A 5 PM start for a drive from Churchgate to Chembur boded ill for my ‘get home early’ plan. That it would be for a meeting that had a 3:1 ratio of middle management types (who talk about it) to paplus(who actually do the work) boded death. But the day had been slow till then and one does need to justify being on the rolls.
Middle Management Type 1 (MMT1) was in the front seat, next to the driver. MMT2 was in the back on the phone with a sheaf of papers in his hand. JS (the MMT on the same rolls as me) shifted to let me in. Her clothes I totally watch.
Today she was decked out in this sleeveless white salwar top. It was modest in a fitted cotton knit till the waist where it expanded to a wide see-through crochet band and then became a see-through gauze skirt edged with white lace. She had matched this with white purple-pink tights. Shoes – strappy white 6 inch platforms. Bag – big, blingy, gold. The underarms weren’t done. I chanelled my mom for 60 seconds (how can you appear likethat in public?!) then reminded myself. This could be a strike for all women. We have the right to hairy too.
This sartorial evaluation was interrupted by the driver telling MMT1 “Sir, belt lagaa lo.”
He hesitated, ‘Pakdenge kya?’
JS piped up. ‘Haan. Wear it. Otherwise 100 Rs. phatka”
“Is it only that much?”, I asked. Last I remember the fine was quite a bit higher.
“Sau rupaiy aur aadhe ghante ki khit-pit. Dimaag Kharaab Karega” the driver replied as the rest of the folks in car nodded. Oh. I was with segment that would pick bribe over fine.
MMT1 was still hesitating. I said,”Its better to wear it. You can get to some good speeds on the Express Highway” He buckled up but not before saying,”Ye sab American funda yahaan pe bekaar try karte hain.”. JS who is given to harking back to her time ‘in YouYess’ on occassion decided to defend the cause and hark. “All will go there and follow rules because of fine but here will break rule. Not wear belt and jump all the signals”
MMT2 who was done with shuffling the papers by now was not to be left behind. His destination of choice was Dubai. “I paid 7000 dirham fine for switching lanes and bad driving. And they give it to you in your yearly driving test.” MMT1 was reassured that his boss had done this. “Chaalu haan. Aur driving pe bhi aise credit scoring.” I got out a haha dutifully. Credit Scoring. Just like for the home loans.Hahaha.
I tuned out at this point till the shrillness of JS protesting could no longer be ignored. ‘Nono. For what I have bought this stupid 950 sqft in Juhu, Amit was showing me could have bought on Sydney Harbour”, she went . It was not a conversation. MMT2 was intent on one point. India has its own ‘sub-prime crisis’ waiting to happen. MMT1 was intent on saying anything that would not contradict MMT2. JS was interested in when prices of houses in Juhu would come down. So far so normal. Then the conversation took a turn that surprised me.
MMT2: “Hey R. ow much did you buy your house for?”
MMT1: “Some 29 lakhs”
MMT2: ” Accha. Aur tera EMI kitna aata hai?”
MMT1: “Staff aur commercial mila ke koi pandrah. Koi baarah toh staff ka tha. Poora eligibility tho hamare level pe nahin hai na. Baaki koi theen commercial pe liya. 25 ka loan tha”
MMT2: “Accha? I’m giving 28 in rent. For a two bedroom. Chota hai par hamein tho chaar deewar hi chahiye na”
MMT1: “Ghatkopar East na? Nice area it is.”
MMt2: “Haan. 90 ft road. It is a good stretch”
I made notes in my head to look for 90 ft road addresses in the great house search. But I was surprised at the ease with which (accurate) numbers were volunteered. Competitive MBA types (that constitute a significant portion of my circle) don’t talk money openly. They do it through surrogates. The car someone is driving. Who just bought a house. Where. Where you holidayed. And just occasionally, someone will admit shyly – ‘Yes. My bonus this year was 8 lakhs’. And in the time it takes you to get your jaw back to starting position, the topic has changed to ‘Did you go to the sale at Lifestyle’.
Or maybe that is just faulty memory from me. I haven’t been doing the circle much these days.