Saturday, April 1, 2006

all fools

I visited the Slum Clearance Board of Bangalore yesterday.
True to form it fulfilled every cliché that has ever been coined about a government office - the very structure of the building screamed incompetent confusing passing the buck!!!
Or maybe it was just me.

I was to meet my classmate at the Kempegowda Bus Terminal at ten in the morning. As befits all my plans, at nine-fortyseven I found myself trapped in a public bus behind an enormous crowd of laughing, dancing, singing people who, as it turns out, were celebrating the release of a new Kannada movie. We finally landed at the terminal thirty minutes later. The trip from the bus stand to the Slum Clearance Board did not fail in its duty to reflect the tone of the morning, being accompanied as it was by sweltering sun, raucous traffic and whistling men, and conducted along a long and dusty underpass.

We finally began our trip into the building proper with an auspicious introductory game of where do i need to go, i want to know. The department we were to visit was to be reached by first travelling up three flights of stairs, then switching buildings to climb another three flights. The only saving grace of the entire tortuous experience was the fact that any person with a reasonably sharp sense of smell would probably be able to navigate the building with relative ease due to the unique aromas emanating from each floor.
When my classmate and I finally reached floor six (stale cigarettes and cloying incense, ladies' lingerie, menswear) we moved, out of breath and exhausted towards the first person we saw - a sweetly smiling gentleman about sixty years old with glasses that magnified his rheumy eyes to gigantic oozing pustules and asked him to direct us to anyone who might be able to give us the information we needed.
This was where we embarked on the next stage of our journey, the runaround. Needless to say, we were shuttled from one office to another, then back again, in a dizzying display of dexterity on the part of every assistant, cleaner and attendant in the office.
Finally growing tired of this engaging pastime, they eventually moved us off to the next block across the campus (which we reached by dint of more maneuvering and further fumbling) where we were introduced to stage three: butter-up. After complimenting, joking with (in my abysmal Kannada) and laughing at the jokes of the three assistants to the three assistant engineers we had been referred to, we managed to wrest some contact information out of them; which then directly turned out to be worse than useless, as all the phones were either switched off or out of order.

In short, it was a really really fun day. I'm going to go again next week. This time I'll take pictures.

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