METRO PLUS

T for Thiruvananthapuram

A is for Attukal Pongala and Aarattu procession that provide the office-goer with a `god-sent' (pun intended) opportunity to bunk work. It also stands for the ancient automobiles, which trundle along as the swanky limos zoom past them.

B is for bonji (the authentic pronunciation is bwaanchi), the mildly salted and sweetened lemon drink -- the official beverage of the native. Also, for the beef that is sold as mutton.

C is for the cleanliness drives, which start from (and in most cases end in) Kaudiar. Also for the cutting that is done to the newly-repaired roads for laying, repairing, replacing of cables, pipes or whatever.

D is for the doctors who refuse to make house calls though the patient is critical and has been under his care for ages. It also stands for the drains that clog at the slightest hint of the cirrus cloud appearing on the azure blue sky.

E is for the extra care we take. Children in other cities do not have to be picked up and dropped by parents working in Mantralaya and Writers' Building, but we'll hear none of these. It is also for the electricity cut, which, a friend says, brings the family together.

F is for the footwear you are apt to lose if you leave them in a place where people throng - temples, weddings and funerals. F also stands for the front-office staff who bury their heads in the files or ledgers, ostrich-like, when a customer's shadow darkens the doorway.

G is for the garbage, which is meant to be thrown over the boundary wall (when nobody is looking) into the neighbour's compound or out into the public road depending on the cross-border cordiality. It also stands for the gardens, which refuse to be beautified despite humungous sums of money being spent by the Corporation.

H is for the high decibel generated in the Legislative Complex, which should, paradoxically, be a scene of quiet efficiency. It is also for the high-handedness that comes naturally to our public servants.

I is for indoors where, judging by the deserted roads, the entire city seems to spend its Sundays and holidays. It is also for introversion; witness the grim faces at the bus stops and film festivals.

J is for jams - not of the breakfast variety. Traffic jams, to be more precise, and the jaathaas that create them, never mind that the people marching along carrying placards and flags and would have just 14 rows if they were to march in Indian file.

K is for the kerchief you drop through the window of the bus to reserve the seat you intend to occupy. It is also for kameez, which our girls (and women - and boys and men) stupidly refer to as churidar with supremely hilarious results - imagine a sleeveless churidar!

L is for the lame excuses offered for coming late to the office - the road is under repair, the bus broke down, my sister's father-in-law twisted his ankle. L also stands for the lakhs of people who are hired by political parties to shout slogans for them.

M is for the milk we ask for and the gooey mass of curdled bio-product we get, though the vendors might claim that they have six sigma ratings. It is also for the marketing technique we have to learn from our counterparts elsewhere, so that we do not ask a prospective buyer to specify the brand, size, colour, textile, pattern number and price of the ready-made shirt he has in mind.

N is for newspaper vendors who refuse to deliver the English newspapers on days when there is no issue of the Malayalam dailies.

O is for the occupied seat in the bus, which, you, being a regular, know, will be vacated by the present occupant at the third stop from here. Also for the optimism that he has not changed his plans and decided to call on his mother-in-law!

P is for the plural, which we just cannot flush out of our system - (Witness the Housing Board Buildings, yes, Buildings), a baggage we carry from the vernacular. It also stands for the plastic bags of all hues and colours, which, though banned, are used as festoons and buntings by political parties of all hues and colours.

Q is for the queues, which we are loath to form and which we deftly jump when the moment of reckoning comes. Q is also for the quality we swear by, but would be pardoned for swearing at.

R is for the recognition that you rarely find on the face of the parent of your five-year old's classmate though every day both of you spend 15 minutes together at the bus stop waiting for the school bus. R is also for the reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic skills our children are supposed to acquire, but do not, going by the poor share we get in competitive examinations.

S is for the speed breakers that sprout overnight in the cantonment at Pangode with predictable regularity. Also, for the scholars who delve into matters beyond the mundane - such as post-colonialism and feudalist construct.

T is for the two-wheelers, which apparently have been fitted with a mechanism that prevents overtaking from the right. Also, for the topping that is done to the road surfaces just before the monsoons (to gauge its intensity) or the elections.

U is for the Uroos festival, which gives an afternoon off to the office-goers in the same way as ... (Please go back to A.) It is also for the umbrella you forget in buses.

V is for the VSSC vehicles (not to forget the sarkaari vehicles, the ministers' sedans and police jeeps, which every user of the road owes his life to.) And for the variety of vegetable we sadly lack in, compared with other cities.

W is for the weddings, which have become a benchmark in ostentation and extravagance. It also stands for the weekends, which, if prefixed/suffixed by holidays, are suffixed/prefixed by leave (most of the French variety) so that you can make a quick dash to your mother.

X is for the X-ray clinics, owned by wives of doctors, to which you are referred when you have indigestion because you over-indulged yourself with paayasam made at home for your granddaughter's birthday.

Y is for you and your sense of balance - you have not lost your cool; lesser mortals would have succumbed to just a few of these factors.

Z is for the character the cartoonists employ to indicate that the subject of his lampoon is being transported to slumberland - which, many are under the mistaken notion, is another name for a Government office.

(Epilogue: No offence meant, this is just frolic and banter. As they say in the North during Holi, `Buraa Mat Maano, Holi hai!')

K. T. RAJAGOPALAN

Graphics: Manoj

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