Downtown

Easing the journey of life

Carpool Garden City recently celebrated its first anniversary. Photo: M. Karunakaran  

What does ‘pctj’ mean? Go ahead, take a guess.

Googling, I found out that PCTJ is a much-used acronym for privately compensated temporary judge in the United States, but I am referring to a home-brewed version of ‘pctj’.

Here’s a clue: It’s used by a group of residents in DLF Garden City, a 1750-unit gated community in Semmencherry, Old Mahabalipuram Road. Okay, there isn’t much in this to take hold of. So, here’s another clue. “To Semmencherry now pctj 2 seats” — this statement was made during a recent WhatsApp conversation this group had.

This is a stiff challenge, I admit. So, here it is: ‘please call to join’. This acronym is one of many that constitute an arcane communication this section of residents has developed to run an informal, free carpooling service on WhatsApp, called Carpool GC.

One of its members, V.A. Ramesh (VAR to friends) explains, “After informing other members about where his car is headed and the number of available seats, a member would add ‘pctj’, encouraging those looking for a drop to call him. We have other acronyms, including those for places on OMR.”

On July 22 this year, the carpool group celebrated its first anniversary and in the one year of its existence, its members have had an eventful journey.

Ajit Koshy, a businessman who has his office on East Coast Road and is a resident of the gated community since last year, initiated the process of forming the group, as he discovered that many residents were struggling to get to OMR, which is three km away, for want of private transport.

“There are no share autos here,” says Ajit.

“MTC operates bus services, but the wait and hustle of travelling in a crowded bus are a deterrent,” says Sunanda Guzzar, who is often a ‘taker’.

‘Takers’ are those who get to travel in another member’s car; ‘givers’ are those who offer their cars.

Actually, it will be a blunder to use these two terms — givers and takers — too literally. For, both benefactors and beneficiaries gain from being part of the group.

Both find their social life enriched.

Ganesh Kumar Kaliraj, who works at an IT company on OMR, is a giver. “Except for those who connect by way of sports, residents here are by and large insular. The carpool group has helped break the ice.”

During carpooling trips, Ganesh enjoys sharing with younger IT professionals the techniques that have helped him deal with the challenges of his job.

“I come across young IT professionals who dread Mondays,” he says.

They invariably tell Ganesh they don’t know what awaits them at their workplace. A sense of uncertainty gnaws at them.

“I tell them that life can be made less uncertain by preparing for what we know is likely to happen. On Sunday, spend about 10 to 15 minutes checking your mail to see what tasks have to be accomplished on Monday. That’ll let you know what to expect and there will be less uncertainty,” says Ganesh, who seems to enjoy the role of a mentor.

J.R. Jayanth, an advocate always has a long work day, starting at 9 a.m. and ending at 11 p.m.

“My long hours leave me with no time to socialise with other residents. During the long trip from Semmencherry to my office, which is in Anna Salai, or the High Court, I used to have only the radio for company. All that changed after I joined the carpool group,” says Jayanth, adding that being part of this group led him to a foodie group at the gated community.

Almost everyone else I meet has something to say about the social aspect of the carpool group. It has created a sense of belonging among residents.

The group’s popularity began to skyrocket after the floods.

“During the floods, our group was active, organising truck-pooling and boat-pooling,” says Pravin Singh, a software engineer who works at an office in Tidel Park, who has been helping Ajit run this group.

“Except for the basement, there was no water in DLF Garden City, but there was water around it and residents required boats and trucks to reach OMR and the carpool group played a key role in arranging for and managing such forms of transport,” explains Ajit.

“After the deluge, more residents wanted to join the group. But, sadly, as you know, a WhatsApp group can have only 256 members. So, inactive members are removed to make room for new ones,” says Pravin.

Gyaneshwar Pandey, a key member now, discovered the group during the floods when his car broke down.

With newer members coming in, the group is in a state of flux, a factor that has encouraged main members to put a system in place.

There are now around half-a-dozen administrators who moderate the group based on rules that are cast in stone.

There is verification of new members. Carpooling requests and offers have to be first made only on the WhatsApp group. Only after this can those who have made a carpooling arrangement make private calls and confirm it.

Takers are expected to be on time.

“In fact, givers can’t keep takers waiting either. When I anticipate a delay, I inform someone who is supposed to join me,” says VAR, a giver, who drives every day to his office on Greenways Road.

“The initiative is totally free of commerce. Takers don’t have to pay anything for availing the service,” says VAR.

“The administrators encourage ‘takers’ to pay the toll, if the owner of a car does not have the ‘OMR resident card’, as a token gesture,” says Sunanda.

Takers don’t always remain takers. For instance, when Sunanda’s husband returns home from the United States, where he works, they become givers.

Jana, president of DLF Garden City residents association, who has a bird’s eye view of life at the gated community, where 1100 units are occupied, believes this group has been significant factor in bringing residents closer.

Ajit offers to help other gated communities that want to have a similar carpooling arrangement. He can be contacted at ajitkoshy@gmail.com

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Printable version | Jan 16, 2021 12:16:34 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/downtown/Easing-the-journey-of-life/article14515168.ece

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