"Sir, what sir, you are so well-dressed and handsome, and all you give me is 60 rupees for getting your job done?" At first I was amazed how fast BBMP granted my simple request of obtaining a permission, but little did it occur to me that it came with a price tag! Why? I had gone neatly dressed. Hence they concluded that I would be their lucky draw of the week. No exaggerations here.
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January 12th: It was a Thursday, and the time would have been between 12 and 1 pm. Visiting time at BBMP office for the general public is 3-5 pm, but I was lucky. I just walked in and there was no one to question my motives. I asked around about the building since there were no signboards or directions to guide first-timers like me.
There was the ubiquitous smell of government buildings – the erase-ex solution, the photocopier machines and of course, the smell of aging paper piled up till high heaven. Having narrowed down to the right box (meaning office), I blankly went in with a covering letter, not knowing what my first encounter would be like. But it was not difficult to start a conversation with the clerk about the work I had in hand.
He took his own time to acknowledge my presence. Without mincing words I told him what I wanted, and to my surprise, the burly heavyweight of a man got up from his chair – a typical, age-old netted chair, bearing testament for the time it has been there with bold stains of sweat and muck. He opened the Godrej steel cupboard to show me the list of available options to finish my work. I was then instructed about the next course of action; I thanked him for his time and left.
Day 2: Having got the one page of necessary documentation, I headed to Mr Heavyweight’s table. It was post-lunch time, the staff had just returned after satisfying their pot bellies. All of them one next to another were yawning and stretching the yawn into the typical moan, trying to beat food-induced sleep!
I could count eight tables in that room – six occupied and two empty. Of the six, two belonged to saree-clad ladies in the computer section. The other six table occupants/owners had no work other than reading the morning newspaper from where they had left off earlier.
I am sure these clerks would have lot of pending work, but I could not spot a single being attending to the requests put forth by us common men. Anyway, that day culminated with me having to be present the next day.
Day 3: Excited after getting a call from Mr Heavyweight, I dashed to the office, eager to get the signed document. I collected it and wanted to thank him for having expedited the work – he had told me it would take at least 15 days.
When I extended my hand for a handshake, which I got, I was shocked to see his other hand come up to me, extended as if he was asking for alms. I stared and asked what it was about. Pat came the answer, "Elli nan duddu (where’s my money)". I told him that I had already given him Rs 60 on day 1 and Rs 100 on day 2.
After cursing myself to no end, I gave Mr HW another Rs 100. He refused and told me rather grumpily that he had expected Rs 1000. My eyes went 0_0. I told him that I did not have the amount.
I also wanted to say that I did not want to pay, but simply told him that I had to go to an ATM to collect the remaining amount. He agreed to this, but not before asking me to leave my bag behind for surety.
I was dumb-struck and told him that I could not do so since I was carrying my laptop and documents in the bag. He reluctantly let me go and I fled. But it did not end there. He called me the next day asking me to collect a fictitious key I had forgotten. I knew why I was being called.
I told him that I had no such key and, that if I did I would collect it on Monday morning. He reluctantly hung up, only to call me five minutes later, saying that there was a mistake in the document. To my horror, he was right.
I made the correction and went back to him. I then threatened to escalate the matter, for which everyone in the room berated me saying I was incapable of paying Mr HW. He then reluctantly accepted the corrected document and signed it. I gave them a sarcastic grin and left.