Isolation

You didn’t do enough.
But, I did. I clapped my hands, I clanged vessels, I even blew a conch.
And what did you do after that?
We, defeated it, didn’t we? We were allowed to celebrate.
It wasn’t about defeating. You didn’t defeat it.
Ok. It wasn’t about defeating. But we paid our respects to the doctors and the nurses and all the other staff in the health industry.
Yes, and what did you do after then?
Why, I went to celebrate. I am a free person. I am allowed to do what I want in this free country. Last I checked it was a free country.
So what did you do?
I just went and celebrated with a few of my friends. We had been cooped in all day. We had beers, I think. Corona, just, you know, sense of irony and all that.
You didn’t do enough. That was the wrong thing to do.
No, it wasn’t. I did my duty as a citizen. I am careful. I was careful. It’s a virus. Do you know about my immunity?
It’s not about you. It’s about that pregnant lady in the neighbourhood, your neighbours’ aged parents, that recovering cancer patient, that shopkeeper with diabetes and hypertension, that girl with an autoimmune disorder.
I didn’t go near any of them.
Yes, but your friends might have.
So that’s not on me, right?
It is on you. You did this.
But, I am alive. See? Untouched. Doesn’t it say something? I am the chosen one. I am special.
Yes, but it’s only you now, you see?
Then, who…?
Me? I am the voice you should have listened to before you let the world end.
The world hasn’t ended. You are just exaggerating. Nothing can happen. Hello? Hello? Is anybody there?

Posted in Idle Thoughts | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Control

The desire to pick up the phone and text is so intense, it feels like you would grow a rash or an additional finger.

You think maybe you should send a sweet but naughty picture.

You even stoop to passive-aggressive quotes from Instagram, which if we were to believe is full of cautionary tales of fuckbois and how we are to avoid them at all costs, especially pleasure.

But when you are truly free, in that you don’t need anyone to love you, pleasure is worth pursuing even from a fuckboi, especially a fuckboi, because at least the poor sod has with his dubious reputation and multiple dalliances, learnt how to really fuck.

You are clever. You passive-aggressively post it on your Instagram handle. The universe will decide who reads it.

Naturally, the universe decides he won’t. Nor will he. And the other He whom you really want after everything, at least for closure, maybe an apology, well, He has gone fishing and for good measure blocked you. And you don’t fight it.

But the fuckbois can be given attention. Pleasure, when it comes without the side order of pain, is a thrill, a delicacy now. And you know you have earned it.

So the urge is mixed with this twisted rationale now.

However, your heart is a closed door. Sex is safer with toys. You are in your late 30s and playing the game now, when you have finally learnt the rules – put your fucking self first – is tedious. Like a constant itch on your palm. It’s easy to reach, to scratch, but also you can’t scratch your palm. So you don’t. So you pull back, flick a channel on Netflix and chill. Alone.

Because this is what love and sex in the late 30s is like: restrained.

Posted in Idle Thoughts | Leave a comment

Baker’s Dozen on International Women’s Day

They all look the same to me – hair, breasts, that cunt.

They reason things out, almost like men do, sometimes surpassing men. Astounding.

They lack ambition because of their hormones. As if they are the only ones to have hormones.

They have too much aggression and they say (if you listened to them, and I sincerely advise that you don’t) it’s because of their hormones. As if we don’t have hormones. Wait. Do we have hormones?

They turn violent five days a month. They are known to burn houses and men, tear down wallpaper, if not controlled.

They smell like fish. Like flowers. Like fruit. Apricots. Like ghee mixed with dal and rice and fried fish. Like spices. Like hair. Like memories. Like dried blood.

Keep them guessing. They are like cats, like kittens, like pussy. In the dark, it’s all the same.

They are more demanding these days, harder to control. They have learnt speech.

They speak more these days. Often in two syllables. In a language only they interpret. Me too. Me too. Me too. This is how they chant, the heretics.

They have left us with no conversation starters or fun topics of discussion now. We can only talk about food or the weather. So we say sky porn. We say food porn. Only pleasure to be had in words. Wordporn.

Here’s an idea to keep them quiet- Let’s say we worship them. Or or, Let’s say we respect them. I get more cunts than I can eat when I say I am a feminist. They are gullible like that, the fools, the weaker sex. Ha.

We should never get too close to them or they might turn us into them.

No, no. It’s not that I don’t support them. I even have friends who have breasts, hair, and that cunt.

Posted in Idle Thoughts | 2 Comments

After-party

The empty Kingfisher bottle fell into the lake with an unenthusiastic plop. Ramesh tried to focus on the ripples. It hurt his eyes and he felt his head swirl. His stomach heaved. He gave in to the nausea and puked out the pale-yellow beer and the dirty orange kebabs he had eaten just an hour ago. The touch-me-nots shrivelled in distaste. The sight made his stomach heave again. But this time he retched dryly, and exhausted, fell down on the grass. The thorns from the wild rose bushes nearby grazed and scratched his arms. He bled.

The sight of blood made him tear up. ‘I am a good man’, he told himself. ‘I had promised Sukanya I would never hang out with Chandru and go drinking in the afternoons again. That was her only condition.’ He had been so happy just hours ago. What would Sukanya do now? She would definitely have to marry Sunder, the rich shopkeeper from Salem, as her parents wanted.

It was all Chandru’s fault. He couldn’t think anymore. The sun angled itself right over his eyes and his throbbing head hurt. “I am a good man”, he said aloud. “Chandru, sule maga” he tried to roar, but his voice was hoarse after the dry retching. No one could hear him.

There was no one to hear him as well. The lake was well beyond city limits. It was polluted and stank. But it was a great place for the boys from Reddy college to hang out at. They would get on their Yamahas and ride, doing wheelies at Iblur. Nothing could faze these boys on these jaunts.

But Ramesh didn’t really belong with them. It was Chandru who had insisted. Chandru who had said they had to celebrate Sukanya finally saying yes to him. “Party, maga.” He had said. And it was Chandru who had bought the beers. They loaded the bottles into his I ❤ NY backpack and raced to the lake at Sarjapur. He had barely remembered the ride. He had been so happy. It didn’t even strike him as strange that Chandru had not invited Ramareddy and Harish. Now it all made sense.

Now he knew.  

He had learnt what was in Chandru’s heart too late.
“Maga, share, madona.” He had said after they had finished the second bottle of Kingfisher. And Ramesh had known looking into Chandru’s eyes and his rat face that he had meant more than the beers. He had meant Sukanya.

It was all over in an instant. And here he was still stumbling around the stinking lake.

“I am a good man,” Ramesh sobbed at the wild rose bush.

(Written while working with the BWW Short Fiction students for the brief: Describe a lake as seen by a young man who has just committed murder. Do not mention the murder.)

Posted in Idle Thoughts | Leave a comment

End.

So this is how it ends.
Not the violence of peeled skin
Nor the shards of glass and fiber
No recriminations nor any relief.
No, it ends in silence.
A silence that’s cold, furious, stinging,
And quiet as death’s breath.

This decade starts
With bitter green tea
Ends diluted by drugs
in an inflamed body
And a silence that causes the heart to thump its existence.
Loudly.
Until that sound alone remains.
Life continues.
No one mourns.

Posted in Idle Thoughts | 4 Comments

La vie en Violet: neuvième partie

My new psychiatrist explains, the first time I meet him, that anxiety and depression are brothers.
I smile relieved that at least one of the brothers hasn’t visited.
I smile also because I feel it’s propitious that I am with a doctor who understands and explains things through stories.

Cut to the generic stress of an international travel, a general breakdown of life values and support systems, and I experience what it is to chain smoke and a couple of what I now call low intensity panic attacks. They are difficult but bearable and they don’t last very long. Also, I have begun to recognize it immediately so it does not induce extreme panic or that feeling of hopelessness or helplessness. I swallow pills, and, in a few minutes, I am calm and everything is more bearable.

However, I know when not to push life now. So I crawl back into the country, cutting my month long vacation woefully short, and leaving a life-long relationship hanging in the balance, thinking only that I cannot end up with more health issues.

After I am back in India, I have three severe high intensity panic attacks (one where I lose memory for a few blissful hours) and two that mimic all the symptoms of a heart attack (which now I know necessitates Emergency Care, so do check yourself into a hospital if/when this happens).

I don’t do anything other than swallow my anxiety medication. By now, the anxiety pills are so routine, they could be mouth-freshners.

Naturally, all this stress threatens my already compromised immunity (thanks to immuno-spurresants needed for my rheumatoid arthritis) too much and I am in the throes of a flu so bad that it lasts a little more than a month. I am coughing, feverish, and faint through much of that time. I am perpetually exhausted.

The congestion is so bad, I begin to imagine that another living creature, with a distinct voice of its own, has taken residence in my chest cavity. I imagine the creature is singing horrific songs about my life when I try to sleep or move.

None of the medicines for a flu seem to work. I am so stressed out; I am entirely apathetic.

I decide dying would be welcome.
I wake up every morning contemplating killing myself.
It is very real.

I wistfully research all the ways one could kill oneself, and how painful or not each is. I gravely (pun unintended) smile at my apparent fear of pain.
Suicide is not something I can ever commit (I recognise this) but God, do I want to!

I don’t talk to many people but my closest friends who know try to get me to stop feeling so defeatist and thinking suicidal thoughts.

The parents watch and shrink, watch and shrink and shrivel a little each day, even as I am convinced that I am incapable of life. My father’s forgetfulness, confusion, and disorientation worsens. My mother loses more weight.

My therapist says that I have suffered a huge setback and lived through an incredibly traumatic experience, again. So there’s no recourse but to experience all the pain and simply endure.

I just have to give in and suffer through it.

The days pass.

I am on an extended break thanks to my meticulously planned international vacation. I can’t work even if I want to. It feels like a curse. But I try to think it’s a blessing because the funk is worse than anything I have known even during my burnout those years ago.

The ‘death as an escape’ thought is predominant.

Into this, I hear news of a few deaths.
Everyone seems to be dying in this world, except me.
A friend’s father has committed suicide, another boy is murdered.
A family friend close enough to be real family, dies of a heart attack in Chennai.
She’s only 49. Not an age to go.

Everyone is relieved and released except for us – the hollow men.
But for once, even Eliot offers little comfort.
There’s no sense in living, wanting, hoping.
Why do we live?
What is this life?

But before I utter the word ‘meaningless’ that trembles in my consciousness, life asserts itself with bills, invoices, and expenses.
There are applications and students who claw at my apathy.
I am terrified of entering a class room again.
But the business and the need to earn a living don’t allow indulgences.

I throw myself into books to heal.
The message of endurance in Chitra Divakaruni Banerjee’s, The Forest of Enchantments resonates on multiple levels.
As long as my mind can be diverted, things can be borne.
Life and its losses can be endured.
I watch TV, indiscriminately.

My close friends offer holidays and food and try to get me to attend fun events, even forcefully take me out to dinner, but nothing really interests me. I am simply exhausted to the point of not caring or feeling. About anyone or anything.

Eventually, I do have to work.

I finally get on an increased dosage of medication a week before I teach again.
The doctor is alarmed by my death wishes and research.
I reassure him that I won’t kill myself and the research is just research.
We chuckle together over the fact that maybe this will make me more successful as a writer.

The increased dosage does help.

When I finally enter a class room, it’s like breathing fresh air after days of living unawares in a musty room. But I am apathetic even when I make all the appropriate noises. I can still make people laugh. I have high-functioning anxiety. It’s no surprise that with depression, only a few know how hopelessly detached I am from all that I do.

I lose a phone almost, and in high drama and with stormy emotion characteristic of a past life, I manage to recover it. Other than a pity party, I don’t suffer much from this episode.

The medication cushions everything.
The thoughts of death and dying slowly ebb.
The sorrow is carved deep and it may never leave or it might leave a jagged scar, but for the moment, it’s covered up, bandaged prettily.

As the medications recede, and the emotions begin to surface again, I find that I am able to feel happy about my plants blossoming; there are lipsticks and books I want to buy again.

I visit my best friend at his place and a lizard scare that is initially equal parts horror and hilarity results in a sudden panic attack – a reminder of who and what I have been reduced to because of my own failing health and its treatments.

I know now that while life events may have compounded it, mental health issues are closely tied up with all the immunity disorders that I have been so richly blessed with. But it’s not too bad. Even as I am breathing into a brown paper bag as my psychiatrist taught me, the panic begins to recede, and my friend and I giggle over the lizard episode.

I realise I have a new found appreciation for gallows humour and the memes on Instagram.

Life is essentially meaningless and absurd, but there are moments that can make things worthwhile.
When you are at sea, these moments can be a faint light that guides you to the shore.
My laughter feels less hollow.

I know writing this is a way to thrive in spite of everything.
Sharing stories of ill health without shame or fear of judgment might help others.

So this is a happy end, after all.
I haven’t killed myself.
I have learnt to cope with (for now) the dreaded visit from the other brother too.

Posted in Blue Funk, In Sickness and In Health, Social Message | 8 Comments

Social Awareness Post: The Great Bangalore Chase to Nab an Uber Thief and Recover an iPhone

Ever lost anything expensive in an #Uber?
Yo
u realise this most convenient of apps actually promotes thievery in the guise of some fake privacy policy.

Saturday, October 12, 2019, was a good day. I was back at work after a two-month long break. I had a long reunion lunch planned with my college girlfriends, and a Bangalore Writers Workshop (BWW) batch that was graduating at 5 pm. It was a packed day full of good things and people – a blessing I often take for granted.

I finished my class in Indiranagar by 1.30 pm and rather than drive back and forth on Old Madras Road again, I decided to book an Uber. I even got one fairly quickly. I didn’t bother calling the driver assigned because he was just four minutes away. He came promptly enough. I always say hello to the drivers and usually they are friendly and like to chat too. This driver who must have been in his late 40s/early 50s didn’t acknowledge my hello, which I chalked up to embarrassment or disinterest. I couldn’t blame him because if you are driving the streets of Bangalore, you wouldn’t want to be friendly with anyone either. I got into the car holding my iPhone, my bag, and a cake I was taking for my friends. I made a few quick calls, texted my friend just as we reached the destination. I said thank you to him and was about to get off the cab when he spoke for the first time. “Madam, cash payment.” That’s when I realised I had forgotten to switch to my usual card payment. I paid him the INR 100 I owed him, took some time to carefully put my wallet back into my bag, and collect the cake. He waited patiently enough, so smiling another thank you at him, I got off to attend the much-awaited reunion.

We were very excited to see each other after years so there was much talking and hugging and all the usual catching-up on news. Then we decided to take pictures. As my friends had upgraded iPhones, I desisted reaching out for mine (which was 6s) as we clicked pictures. By 3 pm, all of us had arrived, and this time I wanted to take a picture in my phone. That’s when I realised it wasn’t on me or anywhere in the house.

We searched frantically for 10 minutes and finally my friend decided to call the phone. I said it won’t help us search because my phone is always on Silent. But to my surprise, a man answered the phone. This was around 3 pm.
He said, “Hello”
I took the phone from my friend, and said in Kannada, “Sir, this is my phone. Please tell me where you are, I will come and collect it.”
He immediately hung up.
We went to the Find My iPhone app and saw that the phone was near Cox Town.
After a few more minutes, the phone was near Commercial Street.
We logged into Uber and complained about a Lost Item so Uber patched a call with the driver. He obviously didn’t answer the phone.
This is the most annoying thing. They don’t give us the driver’s number directly at all.

I played back the whole journey and realised that he must have seen me drop my phone in the car as I paid him and ceremoniously packed my bag, but he didn’t let on. So obviously he was bent on keeping the phone.

We also tried to complain to Uber another way because in the bill I noticed that the man who drove me and the details displayed were different. Again, this happens often enough so I didn’t even think of flagging it earlier.

Our reunion was shot. We quickly gobbled some lunch, cut the cake I bought to celebrate me losing my phone, and my friend CA and I headed to the Byappanahalli Police Station. We reached the cops only to learn that they were as helpless as we were in tracking the cab or getting hold of the driver.

My friend CA is well-connected so she made a few calls to a few senior cops and finally the cops at the station took an interest in the case. They did what we had been requesting them to do, viz, get the address of the driver/owner through the license plate, the only detail we had on us. They tracked the address but they didn’t get his phone number either. In all this, Uber was completely useless. We tried multiple complaints on the site. The same thing would happen. They would try to patch a call that would go unanswered and then get disconnected.

By then it was close to 5 pm. I called my facilitator and explained the situation to him and was gutted because this was the first BWW graduation, in seven years, that I was missing. But here we were frantically trying to get the cops to help us and it couldn’t be helped.

We showed the Find My iPhone tracker to the cops and begged them to use their contacts in other cop stations or traffic police to stop the car. By then the driver had been to Electronics City, Bommanahalli, Koramangala, HSR Layout, Sarjapur, and once on the Outer Ring Road very close to where I lived.

I was convinced that the phone was with the driver and not a passenger because no one in their right mind travels so far and wide in Bangalore on a Saturday, which was some consolation at the time.

The cops said they couldn’t stop or request traffic cops or other police in those areas to stop the car because it was out of their jurisdiction! They assured us that now that they had the car owner’s address they would go to his house the next day and get him to return the phone. I said the owner was not the thief but his driver definitely was. They assured me that didn’t matter and they would get him to divulge information about the driver and I would get my phone.

As everyone knows, our phones today contain all our data including banking details. I put the phone in Lost mode from the apple id, but I was still worried. The cops insisted that I was not to block or change my sim or do anything yet.

We left the station at 5.15 pm and my friend tried to call her contacts in the RTO to get a phone number. It being a second Saturday and so a holiday, this proved for a long while to be a dead end.

I called my contacts in the Bangalore Traffic Police only to hear them reiterate what the cops had said. They couldn’t get us a number from the license plates, and also that they couldn’t stop the car because it was out of their jurisdiction.

I had given up by then and decided to borrow a spare phone from another friend of mine who stayed in Cox Town. Thing was, I didn’t know how to get to his house because I always used Google Maps to get there! So he had to meet me at a known point close to his house and pick me up! A friend dropped me to my car even as my friend CA kept calling her contacts to get someone to help us.

And all the while we could see how the cab driver was navigating around the city of Bangalore with my phone with him. This time he was in the South of Bangalore driving around Majestic, Rajajinagar, and the like.

I drove to Ulsoor to be picked up by my friends AJ and MU. I had decided to call it a day and parked my car under a tree and waited for my friends to show up with the spare phone. As it was dark around the lake, I had my hazard lights blinking. I was going through the ordeal my day was (also life, which is a different post altogether) when a cyclist rammed into my car from behind, picked himself and his cycle off and raced away. A kind lady who was on her evening walk assured me that it wasn’t my fault, maybe the boy was drunk, and even checked my car to ensure there was no damage. I was so shaken by the episode on top of everything else, I couldn’t even get out of my car. I was trying very hard to control the panic that was rising in me. I thanked the lady tearfully. And a few minutes later, my friends came over. I told them I needed a place to cry so I would join them for dinner after all and we drove to their place.

In the meantime, my friend CA had found a cop who was willing to stop the car if he came into his area which was Majestic. Unfortunately, the car that was till then riding around his area went away to Rajajinagar, and the cop said, yup, you guessed it: Out of my jurisdiction. I thanked my friend and told her to rest and have dinner and we followed my own advice.

But my friend CA was persistent. She kept making calls to cops but to no avail. She finally called me half an hour later and said, “See, Bhumi, that fucker is in Hebbal now. I wish we had just followed him.”

My friend AJ asked me the status and I told him that the car was in Hebbal.
To which he also replied, “Let’s go follow him.”
I said, “Are you serious?
And he said, “Yes, let’s do it before your phone runs out of battery and shuts down.”
We grabbed car keys and found that the car was now in HRBR Layout.
This was exciting. We were close. We followed the car from Cox Town to HRBR Layout to Banaswadi to Tin Factory to Mahadevpura to Phoneix Market City in peak 10-11.30 pm Saturday Bangalore traffic.
Driving as AJ was, so fast in the traffic, like in the movies, he broke his side-view mirror. This was like another personal blow to me.
We lost the signal just then so I pressed “Play Sound” on the Find my iPhone app. We tried calling my number and we got the message saying that phone was now out of coverage area. It took us 15 minutes to get to the U-turn near Phoenix.

We didn’t know what to do. Through the app, we could also see that my phone had very little battery left and that meant we wouldn’t even be able to track it anymore. I decided we had done enough and if I were to lose the damn phone, then that’s fine, but all of us need to stop trying to get it back. I was resigned but incredibly stressed out because my finances at the moment do not stretch to buying another phone.

We gave up and just then my friend MU said, “I wish we just find him somewhere.”
And it was like a miracle. We saw the car we had been chasing parked right ahead in front of us on the opposite side of V R Bengaluru Mall. AJ accelerated and parked in front of the car. We got off to realise that the car was empty and there was no driver there.
I felt incredibly frustrated.
And I was also thinking, damned if I am going to wait for this driver to show up now. For all we knew he could have gone to treat himself to a bloody movie or some shopping at the mall.
That’s when I smelled the eggs and fried rice. I knew then that I would find him at the roadside food cart. Without even saying a word to my friends, I marched to the cart on the crowded street and there he was enjoying his noodles and fried eggs.
The sight of him so blissfully enjoying his food after causing us all so much frustration, just flew me into a rage and I grabbed at his shirt and abusing him in Kannada, said, “Bastard, give my phone now.”

My Kannada is very good and unaccented when I am in a rage so it was all very impressive. I don’t have to tell you, my readers, what the sight of me raging and pulling at him like a Goddess of Vengeance did to him.

He was completely shaken but he recovered quickly enough and calmly said, “I was just about to return the phone to you, anyway. Why are you shouting at me? When you called me did I not tell you I would give you the phone after my duty ends?”
I said, “Don’t lie, you motherfucker, you never even took the calls from the Uber Call Centre.”
The righteous prick says, “Yes, I don’t receive calls when I am driving, amma.”
My friend AJ and MU who finally sighted where I was came up to us and AJ said, “Look boss, you better give us the phone now because this has now become a police case and you will unnecessarily be in trouble.”
The driver says, “Tell the police. What’s it to me. She left the phone in my car. It was her fault. I told her I would give it back. And what can I do with someone else’s phone.”
“You can’t do anything, you stupid imbecile. If I lock it, you won’t even get any money from it. Come now, I want the phone immediately.”
The crowd was all agog at this drama because I was really loud and angry.
My friend MU tried to cajole him nicely and play the good cop. She said, “Come, Sir, give us the phone now.”
And the fucker says, “Let me finish eating my food at least. The phone is in my car.” This, when his car was less than 10 steps away.
I lurched at his shirt again, and said, “Listen, you fucker, come and give the phone now or you’ve had it. I am not going to wait till you fucking finish your food.”
At this, the food stall owner also chided him and said, “Go give them the phone first. You can eat later.”
And only then did he walk up to the car.

Once the phone had started beeping when I pressed the Play Sound on the app, he had decided to switch it off and put it away in his dashboard and treat himself to noodles and eggs. He removed it from the dashboard and the guilt made him say, “You know I didn’t even realise it was in my car till some customer gave it to me.”
Even as he was saying this, I could see the lies and guilt on his face.

By then more people had gathered to see the scene and when someone asked him what the issue was he said, “This madam forgot the phone in my car and even after I told her I will return it to her she’s abusing me like this.” It’s possible that he even had tears in his eyes as he recounted this. I fired my last parting shot shouting, “This useless prick of a man is a thief and a liar, and if we hadn’t found him, I would have lost my phone for good.”
And so saying, I got into my friend AJ’s car and we drove back home.

I reached home at 12 am that night. AJ and MU even later. My girlfriends and I finally celebrated on WhatsApp and my friend CA started texting and calling all the people she had reached out to, to update them.
It had been an unnecessarily eventful day, and unlike anything I had anticipated.

At 7 am the next day (Sunday), a cop called my mother and was incensed that I had found the phone on my own. He was very indignant that we didn’t call him and inform him. My mother explained that all this happened around midnight and we naturally didn’t want to trouble anyone then. He rallied around with how he went to the address they had and realised that man had shifted houses, but he tracked his new address too only to find from him that the phone had already been returned. We anyway politely thanked him for doing what he did and apologized for not informing him at midnight. He insisted we go back to the station and inform the station head. When I called the station head he texted me saying he was busy, so I thanked him on text and left it at that. My friend CA being who she is, politely called the station head later in the day, explained the sequence of events, and thanked him for his help!

I still don’t understand why Uber didn’t share the driver’s number with us, considering they share it before the trip anyway.

I also don’t understand why the cops cited jurisdiction and didn’t do what my friends and I did. It would have been over within an hour.

Now that I got over the ordeal, I tweeted to Uber today (Sunday night/Monday morning).
Within minutes, they sent me the driver’s phone number.
Can you imagine! This obviously means that their privacy policy claim is rubbish.
They could have done this on Saturday itself. So why didn’t they?
They didn’t because I didn’t think of shaming them on social media – and also with two-factor authentication enabled everywhere, which is also connected to the phone – I couldn’t even get on my social media handles unless I got home, an option I didn’t have that day.

Now, lovers who are reading this, just imagine this was a case of rape/molestation/abuse AND theft of my phone. How unprotected and unsafe we are with these apps that ostensibly aid us get around the city!
So if you are reading this, please share this post.
(If you know me, you know I never ask for publicity, but this is important.)


LESSONS LEARNT FROM THIS EPISODE

For the common UBER/OLA customer:

  1. Take a screenshot of the driver details and especially his number once your booking is confirmed. Email this to yourself or send it to a friend. The cops need a phone number if they ever deign to help you with your case. Please do it every single time.
  2. Call your driver because if you do, you can access your call logs with your service provider and get the driver’s number immediately if there’s trouble. Apparently. This is what the cops told us. Not sure how easy/tedious this process is so I believe Instruction 1 is easier.
  3. The license plate number is pretty ineffective today as the owner’s numbers are not displayed. You would have to try to get it from an RTO and that will work only if you are very lucky.
  4. The moment you realise the driver and the driver details are a mismatch, take the time to complain on the app. Not that anything gets done, but at least you have been vigilant.
  5. Before getting off the cab, look inside at the seats and the car floor to ensure you haven’t left anything behind. Do this even when you are in a hurry/excited/tired. Do this especially when you are in a hurry/excited/exhausted.
  6. If you lose anything in the cab, tweet, post on Facebook and shame these companies who want to protect thieves with some nonsensical privacy policy. And do this immediately so you can have a speedy resolution.
  7. Understand that there is no safety with these apps, because they don’t even have a fucking call-centre. They do not run to help you, only to help themselves.

For the common Indian:

  1. Cultivate a few stray cops as friends. I am afraid I have no idea how you can do that at this point. But if you don’t have contacts, you are screwed in Bangalore, maybe all over India, because no cop will lift a finger to help you. At all.
  2. Or earn a lot so you can bribe your way through trauma. Unfortunately, my finances don’t run to a lot.
  3. Understand that the cops are not at all tech-savvy and don’t understand basic things about tracking, even in today’s age, even if Bangalore is an IT bloody hub.
  4. Their solutions are still very old-school and involve doing things with an incredibly laissez faire attitude even if it’s crime.
  5. Most of the cops had no clue how Uber or Ola works. As in, they had no clue how cabs were booked through an app, or that they don’t have a call-centre! They had even less clue about tracking through phone apps and the like. They didn’t even know what Google Maps was!
  6. Invest in an iPhone. So worth the money in cases like this. And register and turn on the Find my iPhone feature, even the Share your Location with a friend feature, if you want, especially for women.
  7. If you ever have the misfortune to lose your iPhone in a cab, get another friend who has an iPhone or use your laptop if you have it on you, to track your phone through the Find my iPhone app. Hail the nearest auto, and follow the fucking car. Don’t waste time running to cops or tweeting and messaging to Uber/Ola.

For the women, in particular:

  1. Try not to be a single woman in India.
  2. And if you are, be very careful and safe, as far as you can. And don’t lose things. Our society is still regressive as fuck and you realise that only when you get in trouble and seek help from societal organisations.
  3. And if you ever have to go to a police station, go with some men if you want to avoid a lecture on being single!

In a separate post, I will tell you how my single friend CA and I got a 35 minute lecture on why we need husbands and how we have to make compromises and settle for the most easily available guy so we are not in such situations because the husbands will give us stability and complete us. Not only that, they would also scare such thieves and assholes away. No kidding. This happened at the police station where we went seeking help. No real help was forthcoming but plenty of unwanted advice was.

Again, if you notice, I was a lot more violent and scarier than my male friend AJ (though, it’s not a criticism of my friend). If I didn’t have rheumatoid arthritis and more importantly, if the driver looked reasonably clean, I WOULD have punched him and damn the arthritis. Instead, I had to settle for shoving at him using his shirt.

Afterthought:
It’s possible that everything does happen for a reason.
If the cyclist hadn’t rammed into my car, I wouldn’t have been heart-broken and full of self-pity, and if I hadn’t been that way, I would not have had dinner with my friends AJ and MU, and we wouldn’t have gone on the great Bangalore chase and found my phone.

Don’t say all is well that ends well. It ended well because my friends CA, AJ, and MU didn’t give up, even when I did. So fuck that shit.
So, maybe don’t give up.

Disclaimer:
It pains me more than you can imagine, to write all this and point fingers at especially the cops and Uber/Ola (services I will no doubt continue to use because what else choice exists), but it’s important we realise how sad, inept, and unsafe the entire system is.

I have deliberately left out details of the cab number, the cops’ names, and the phone number of my thieving lying driver because the point of the post is awareness and not vengeance.

And lastly, apologies for the length of this post.
Thank you for reading, and thank you even more for sharing.


Posted in Social Message | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments