May 9, 2014

Petrol (dispenser): Girl’s new best friend

“I don’t want a diamond ring, all I want from my man is an unlimited petrol supply,” said someone on my facebook wall. The words rang over and over in my ears, and I nodded inwardly. I had been standing in line for an hour already, and I was ready to give my heart and soul for a litre of petrol. Actually, ‘line’ is an understatement because five motorbikes stood abreast in each row, with the threat of a sixth coming and joining them from the side whenever possible. The pump owners had put up a rope to cordon off a waiting area, but since the area could fit only two bikes in a row, the rope had long since been trampled.

Despite standing in line for an hour, the line had barely moved two inches. Time and again someone (presumably with at least half a tank of petrol) would talk about leaving the quest and going home, but since the motorbikes were meshed like fingers of two hands linked together, the only way to get out was to fly. I decided to make use of the time. I took out a book and settled down on my cushy scooter seat. Immediately, the honking started from behind, “Sister, you need to be a little active,” said the most insensitive of them. Yea, if I put down my book and stared fixedly at the petrol dispenser like he did, the line would move forward magically.

I soon realized I could not concentrate on reading because a fight had broken out between motorbike owners and car owners, each pulling one hand of the petrol dispenser. Others joined in and soon it became a tug of war, with the petrol dispenser in danger of having his hands torn off. The police arrived, whistles started blowing, and the problem was apparently solved by limiting the supply: Rs. 500 worth petrol for motorbikes, and Rs. 1,000 for cars.

It was not over for some. There was one drunken man who threaded his way through the motorbikes, telling each and everyone how he had championed their case against the cars. I had supported him as he made his argument, but I did not want to stand there patting his back while I should be watching for loopholes in the line.

But what annoyed me the most was neither the slow line nor the brawls, nor the drunkard who continued singing for the next half an hour. It was the man beside who kept his engine running the whole time, ready to lurch whenever the line inched forth. I had just enough petrol to get me halfway home, from then on I would have to drag it. “If you have so much petrol, why are you in the line in the first place?” I fumed inwardly.
Besides me, some people were facing bigger problems. A girl in stylish red top and high heels paced the pavement back and forth, restless like a cat. She often sent irritated glances at our direction, and I trembled as I asked myself if I knew her. But then she turned around and addressed the guy behind me and I heaved a sigh of relief.

“Rajuuuuuu, why don’t you doooo something? Look, people who came later than you are so far ahead of you, some of them even got petrol and left. Start your bike, take out the money, just DO something,” she yelled, waving her arms wildly at the offending motorbikes that had managed to get petrol.

My friend’s facebook status again rang in my ears. They used to say diamonds are a girl’s best friend. Not any more, no more. I looked back at the guy, expecting a grumpy face, but he had a remarkably calm expression. He had started his bike and was taking out his purse as she had asked. Since there were 30 bikes ahead of him (5X6), I doubted if that would help. In the end, neither he nor I were successful – the petrol ran out. As we wheeled our motorbikes away, I could hear her muttering under her breath, “Useless fellow, utterly useless!”

He must really love her! I wondered how many others, who did not have such a deep bond, had broken up in this season of scarcity.

“How do you manage to get petrol?” I asked my colleague at work the next day. She was happily driving to work everyday. “I’m just friendly with the local petrol pump owner,” she replied. “He lets me know before the lines even form, so I get there first.” Well, I was on smiling terms with my local petrol pump guy too! I decided to extend my friendship to him from that very day. He had a pot belly. I reminded myself it wasn’t about looks.

But I soon realized that this was not the right time for friendship bands. I had two plastic bottles with me, having left my empty scooter at home. I hovered around him with the bottles, but he did not even return my smile. To my annoyance, the same drunkard from the day before was championing the cause of motorbikes again, and leading a movement to ban plastic bottles. The previous day, as I supported him, I had never realized the tides would turn so fast against me.

“Get away, girl,” said my would-be-best-friend petrol dispenser. “They will all yell at us if we give petrol in bottles. If you stand here, you just disturb us at work.” There goes my new best friendship, BOOM!
I could not think of giving up when I was this close to the magic liquid. Desperately, I called my sister to bring her scooter. She must have understood my desperation, for she left her warm cocoon at home, arrived in her pajamas, and parked her scooter on the line, 20-strong already. I hovered near the dispenser as she neared the pump, my mind increasingly hazy due to the proximity with petrol.

That day, thankfully, the petrol did not run out by the time she got to the front. It was now or never! While my sister was getting her scooter filled, I yanked the nozzle and started filling my bottles (for an hour I had them open, their lids in my pocket!) “It’s the same thing,” I told the horrified onlookers, “you can just give her a little less!”

My best-friend-of-an-hour yanked the nozzle back, spilling some petrol on my hands. I did not care, at the moment it was the sweetest smell in the world. Besides, my bottle was full already. I knew I would not shower for the next few days. I did not wonder when my colleagues refused to share a cubicle with me the next day.

Later that same night, I wanted to share my victory. I attached a photo of myself holding a bottle of petrol and sent it off to friends with the caption: “I’m a full-tank girl!” It rhymed perfectly with “I’m a Complan girl.” Though I had never drunk Complan in my life, my pose would give the Complan girl a complex.

“Drink it, drink it like Complan,” came a response to my photo. “Then every time you pee, you will get petrol!”

The fumes of petrol must have really gotten to me, because this seemed like the sanest thing I had heard all day. I thanked the gods that I had already poured the petrol into my scooter, otherwise who knows maybe I would have tried it? I fell into a deep sleep where I vividly dreamt of bathing in petrol.


Sudip said...

:) A Typical Kathmandu person feelings expressed in an interesting way... I started and liked to read till the bottom.

curly locks said...

thank u sudip :)

Augustine Sreekanth said...

Its very beautifully illustrated... Manificient work.

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