Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The second mistake!

None of us was used to wake up very early in the morning. None of us liked to wake early either. But on this particular day, all seven of us woke up as early as six in the morning and promptly gathered near the Mambalam railway station advance ticket counter at half seven, as planned.

The plan was to take positions in front of the ticket counter so that when it opened at 8 AM, we could be the first to book the fast selling “tatkal” tickets to Tutucorin so that we could attend the wedding of our project lead.

Certainly, early morning is the best time to go around in Chennai as the traffic is less, the air is fresh and, for normal people, the mind is fresh as well. But, the guys had little appreciation for early morning life. All I could see was swollen red eyes, hair flying all around and the shirts half tugged out as though coming out from a pub brawl.

If there was a competition like “Who is the laziest of all?” it would be difficult to find a clear winner in the group. But, in my opinion, Mahendar would win that competition in a tight finish with all others.

“Taktal tickets work in a different way. Everyone has to be present at the time of ticket booking, otherwise they wont issue tickets” Balaji warned the previous day. This, I thought, was the primary reason for all of us, especially Mahendar, to turn up on time!

But, Balaji was known for the wealth of information he has. He normally gives these information mostly when it was least needed. In general, 10% of this information are definitely true, 10% definitely false and the remaining 80% always hangs in the balance. It would be difficult to believe or ignore them till the last moment. The information about tatkal tickets certainly belonged to the 80% category.

“Everyone should buy the tickets individually” Balaji claimed, being absolutely sure about what he was talking. It meant that all of us should fill our individual forms. But, for us, becasue of laziness, it was a huge task.

“But we wont get seats together in that case” Vasanth argued. If there was anyone who had the stomach to argue something with Balaji so early in the day, it was him.

“Are you sure that we should all go to the counter?” Vasanth asked pointing at Balaji.

Balaji hesitated for a moment. That was the moment when everyone understood that this information belonged to the 80% category. We were unable to believe it or ignore it altogether.

Vasanth gave a pragmatic plan in which one person would try to book for all, while all others would book our own tickets. Alternatively, he asked everyone to fill a second form with two names in it so that everyone had a company in the train. This plan led to a lot of confusion as to whether who would buy whose tickets. By the time we completed our argument, a large queue developed in front of the ticket counter, which was about to open in a few minutes.

Vasanth, like always, threw a huge stone in calm waters and was enjoying the ripples. All the rest of us were too lazy to join the argument and were more than happy to oblige whatever decision we arrived at. If at all!

Without a decision being arrived at, we all rushed into the queue with a completely blank reservation forms in hand and not knowing what to do next.

Mahendar normally gets over conscious whenever he was asked to fill any sort of form. Someone had to guide him about how to enter his name, age and gender. Meanwhile, Kumar and Sai were busy making fun of each other, not even aware of an argument that was going on for a while.

In the middle of the confusion, I was standing in the queue totally clueless about how many tickets in my name would be booked that day. Rajashekar was the only other guy who had no opinion but was watching the argument with a smile.

We were standing in the queue for five minutes. Nobody even bothered to check the availability in the train, as we were too busy with an argument about who should buy the tickets for whom. Balaji was in the front of the queue. Vasanth followed him, still in fierce argument. Kumar and Sai were behind, still in their own world of amusement.

Suddenly, Balaji shouted from ahead of the queue that he had indeed booked tickets for all of us. Mahendar, for the first time that day, looked relieved. Kumar and Sai had to be dragged out of the queue, as they had no idea why they were standing there in the first place.

Again, Balaji’s theory of booking tatkal tickets was proved wrong!

The train stared from Chennai Egmore at 6 PM. We started from our office at 5:30. There was absolutely no way that we could board the train from Egmore on time. So, we decided to board the train from Tambaram station as the train was scheduled to arrive there only at 7 PM.

When we reached Tambaram station at 6:30 in the evening, I was feeling quite odd that we made it well before time.

“I am hungry” declared Vasanth suddenly. “I want to buy idlies from the road side shop” he added. Everybody was so happy with his sugesstion without even considering that there was a train to catch.

“Are we not drinking in the train?” Mahendar asked with a touch of innocence.

“Of course we are!” replied Sai, feeling as though it was a crime not to drink in trains.

“What can we do for the smell? We could easily get caught” I said.

“We can buy vodka and mix it with sprite and drink it inside. No one would ever notice” said Sai. On the outset, it looked like a foolproof plan. Or that’s what we all thought!

With only half an hour to go, we split into groups. Vasanth and I went to the idly shop. Mahendar and Balaji was given the responsibility of buying side dish while Sai and Kumar went out to buy vodka from a reputed Tasmac shop.

With brilliant co-ordination, we bought all the essential goods for a train journey within twenty minutes. Only a day before we were so poor in co-ordination that no one knew what tickets we were buying, but when it comes to alcohol, we never have had any arguments. Everyone usually would be in sync.

We were eagerly waiting for the train to arrive. Even though we were ultra efficient, we didn’t have time to mix vodka and sprite. So, we decided to mix in the train.

We had a cabin for our self in the train. The energy and the atmosphere in our cabin were electric as every one of us was so excited about the journey. While we were having fun, we were eagerly waiting for the ticket examiner to arrive and go away so that we could start the most important task for the day.

“Cops in the train!” Vasanth cried.

“What? Why are they in here?” everyone wondered. When we had a peek from our cabin, we realised that a group of railway police was travelling with us in the same train to our destination. Under the circumstances, it was a bad proposition for all of us, as we had to be extra careful while opening the vodka bottle.

When the ticket examiner left, it was time for us to unleash the beast within us.

“Take the Vodka and sprite. I will mix it” declared Sai, perhaps the only social work that he was committed to do in his entire life!

Mahendar stretched his hand deep under the seat to fetch the bottle of Vodka. When he got hold of the bottle, he became totally circumspect to a level that he was looking at all possible directions and was sweating very badly. When someone is so cautious about what age and gender to mark in a railway reservation form, taking a vodka bottle out in the open was way too much.

Slowly he removed the bottle from under the seat. Everyone was watching all directions. We even placed Balaji, our information analyst, to give signals if any suspicious looking person, such as the cops or railway employees, crosses our compartment. Only when Mahendar completely removed the bottle, we realised that he actually had pulled out the sprite bottle from under the seat instead of Vodka bottle. No one in the world would have been so careful to take a Sprite bottle from the bag!

The remaining five of us in the cabin went up in unison to trash him. But then, we knew that we had a job to complete. For the second time, he stretched his hands under the seat and this time, with the same circumspection, he removed the Vodka bottle from the bag and handed it to Sai.

Sai, on his part, skilfully opened the cap and mixed Vodka with Sprite with minimum effort and utmost efficiency. Even the cops in the next cabin had no idea about what was going on in our cabin. When the mixing was done, we gave a signal to Balaji to return to our cabin.

One by one, everyone had a sip of the mixture. While one took a sip, other six would keenly observe and ensure that no one drank more in one sip. After all, over consumption is a crime!

“I need to smoke” Balaji declared.

“But you can easily get caught if you smoke in the train” I said.

“That is not a problem. I always smoke in the train. And no one gets caught for somking these days” he said. Again, one of his information that neither could be believed nor ignored. Mahendar joined him for the smoke as both of them went to the exit area.

While the rest of us in the cabin were thrilled about the achievement, a couple of cops went past the cabin. Kumar, who was actively participating in a conversation, suddenly turned his head towards the window as though he was enjoying the nature. But, it was about 8PM in the night and it was very dark even to see a while elephant two feet away.

His reaction would have alerted even the dumbest of the cops. But the ones that went past our cabin were dumber than the dumbest. Once the cops passed our cabin, everyone had a huge time pass with Kumar for his reaction.

After a couple of minutes, Balaji and Mahendar returned to our cabin. Both were escorted by the ticket examiner. The examiner was fuming because both these guys were caught smoking in the train. However, half of us were drunk to understand what was happening there.

“I am charging you both with 250 rupees fine” he said.

We started negotiating with him to reduce the fine amount. We were literally pleading with him when he said, “I know that You have already committed a big mistake, but i decide not to pull you up for that” with a stern face.

Every one of us was stunned. A huge wave of silence engulfed the entire cabin for a few seconds. How on earth this guy could ever find out that we consumed alcohol inside the train? We were totally careful about it as it was so meticulously planned. Every one of us thought it was a foolproof arrangement. But, what did we know?

Drinking in a train is a punishable offence and there was a faint possibility that we could end up in jail. Panic was written on everyone’s face. We had landed in a mess from which it seemed very difficult to come out unscathed.

“Sorry, we should not have done this” said one of us.

“Sorry? You should be. I was looking for you guys” he said. “You should have boarded the train in Chennai Egmore, but you boarded in Tambaram without any prior information” he barked.

We were looking at each other. Every one of us had to ensure that we do not laugh out aloud or show any sings of drunkeness.

“And now you are caught smoking" he said.

"Now I cannot tolerate this second mistake”

For the first time in the last five minutes, I saw relief in everyone’s face. All of us got back to our seat with a slight grin on our face. Only a few minutes ago, a jail term was looming large. But we got away with just a 250 rupees fine.


Note: This is a real story that happened sometime in 2004. The names of the characters are real. I am sure that others' version of the same story would be different. But, hey! this is my story and i will narrate it in my way :) If any of the guys listed in this story want to tell your version, then write one ! :)

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Electric cars...

Imagine a thousand cars running on the OMR in Chennai. At any given time, the average age of the car would be close to 24 months. Now imagine the amount of exhaust gas all of them produce. That is enough to trouble an important organ in our body called lungs. Now, imagine the same amount of gas being exhausted, along with the debris on the streets, throughout the day. Are we not living in a scary world?

One of the important developments in the recent past is the advent of electrical vehicles. Or to put it in simple way, cars that can run on batteries. Just like our mobile phone. The user could plug the car for charging before going to sleep and the next morning, the car would be fully charged. Imagine a thousand such cars on the streets. No exhaust gas. No pollution. Lungs would get enough oxygen supply. No green house gas emitted. Wow! Is it not the way we should progress?

Well, not quite! Now, let us look at the broader picture. Electricity cannot be stored. It has be produced and consumed (or wasted) at the same time. In Chennai, if one uses electricity to charge an electric car, it means that the power plant has to produce more electricity. In NTPC (National thermal power corporation), producing more power means, burning more coal. Burning more coal means more pollution, more carbon and sulphur emission into the atmosphere.

So, it really boils down to the difference between the amount of petrol we burn in conventional cars and the amount of additional coal burnt for an electric car. In any case, the atmosphere is polluted. Hence the notion of electric cars being environment friendly is only a myth.

To protect the environment, instead of investing money in latest technology cars the government should invest money in generating clean energy, especially from Sun, Water and Wind.

Until then, even electric cars pollute!