Yes. I write this from the west of the western world. The ‘Bay Area’ as they call it. Our time here has been one of travel, catching up with the family. Resulting in several things, the chief amongst them being a mind that is calming down and sorting out priorities in life that REALLY matter. Quite obviously, this blog is back in action !
Wonder what image comes to your mind, the moment you hear ‘cop’ !
To a small towner like me, this elevated perch of the local traffic constable in Madurai is permanently etched in memory.
He had to climb a ladder to get to his post. And there he stood. Majestic. With his khaki trousers and white shirt. The metal buttons seeming to be just about successful in holding back a pot belly from falling apart.
Yet, tall. Majestic. And the wave of the white gloves that had the power to stop anyone on his or her tracks. Not that the tracks themselves had wheels that would set the road on fire. But that’s a different story.
At other times, he held a round metal object ensconced in those gloves. That almost gave them a God like visage. Written on it, in bright red : ‘STOP’ !
That blue and white perch, with a funny pointed top, designed with the ostensible reason of protecting him from the sun and the rain, offered a sight of opulence and raw power. In the eyes of school kids. Like me.
In the modern days, the perches have slowly started dwindling. As automated signals replace the white glove and the rolling glare ! The man himself, stands besides the signal or under the tree. Waiting for the next offender. Causing the mind to wonder if he misses the days where he was on a different plane !
Well. Nostalgic struck. The other day, a neighbours kid asked for some help. In writing out a small essay on ‘Ambition in life’. When i was her age, i told her, my ambition was to become a traffic constable.
She smiled. And asked me to get serious. And in all seriousness, i told her, that that was who i wanted to become.
What flew by as the explanation reached her ears were the….White gloves, gleaming buttons, metal whistle, polished shoes and power to wave anybody down. ( No. The potbelly isn’t part of this list).
She didn’t get it. I guess she doesn’t quite know the perch side of this story !
I mean…I take time. Lets face it. I am slow. Ok ? With numbers especially. I have a problem with numbers. Give me words to play with. Any day. But numbers..well..hmm..you get the idea.
I mean, look at the numbers that confront me with appearance or disappearance. Like that mirage of a bank balance. Or that illusion of a 32 inch waistline. Why go that far. Take the worry around my age. Ok. Ok. Stop.
The world runs on numbers. I know that. The missus knows the number of dosas i have gulped down. The boss clearly knows the number that i missed. And how many times as well. The pittance of the shares that i bought long back, disappeared before the fanfare in the heart around their purchase evaporated. Manufacturers alter their discount percentages the day i step in to buy.
A trillion dollars is a lot of number for a bucket and a bail out ! That’s my perspective. And of course, bonus is a bad word !
Of all of these, the only constant shareable number in peoples lives are number plate on their cars. I mean, its there. Right up there for the world to see. You can have it fancy or simple. But you cant have a number on the same car that goes up and down like the economy or the bank balance.
And that has been so comforting. For a long while now, while people look at the car and brand, i look at the number on the number plates. That degree of constancy is so assuring.
And for some time now that has been under threat. Obviously i don’t like it.
Indian numerals on number plates ! And i have seen this in Tamil, Marathi and kannada scripts. And quite obviously, i didn’t study numerals in any of them. I am illiterate ! And naturally all of them seem to be forms of art to me !
I am told that this is done to demonstrate a passion for the language. Come on. Come on!
Demonstrate passion. Sure !! Write an essay. Send text messages. Speak (abuse) in chaste native. Send children to native language schools. Speak the language. Read up literature. Ok. Ok. Ok. I give in. Go ahead and watch those damn mega serials. All in Gurmukhi, Tamil, , Marathi,Kannada, Hindi…
But please. Please. Spare the number plate
I mean, if you cut the lane, jumped signal, crashed into me and drove away, and i want to file a complaint. You sure dont expect me and the rest of us illiterates take a pen and paper to do a pencil sketch. Do you ?
Wait a minute…
Was that the idea ?!?
Stop. Listen. Go.
But..listen ? Where did that come from ? When the signal is changing from red to green, it doesn’t do so with a Zubin Mehta flourish or a clash of cymbals by a live orchestra ! What does one listen to ?
This was clicked at a junction in Madurai. Now, you may want to think that the populace of Madurai is so musically inclined that even traffic signals are opportunities to demonstrate a keen ear.
I hate to disappoint you. The keen ear is restricted, by and large, to the loud cacophony of horns, engines and tyres as motorists get ready to zip, fantasising a formula 1 track ahead !
I inferred that ‘Listen’ seemed to be a literal translation of the tamil word ‘ ‘gavani’ ( Pay attention) !
But there is another theory. In fact, another fact. Which i present to you.
In Madurai they had a practice of policemen wielding microphones. Traffic cops. And they shout into the microphone with the huge speakers amplifying it for everybody in this street. And the next two streets too !
“You in the white car, that’s a no parking area”
” Oye Rickshaw, keep moving”
” Yellow shirt, walk on the pavement, not on the road” etc !
The first time i heard this, i thought it was super cool. And they http://healthsavy.com/product/provigil/ even built a perch for the cops to place themselves in, get a vantage view and speak into the microphone.
And the cops were a pretty happy lot too. At least their faces seemed to say that. They didn’t have to blow the whistle. All they had to do was to shame a person ! “Oye you in the white shirt, cant you understand simple language ? Are you educated….. ?”
If at all i had any problem, it was this. That they had many speakers in many streets. With one policemen doing the rounds. Obviously in one street at any point in time !
So you know what happens !
‘Oye yellow shirt’, the speaker amplifies, ‘walk on the pavement’. And every gent around, in a street many corners away, does one thing for sure : checks the colour of his shirt & looks for the pavement !!
‘Rickshaw’ he bellows into the microphone, chastising one rickshaw puller who seems to have broken a no parking rule ! The entire neighbourhood reverberates with his booming voice. And rickshaw pullers in the entire vicinity tidy up their act !
Suddenly “Stop. Listen. Go” makes sense.
Do you think this can be adopted as some kind of a standard operating principle in the world ?!! Hmm !