum and me spent some quality time together at the Mini Secretariat in Gurgaon. We were there to register the sales deed for mum’s old apartment. Since we had done the buying thing in April, we knew the drill. The registry office and indeed the entire building seemed to be in an afternoon stupor and things progressed smoothly, more or less.
In the midst of groups of people on their mission to buy and sell homes, offices, shops, etc, roamed a single beggar girl. Yes, right next to the Police Commissioner’s offices, in a nation where begging is technically illegal, there was this girl asking everyone for money. People simply stared at her, bewildered that she should be here at all. Didn’t she belong to the traffic lights, the pavement outside the Metro station, the parking area outside the local market? On our previous visit, there was a shoeshine boy as well; apparently, he offered to shoeshine mum’s chappals! Anyway, back to the beggar girl. An auntyji (no offence, but I can only call her that!) actually interrogated her, wanting to know if there were more like her lurking outside before shelling out a few coins to send her packing. Miraculously, they did!
Meanwhile, we kept being asked to move seats, then go to some window to complete one process and to another window to complete another. The people we were selling to were also entertaining. The buyer did not smile once at us (he condescended to contort his mouth into a grimace that could, with a stretch of imagination, be construed as a smile; but I refuse to give in!), even though we have met thrice by now. Towards the end of the process, he did smile at the bank representative who checked the documents in the end! Go figure!
His wife, the co-buyer, simply sat obediently in one or the other chair, rising to place her signatures wherever required. In the final few minutes, out of curiosity, I picked up a conversation with her and discovered she is a highly qualified professional with a well-established practice! One would not have known from her melt-into-the-furniture demeanor at all!
The most entertaining, though, was the buyer’s father. A simple soul he seemed to be, describing his humble background and thanking my mum profusely several times for selling her house to his son. He asked for her blessings, invited us to his home in Delhi where he lives with his wife, also a retired government servant like him. He told us about his daughter and her life, his expectations from his children, his joys and sorrows. At some point when we got busy, I noticed he had wandered into another group and was even having animated conversation with these people he didn’t know from Adam! What a guy he was!
I had quite a lot of fun there. An hour and a half of doing nothing but people-watching, since I wasn’t really needed for anything but moral support. Watching the machinery of a property registry office in operation-the touts, the professional brokers, the clerks, the acceptance of corruption as a nearly legitimate part of the system, the hangers on, the worried folks, the bored ones, the excitable and the matter-of-fact ones, the large groups that discussed everything loudly, the obscure and efficient ones that did their work and scuttled away!
What did they think of us, the others who were as bored and amusable this morning? A giggly pair of floosies? A mother-daughter duo that didn’t stop jabbering? A crazy twosome? I only hope we entertained them all as well!
People, chaos, each group comprises of sellers, buyers, broker, tout, bank lawyer. Some fifty people squeezed in a room with four counters, shiny chairs and a lot of stress. In the midst of all this, a child wailed for chips. A mendicant boy shined shoes, a beggar girl went round the room. All inside the air conditioned (in name) space waiting for the people on duty to oblige them and register the property they were here to buy or sell.
Though the system was computerised and there were modern devices like digicams and thumbprint scanners, corruption was rampant. When will these things change? A chaotic three hours were spent watching the chaos unfold at Gurgaon’s mini secretariat today. And there were moments of hysterical giggling when we were exhausted out of our wits.
Sigh! I can only say I am glad it’s over!