Sunday, January 13, 2008

No problem, yaar!

- by Janaki Krishnan

Mumbaikars have mastered an interesting knack - the ability to sail skillfully through life in housing cooperative societies, even in the face of irritants. I refer to the parking problems we face in our society, with three buildings, 48 flats and 15 cars. There is just enough parking space for the existing cars, at a payment of Rs. 300 per month. The problem arises when the cars do not check in at the usual time, and are forced to park wherever space is available. Since my husband is the Secretary of the Building Society, I get a ring-side view of the results.

It begins right at 6:30 a.m. The watchman comes running to our house and says 'Saglay mala oradtaat. Gaadi majhi aahe ka?' (Everyone's shouting at me, is it *my* car?). Before he finishes, our Sindhi friend Mr. Bhavnani, owner of two transport buses comes fretting and fuming. He delivers a fast-and-furious speech about his parking problems, most of which the Secretary cannot understand. "Bhavnani saab", the Secretary coolly says, "Repair work is going on in your building. You have to adjust for a few days." Bhavnani is stumped, but he delivers a parting shot before he leaves. "Whatever you have to say, you give it in writing", he says.

Next comes the mild-manned Rajaram Iyer, with his grievances. "Sir, Mr Jain has parked the car in front of mine and is still sleeping. Now I have to climb three sets of stairs to get his car key. Please, from next time, you keep a duplicate key!"

Next in line is Preeti, our Gujarati neighbour. Coming from the land of the Mahatma, she wants justice. "Uncle", she says, at the Committee meeting, "Only cars that are registered in the member's name should be allotted parking in the society's premises. Why is Ranade's married daughter's car here?" This sparks off a furious debate about parking rules. The Secretary tries to be calm. "Preetiji, today Mr. Ranade had a mild heart problem. His daughter has come to take him to the hospital."

Then, Mr. Joglekar, a senior citizen and a Committee member, steps in. With Maharashtra's legacy of legal luminaries like Ambedkar and Tilak behind him, he speaks about rights and duties. "Secretary saheb, when society work is to be taken up, nobody comes forward. Those who do not do their duties have no right to ask for privileges." As the Secretary smiles at him, Mr. Kamath, another Committee member of 82 years, takes up an advisory stand. "Mr. Krishnan, don't be scared of all this shouting. We cannot satisfy everybody. You do what you feel is right."

Finally comes a diplomatic reply from the Secretary. "I understand your problems fully. Therefore I have written a letter to the Secretary of the Mumbai District Cooperative Housing Federation, regarding rules to be followed for parking in cooperative societies. Very soon, I shall send you a copy of the rules. Till then, let things continue as they are."

After this, the meeting disperses. The members stand around, discussing why the watchman never opens the gate in time, the unhygenic conditions around, the sweeper's indiscipline, and other common problems. I observe their behaviour, and realise that a Mumbai housing society is a cohesive unit with its own unique character. Perhaps this is what separates the Mumbaikar from others in the country - we can live *happily* in groups, complaining to each other about our innumerable problems, while we continue with our daily tasks!


Anonymous said...

Some things never change--the situation was similar in our housing society 30 years ago (except for less cars!).

Anonymous said...

With Tata 'Nano' (Nano = 1/1,000,000,000) I think the parking headache will increase to 'Giga' or 'Tera'- headache.

Anonymous said...

"Perhaps this is what separates the Mumbaikar from others in the country - we can live *happily* in groups, complaining to each other about our innumerable problems, while we continue with our daily tasks!"

Didn't get it. How does living in a society without killing each other separate Mumbaikars from the rest of their countrymen?

Tapan V Mehta said...

Very apt description of what goes on....I was searching for such blogs & found yours quite me CHS reflect the psyche of regular India - in a mini form...discussions pe discussions pe discussions....the one who acts faces all the shit (pardon the language here)!