Race for gas
And, I lost it bitterly
Life was becoming such a load for me, the sooner I shed the better, I thought. Yet if anything was persuading me against ending my life, were my children. But I knew I could not hold back for too long from the extreme step.
The words of that soothsayer, which had receded from my mind over the years, had of late suddenly begun to ring into my ears. Was the prophecy coming to fruition? No definite answer had I, but strong hunch I had indeed.
Others did not find apparently any plausible reason for me to mull that extreme step. Money-wise not bad— if not so well off a family— kind and caring parents, beautiful and loving mate, two small pretty children, a separate house, a secure job— something that is a dream in Kashmir; why should a person like him ever think of suicide.
Others’ assessment about me was accurate to a great deal. Calm, comfortable— and perhaps cheerful too, the life by and large was going on smoothly till what they say yesterday. But then a single intervention into my life by the state set off a crisis in my family. All of a sudden life seemed to be losing the charm and becoming insipid and uncertain too.
Everything had come in an immaculately drafted series. Just two or three days ago it all had begun. The news TV channels were roaring: The UPA government had finally bitten the bullet. The corruption-riddled government had laid bare its economic reform plan. I could have taken the news lightly, but for some experts with a communist bent of mind suggesting the decision was going to affect hundreds of millions of people across the country.
Finance Minister, P. Chaidambaram, was more than explicit: Government cannot sustain the burden of subsidies. Sauvé and chic English speaking economists in the cosy TV studios were hopeful the policy would help contain what they said fiscal and current account deficits— the terms I suppose more than half of India’s population including me don’t understand.
What finally I could make out of those sparring discussions was that a commodity used in almost every kitchen, the LPG, was going to become dearer. Without getting angry, I consoled myself by thinking like those TV show experts: The government has a reason to do it! Where shall it bring the money from to contain the rising fiscal deficit? Of course it is the people who have to contribute at this hour of ‘crisis.’
Following night, there was again hullabaloo on the TV channels. Some lady politician who had previously pulled the rug under the feet of Communists in some southern state of India, TV anchors were telling, was all fire and brimstone against the central government. The otherwise dry discussions were turning interesting. The midget lady, God knows, wherefrom she had summoned such a tall strength, was challenging the whip of the UPA. “Increase the number of subsidized LPG cylinders per year per family, or else I shall spoil the broth,” she challenged. I found the debate was becoming interesting least realizing it held an ominous foreboding for a serious crisis into my family.
After watching several TV discussions I understood India was beset with the international criticism for its “slow” approach on economic reforms. In the forefront of the campaign heaping scorn on New Delhi were the countries who want to lap up Indian market. The international opprobrium of late had become as severe as to call its economist prime minister— someone who two decades ago had devised the ambitious plan for the country to tread the path of economic growth, an “under achiever”. The government was emphatic: Won’t bent any longer! Let them go who want to leave.
I was finding the discussions so interesting. Suddenly the economic nuances of the international politics had begun to become understandable to me. But before I could watch the discussions on the idiot box on the third day, the crisis began to whiff from my home.
It all started with my wife’s early morning complaint: “The LPG cylinder is empty for the past over a month. The second cylinder in use may last for one or two days. There is a lot of talk going on about gas shortage. Get the LPG refill today only.”
LPG home delivery days were now over. I set off for an arduous job. Took the cylinder to the nearest dealer— four kilometres from my home! Late in the evening I returned with empty cylinder and a form known as KYC.
Next day I applied for a two day leave with my office. Got all the documents, but could not find the ration ticket. Enquired, I was informed by my wife that we had stopped getting subsidized rations since 2008 after I had taken umbrage at the remark of some police personnel who were ridiculing city people for getting ration from government depots.
Next day I went to the CAPD. Applied for the ration ticket only to be informed that it had been stopped since some time! I tried in vain to search the local patwari who could issue some document obviating the need of ration ticket. My two-day leave exhausted for nothing. Late in the evening when I reached home tired and frustrated, nobody asked for tea. “I cannot afford to lose the last few dribbles of gas on your tea.”
“You could make it in electric kettle,” I demanded.
‘This is inverter light. There is no power,” she snapped.
“We are a metered area. You don’t bother for the gas. Let the meter reading go as high as it could,” I pleaded.
“It is hardly for a few hours we see the light in the bulb. Come Darbar move, the light too will move out of Kashmir,” she reasoned.
“But we are a metered area and I pay like an honest consumer.”
“Go and tell the PDD people that you are a metered and honest consumer,” she threw the challenge to me like Shah Rukh Khan gets in ‘My name is Khan’ when asked to go to the American president and tell him: “Mr President, my name is Khan and I am not a terrorist.”
The small skirmishes began to turn into big fight. Early in the morning there was same scene. I was not offered the tea. Children were getting late for the school yet they could not get the breakfast. Parents were refusing to come out of the bed. There were no hot water bottles for them. Electricity had gone God knows where. Geysers refused to pour out hot water. Absence of a single commodity had thrown my family life topsy-turvy.
Next morning, I tried to begin afresh. I made a point today to bring the gas come what may. For the entire night I could not have slept. I left the bed at 5 AM, took up the cylinder and raced for the gas. I was 10th consumer in the queue; dead sure to get the cylinder. The supply did not reach the spot till 12 PM but a man from the agency came with a news: ‘The supply will come at 5 PM,” he announced.
“No problem I will get the gas,” I was contented.
It was 5 PM. The supply did not arrive. I left the spot at 10 PM after a rumour spread that the gas is not coming. “May be it will come tomorrow.”
Tired and drained, I reached home at 10: 30 PM.
The moment I stepped in, the same drama began. Naming me dull and dreary, my wife announced: “You won’t do anything in your life. What shall I do tomorrow? How shall I send the children to school without breakfast?”
It was too much. I was getting angry and irritated.
“To hell with this life,” I rapidly reached out to the in-use gas cylinder in the kitchen, pulled its pipe with all strength to let the remaining gas fill the room. I struck a matchstick but it did not catch fire. I tried one more, it was useless again. In the charged atmosphere I was not understanding what was happening. My wife held my hand and said: “Don’t you understand the second cylinder too has gone off. What shall I do?”
I fell down. My legs lost strength to get up. A few rebukes came unhesitatingly from my mouth. To hell with these economic reforms, TV discussions, experts, et al. They all have snatched the peace of my family and God knows how many others.
Since lost few days now, I am unwell. There is no gas in my home. If anyone among you can spare a gas cylinder, please let me know. I am ready to pay double or triple the cost. You know why.
Lastupdate on : Wed, 24 Oct 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 24 Oct 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 25 Oct 2012 00:00:00 IST
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