Saturday, May 02, 2009

Three hours for six litres?

Today was a hot and tiring Saturday for me. Productive or not, I leave it up to you to figure out. Got up at five, freshened up, dressed and rushed to a petrol pump at Pulchowk. Was pleased at first to see a very few bikes enqued, but was disappointed to find out that no petrol at all. So I made a phone call to an uncle of mine and he advised me to try my luck at yet another station at Lagankhel, operated by the army.

I immediately started my back, hit the 70 plus and reached there in 4 minutes or so. I got a position at the end of the double queue with more than 60 bikes ahead. It was barely six in the morning. I gathered that the distribution wouldn't begin before eight. That meant waiting for two long hours by the road-side.

To kill my time, I bought a newspaper, read it as long as I could and then tried solving the 'Sudoku' and the crossword, both unfinished, though. They opened the pump for the waiting public at eight, but they were already allowing other vehicles and even bikes, who apparently had some sort of coupons with them. It was nine when my turn came to purchase the fuel, but was only given 6.4 litres (for NPR 500.00). I gave the cashier a 1000 rupees banknote and asked him mockingly, "Is it a must to take the change?" (by which I meant to ask whether I'd get petrol instead of the balance cash). He smiled and shook his head in negation. I had no other choice but to leave with what I could get there. The remaining queue contained 300 bikes or even more. And dozens of cars.I had never been in such a long queue, not for petrol at least, before. That I must have carried my mask along, I realised later. I salute those who spend overnight so as to get the fuel next morning or even noon.

You may be surprised to hear that just because of the recurring fuel shortages, black market's blooming. More than that, there are several roadside vendors who're getting good business by selling tea, snacks and other items. Funniest of all, I learnt today that to get a bike looked after during the night, one needs to pay 50 rupees to a local club. Do the rest of the maths by yourself.

A friend of mine used to say, "What a life we're living? There's pipelines but no water, there are millions of vehicles on the road but no fuel, millions of cellphone users but not even a satisfactory coverage! Yet, nobody seems to be troubled as as if everything's in perfect order." I think that the average Nepalese people are perhaps the greatest inventors of new and adaptive cultures and they do need some melodrama to get used to all sorts of scarcities being imposed on them.

In the evening, I installed a combo TV tuner on my PC and was finally able to watch TV in my own room after one whole year. Was able to see a part of a programme (Future Weapons?) featuring a stealth plane called "The Predator" on Discovery. So if time permits and so does the electricity, I'll be spending some time watching TV when I'm at home. Sadly, the latter went off at 8:00 PM today.

Just as I was about to publish this post, electricity came back and I quickly turned my TV on. I was surfing through Nepali channels when I saw this breaking news on the ABC News, saying that a bomb was found today in a bus that had entered Kathmandu with passengers from Birgunj. After all the passengers got down and the bus was being parked, the driver was informed about the bomb by the bus owner (in Birgunj, who was tipped earlier by the person who had planted it there on the phone).

The driver and his assistants immediately searched for, found and threw the bomb on a nearby river bank. The police were contacted and after hours of hard work, it was disposed. A specialist of explosives stated that it was powerful enough to blow the roof off a building with a base area of 50x50 sq metres. It is scary to even think that it was actually targeted on civilians. That was a narrow escape from such an unthinkable tragedy!

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