"Wonder why they have chosen this funny shape. They look like those conical hats that kids get to wear in birthday parties." I remarked as I narrowly missed a traffic 'cone' which had been put in the middle of the road ostensibly to create two roads where there was only one. I happened to be in the part of Lal Chowk where the clientele of a few ice cream shops jam the roads with their cars. I had been honking in vain in an attempt to clear the road so that I could manage to pass through this obstruction. It was while negotiating my car through this crowd that I almost knocked down a traffic cone.
"Look more like witches' hats to me!" my friend has a thing for the macabre. "Anyway," he continued, "regardless of the type it is definitely the hats that have inspired the whole thing."
"Really! How come?" I asked.
"Haven't you heard that story about the guy who went to the tailor with a piece of cloth to get a hat made?"
"I might have but it won't harm to refresh the scene. Besides as you can see that guy in the car blocking our way has finished his ice cone but seems hell bent upon topping it up with a milk shake. So you might as well start telling me the Arabian nights' tales!"
"Well there was this guy who chanced upon a rather fine piece of cloth and thought that it would make a very handsome hat. So off he went to the hatter and handed over the cloth to him asking him to make a hat out of it. Now while he was returning from the shop the thought occurred to him that maybe the cloth was more than what would be required to make a hat and he could not bear the thought that the tailor would keep the cloth for himself. So he retraced his steps and went back to the shop. 'Can you make two hats out of this cloth that I gave you?'
"'Most certainly sir!' the tailor smiled most obligingly'. As this fellow walked back from the shop instead of feeling satisfied he got suspicious that the tailor having agreed so readily to make two hats out of the cloth there must have been more of it than he had thought. He retraced his steps and once at the tailor shop he asked the fellow whether he could make three hats out of the piece of cloth. The tailor was again at his obliging best. 'Can you make four hats out of it?' the fellow said falteringly. The tailor again acquiesced. There was no stopping the fellow now. He went on increasing the number of hats till he reached ten after which he thought that he had had enough. On the promised day our hero returned to the shop to take delivery of his hats. The tailor presented the ten hats to him, each hat atop a finger of his hand and of the same size! 'What is this?!" he shouted. 'Well you asked for ten and ten is what you get!' the tailor said with a obliging albeit mischievous smile!'
And so as you can safely surmise it must be this tale that must have inspired some wise guy in the traffic department! Making ten roads out of what is barely one road and all that!" my friend summed up in conclusion.
Come to think of it, the cones are not all that bad an idea. The best thing about them is their flexibility which is the hallmark of all our rules and laws and by-laws. You see one cannot afford to be rigid about rules. Like for instance if you are a traffic cop how can you help altering the geography of the cones if some fellow is really entreating you to allow him to pass through especially if his humble request is supplemented by a 'note' of a suitable denomination. And then of course there are our ubiquitous VIPs who have to be accommodated and the geography of the road altered so as not to inconvenience them. Now if you had a concrete divider that would be a problem isn't it!
Well finally we did manage to get through the traffic jam outside the ice-cream shops. A by-lane that would have made our journey shorter had been walled off by these very cones. "Blow it! Now I will have to take a long detour," I said in dismay.
"Not necessarily," my intrepid friend said with a mysterious smile. He beckoned the cop standing nearby and said to him. "Invert the cone, will you?"
The traffic cop obliged with a smile and presented an inverted traffic cone to my friend who thrust some 'notes' into it! Very soon the cones were discreetly pushed to one side and we went through the barrier with the same cop smilingly waving us on.
"Hats off you see! Just one more use of the cone!" my friend informed me loftily.
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