Thursday, 2 pm
Vikram took a deep breath. "It's not going to work this way" he thought. "I must get a valid license to drive in Delhi" He recalled his days in his hometown in UP where 50 & 100 rupee notes were driving licenses for bike & car respectively. He wished the things were same in Delhi.
Vikram is a Manager in Delhi who belongs to a small town in UP. He has been in Delhi for past 10 years and has changed the same no of accommodations in this time, crazy bachelor life! Finally he is going to buy a small car, and of course he needs a ‘Valid’ driving license for that. He already holds a license which allows him to drive from a bike to a 20 wheel truck but it’s not a valid one – his date of birth on the document shows him 1 year older than he is and that’s the trouble. He has tried incalculable tricks to get a Delhi license but they didn’t work. “A resident of UP can’t get a DL in Delhi and they talk about One India - United India, what a farce” he mumbled, as he walked towards Boss’s cabin to ask for a Monday leave. He needs to present a valid reason to take a 'casual' leave from his quota of 20 . sucks !
Saturday, 7 pm
Vikram is hammering on the keyboard in an attempt to finish the reports fast. He needs to reach ISBT by 9 to get the bus to Bareilly. From there he’ll take another bus to reach his hometown. Usually you will get a bus to Bareilly every 15 minutes, but Vikram can’t just take any bus. He is an internal migrant, a small town guy settled in capital. He has booked a Volvo and called a cab to drop him to ISBT. “It’s not a matter of luxury but need” he always told his Maa every time she yelled at him for such expenses. “My work is tiring enough, It’s not about giving 2 lectures in college and you’re done for the day” He said as he banged the phone. He never hesitated to reel in his lecturer father’s comfortable life to explicate the formidable picture of his lifestyle.
His phone blinked. Cab has arrived. He must leave now. He starts to wrap up facilely as he doesn’t want the cab to charge for waiting.
Sunday , 5 am
Vikram has just reached his hometown. His father owns a home in this town but no one stays there except a couple of tenants. He has the keys but he is tired enough to open the floor and fix up the home for stay , a house which is locked for over a year.
He ponders over the other options as he puffs a local cigarette. These silly paanwalas of his town don’t have his brand. “Maa has always insisted to visit his Mamaji who puts up in the same town. He’ll be happy to see me. I can enjoy some home cooked food and free stay as long as I wish.” He had almost made his mind and called a rickshaw and hopped into it. It was when he recalled his cousin’s marriage last year. This Mamaji had boiled his blood as he kept asking about his marriage plans.
“Screw it ! ” he said to himself , a sweet box is for 400 , and a room in the best hotel here must not go above 500. “Bhaiyaa , kisi achchhe Hotel le chalo” He barked. It was his birthplace. He owned a property here. He knew the 50% population of the town and there were more than a dozen places he could stay at. But he preferred to spend his time in a lonely room and not to meet any old buddy , teacher , relative or neighbor . He was startled at his own behavior.
Monday , 11 am
“Good morning Mahesh Ji” Vikram uttered as he approached the local RTO office.
Mahesh ji is nothing yet everything in this office. He is an independent agent and running his business here for over 20 years. He is an integral part of the office. RTO employees regard his orders more than those from their bosses. Vikram had got his DL done from Mahesh ji when he was yet 17, it’s just that Delhi Traffic Police call it invalid.
Office has many other integral parts though never mentioned in the papers. A banana tree encircled by sacred threads , Shamsher singh – a giant black dog (no one knows who gave him this secular name) , drawing made on walls by pan and gutkha – an unique color for every type & brand , a herd of cattle roaming free in the premises, chewing the cud & making love. Mahesh ji holds a different importance. Visitors can’t ignore him like poor animals & objects.
Mahesh ji didn’t respond. He was busy with some other work. Vikram stood aside and waited. Maheshji was taking test of an applicant. He takes test of all the applicants before the form is processed. one can skip these tests by paying a small fee which he calls Suvidha shulk – Convenience fee. Suvidha shulk is completely Justified. If one considers it bribe, most certainly it’s their mistake. Colleges take donations and admit the students who couldn’t qualify the entrance, you can always pay extra to temple and get into the VIP queue, you get your train & air tickets on a short notice by paying little extra.
This fellow didn’t understand Mahesh Ji’s hint for Suvidha Shulk . So Maheshji asked him to come after a couple of days.
“Its written there on the website that I can get it done in 2 hours” argued the fellow.
Maheshji threw a clever smile “Babuji is in hurry, let me do his work first” he stood up and pointed towards a red wagon R parked in the compound “drive it out and park it again at the same place” The man hesitated. He had never touched the steering wheel in his life. Yet he moved towards the vehicle with heavy steps. Mahesh ji got his nerve; he was crocodile of this ocean. “Leave the room gentlemen, he is a pilot” he yelled with sarcasm, making the path clear for him. The guy was ashamed enough to turn the ignition on. He came out grinning with embarrassment – “who asks you to give a demo for learning license? It’s required when you come to renew the license. It’s written there on the website that….” He went on but Mahesh ji had got busy with others. He doesn’t have time for petty things, he is an important person.
Vikram moved forward and told him his business. He’ll get it done. The learning document will reach at his address in 4 working days and a month later he would need to come and get it renewed. Vikram got the hint, “Kharcha bolo” he uttered the two most important words. Mahesh ji glanced at him and learned that he was an ‘internal migrant’. He liked these chaps. They are so professional. He calculated his upcoming expenses in his mind before he told him that it would take 2500 for both learning & pukka license. “ask someone to get the tea” Vikram said as he threw a 1000 Rs note on table. “I ‘ll give you the balance when I come for permanent DL. And yes, I want the photocopy of the document today if not original. I don’t have time to run 100 times for a paper.” People out there, including a police constable, were amazed. Mahesh looked at him, feeling defeated. He didn’t have guts to return the money or yell at Vikram for his audacity. Vikram felt better, he looked at the guy who couldn’t drive. Poor man was still there, he just hoped that the guy understood how to get things done here.
What happened later until Vikram got the document is not worth writing. Summarily, he kept sipping tea and puffing cigarettes while Mahesh did all the running. He had to move his ass once to get his photo clicked. “Here you go” Mahesh said as he handed him the photo copy of the driving license. Vikram checked the time. “75 minutes! I must say you guys are some thing. Bhai sahib told me that as per website, it’ll take 2 hours to process. 45 minutes to deadline and I already hold the DL” he said as he winked at the poor man & guffawed. Mahesh shared the laughter with him. He didn’t get the sarcasm, but the poor man did. He walked up to the Mahesh & asked – “What is the total Kharcha?”