Riding in the Fossil fuel Zenana

I am definitely receding. Watching music videos is more appealing than anything else these days. I wonder whether when I leave Delhi I will be the girl who has forgotten how to talk to people but has read everything on her unreadable-books list and has discovered an ear not entirely made of tin. This week, glam rock, next week Chinese opera? Will I ever be thankful for my exile in the national capital?

Perhaps not. The day before yesterday, I went to work in what used to be everyday clothes before Delhi. A kneelength skirt and a crumpled black sleeveless T-shirt. I suppose at traffic jams there were men peering. I don't know because I was reading a murder mystery. I say they were probably peering not because of the sterling quality of my legs but because in this village they stare. (Here's something I have never seen in any other city but happens ten times a day in Delhi. You are in a vehicle that's rattling along at 40 km/hour. If you look ahead of you, you are sure to see men driving vehicles at 80 km/hour with their necks twisted around, doing an excellent imitation of the chick in Exorcist. Now, here's the thing. They are not turning around for a second look because they have spotted a sexpot in the taxi. This is them turning around for a first look at what maybe a woman in a vehicle. It may not be a woman. It may turn out to be a hairy middle-aged man who also has his head twisted backwards. But how is one to know unless you look backwards like Lot's wife and endanger the lives of everyone on the road?)

Right. So I get to work and then most people have conversations with my knees. I believe that if you dress differently you must deal with people looking. (I reserve my right to be rude if I catch you at it though) So thus the day trundles along with my wondering as usual how Delhi happened, Tehelka happened... whose life is this...I want a brownie... can I watch the Mika video again at work... then my 40-year-old colleague from admin walks past me and comes to a shuddering stop. "You came from Dwarka in that! In an auto?" When I told her that I had, she clucked in alarm and said, "Make sure you go home early."

I said, "If someone is going to get turned on my fat Mallu legs, let them." Seeing the crazy look in my eyes, she backed off. I like her but she left me irritated.

My colleague from admin pretty much sums up Delhi. Show skin, be a complete fashion victim, if you are driven about, in a ridiculously large car by Bhaiyya, to and from social situations all of which maybe crammed with men and women who judge you on the basis of your appearance. In these cases Bhaiyya is very useful because he picks up things, drops off things, so you never have to get out of the car and be exposed to the eyes of Bhaiyyas who you or your father do not own. (My colleague L was shocked out of her wits last year when another colleague, whom we shall call Baby, arrived at her house to drop off some documents. Baby called L when she had turned the corner of L's street and asked her to come downstairs. L came downstairs and found a large car . The rear window closest to L rolled down and Baby was revealed in her weekend glory. Baby pushed her sunglasses back and smiled at L. Then she handed the papers to her driver who got out of the car, walked around the car to L and handed her the documents. Baby waved at L, put her sunglasses on, rolled her window up and then drove away.) The important thing to remember is that Bhaiyyas whom you don't employ always want to rape you.

For the record, I left work and went to Kailash Colony in an auto, went from there to Sarojini Nagar in an auto, took an auto from there back to GK2 and at night took another auto back to Dwarka. Was any auto-driver interested in anything other than telling me (not my knees) that the complete absence of a meter would not prevent him from chiding me for living so far from civilisation? No.

It seems unlikely that cities will have decent public transportation as long as they are keen on preserving class distinctions. Which is why the growth of the metro system in Delhi astonishes me. What will this city be like in ten years? A decade from now will Baby find herself sitting next to Bhaiyya in the metro at least once a week? I can't imagine it at all. Meanwhile my dabba Bangalore is turning into a city full of fortresses on wheels. Where do I take my knobby knees now? Like James Bond, I am beginning to feel like the World is not Enough


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