My latest book is The One Who Swam With The Fishes.

"A mesmerizing account of the well-known story of Matsyagandha ... and her transformation from fisherman’s daughter to Satyavati, Santanu’s royal consort and the Mother/Progenitor of the Kuru clan." - Hindustan Times

"Themes of fate, morality and power overlay a subtle and essential feminism to make this lyrical book a must-read. If this is Madhavan’s first book in the Girls from the Mahabharata series, there is much to look forward to in the months to come." - Open Magazine

"A gleeful dollop of Blytonian magic ... Reddy Madhavan is also able to tackle some fairly sensitive subjects such as identity, the love of and karmic ties with parents, adoption, the first sexual encounter, loneliness, and my favourite, feminist rage." - Scroll

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23 December 2009

You never know what to expect OR Bombay: a lesson

Happy Christmas Eve Eve!

I had a great birthday. I got brilliant presents (notably, one HTC Tattoo, one coffee maker and a pair of stripy Wellington boots for the rain). We all drank from 12 pm to 2 am as promised and I was practically falling over by the end of it.

JC is back and I am happy. We are off to Goa to bring in the New Year on Sunday. I promise to do a proper year ender post before I leave as I always do, so you won't miss that.

Oh, dudes, the point of this post, before I miss it! I nearly got scammed today! So, JC and I decide to go to High Street Phoenix (which, man, they have jazzed up since the last time I visited. It's all fancy and has its own TGIF and everything. Ultimate Margaritas, here I come!). Anyway, so because it's non-rush hour, I decide to drive and the two of us are trundling along SV Road, me moving a couple of inches each time the traffic moves, chilling, you know, the usual. THEN, this guy walks past, gives me a horrified look and says, "Your car is sparking!" Only, he walked by so fast we only heard "Your car is bwawahwah." We ignore him and move another couple of inches and then another dude comes up and goes, "Your car is sparking! It's going to catch fire! Move it to the side of the road!"

JC and I regard each other in horror. I have visions of the car blowing up along Tulsi Pipe Road, our charred bodies being pulled from the mass, then there's the vision of us running action movie style away from the flaming car. It was momentous in my brain for a bit. A rickshaw is moving towards us, I wave at him so I can move my car to the side of the road and as an afterthought ask whether the front of my car is sparking. He says no, but by this time, the dude who pointed out my car being on fire in the first place is waving us down frantically. "Turn off the car!" he yells and so we do. He says he knows a mechanic nearby, and he'll go and get him.

"Wow," I say to JC, "Good thing we noticed now, huh?" He nods. Our eyes are huge with what-could-have-beens.

The mechanic comes running along. He asks me to open the bonnet. I do and step out of the car. A kindly passer by tells me to roll up my window. This is good advice, so I do and grab my bag while I'm at it. A new phone cannot be trusted to the whims of fate.

The mechanic gestures to me. He asks me to start the car and peer at a thingy* with him. I peer dutifully. He pulls the thingy tight and shows me sparks! Actual sparks! We're all going to die sparks!

I turn to him, beseeching. "Whatever shall I do?"**

"Worry not, fair maiden," he said (paraphrasing here), "What you need is a new alternator. I'll go fetch it."

My brain at this point starts having a haaaaaaaaaaaang-on-a-moment moment. You know what I mean, right? When all sorts of little clicks and whirls happen in your mind and you're suddenly wondering what's wrong with this picture. My haaaaaaaaaaaang-on-a-moment moment was just at the mention of having to get  a brand new alternator. I know not much about car thingies but I know that replacing this particular thingy would be quite expensive. Also, my parents taught me well. I said, firmly, "Fine, but get me a sealed alternator." He nodded and vanished.

"What's going on?" asked JC.

"I need a new alternator," I told him.

The mechanic reappears with a thingummy which he said was the alternator, in a plastic packet. Not sealed. "Is this new?" I asked and he was quick to reassure me. Then he shoved it into the car, asked JC and his other chap, who told me my car was on fire in the first place to rock the car back and forth. "Your connection's not good so I'm putting in my connection," he said. I translated for JC. We both looked confused. The mechanic repeated, "Your. Connection. No. Good. Replacing. With. Mine."

I tried to look intelligent.

Rocking done, he closed the lid and said, "Now drive it." We drove it. No sparks. A miracle! "Talk to my seth on the mobile phone," he said, "He'll tell you how much it costs." Two things are happening simultaneously at this point. My mind is going, "Huh. Takes longer to change a tire." and the extra pointed-out-fire-chappie is going, "I'm the seth, talk to me."

I raise my eyebrows at the mechanic. "Take me to your shop."

"But talk to him on the mobile phone! The shop's all the way back there and you'll be in traffic again."

"This guy is saying he's the seth."

Deathly looks exchanged from one dude to another. "Oh he is," says the mechanic, "Just of his own shop."

"Bring your seth here," I say.

"But talk to him on the phooooooooooooone!" Mechanic is losing his patience.

"Anyone could be anyone on a cellphone," I say to him calmly and Pointed-Out-Fire-Dude nods wisely in agreement.

We pull over and I ask the damage.

"6000," I am told.


Then I remember something my mother told me to do always. I ask to see the old alternator if he replaced it.

"It's in your car!" bleats the mechanic who will now earn "" around his name.

"Show me." I say, sternly.

He opens the hood, points out the new thingy and then says the old thingy is still lying in the car. "They'll take it out next time you service it," he says.

JC steps in, all masterful. "Show me the alternator," he says. "Mechanic" points and closes the hood again. JC re-opens it and peers inside. "Where is the old one?" "Insiiiiiiiiiide," "Mechanic" is getting quite exasperated with us.

"Take it out," I say, "I'm going to give it to my own service station."

"I tell you what," says Pointed-Out-Fire Dude, "Give me 3000 and check with your guy and then if it's not real, come back and give me the rest. I can even get you a bill."

I'm still not entirely convinced this is not for real, I mean, it's pretty elaborate, with the plants on the road and all, so I agree. He rushes off and comes back with....

... a torn piece of paper.

No, seriously. They invested so much in this scam, you'd think the least they'd do is get a proper letterhead.

The paper has an illegible stamp on one corner which he points to and says, "My address."

Underneath that, it says, "Alternater -- Rs. 6000." And a squiggle.

I laugh. I really do. I hand him back the piece of paper and tell the "mechanic" to take out his alternator. He refuses, the other guy goes, "But I got you the bill!" Then JC steps in, all masterfully again (mmmmmm) and says, "Take it out." They do and then ask for labour charges. I wave them away. They watch me go, pouting.

We were very close to being had.

This is a public service announcement for anyone who drives in this crazy city. Your car is not on fire. But somebody's pants are.

*my scientific term for anything under a car hood.
** channelling Scarlett O'Hara


  1. I spent four years in Bangalore and one time I almost got robbed by a rickshaw driver. My friend and I walked away without paying him. He had his meter rigged. When I mentioned police he started cussing and all. We didn't pay him a cent and went to stand by the police station, which thankfully, was nearby.

    As buttercup said...'twas a narrow one!!

  2. ... arkh, this is a sad sad world we live in!

  3. You almost fell to the oldest scam in the book! When you travel from Mumbai to Pune on the way to the Expressway, this is a common feature. I usually stick my middle finger at them! The cops have arrested so many of these scamsters, but they keep crawling out of the woodwork.
    The other very common and very dangerous stunt these guys pull, is throwing a whole bunch of metal nails on the road. They have a tie-up with tyre repair shops in the vicinity who make a killing.

  4. this is a very common incident apparently.

    a lot of people have encountered these men. I've personally heard of three cases.

    good on you!

  5. i never heard of this stuff, but then i dont live in a big city..

  6. Surprised, eM-- thought you would have checked the likelihood of something such happening with Crowley or someone!

  7. Wow.. the same thing happened to me a year ago. Must have been at the same spot at Tulsi Pipe Road somewhere near Mhatre Pen. One guy appears says my car is sparking... a little ahead a second guy appears says the same thing.... so I pull over .... and he shows me the sparking... and a mechanic appears and says he can fix it... I lock the car but think that the only thing anyone could steal are doggie medicines out of my first-aid kit... I don't trust them so I call a friend who is in the car business. He laughs and says not to do anything as this is a racket and as he was around he was coming down to fix it. He shows me that when they open the car boot they remove the alternator or whatever part that makes it spark.... He just puts it back on.

    Seems to be a big racket at that spot and they catch people who are alone or in two's and steal stuff from the back.

    Glad that your stuff was safe and they did not get any money from you

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  9. Man that was some ordeal....good you came out unscathed. There is no paucity of folks trying to dupe you of your dough, let it be anywhere

    Belated happy b'day and have fun in Goa, as always

  10. Random guy at Mumbai airport arrivals: Madam, taxi? special ladies taxi service.

    Me: No thanks.

    RG: Come, madam, special price for you.

    Me: *Walks off ignoring him*

    Three minutes later, RG is seen being escorted away by a cop.

    True story.

  11. That was close.
    Once I was galloping at a speed of 12 KMPH in a bus between the sleepy town of Nagpur and another sleepy town of Akola. The bus had to stop at a train crossing to allow a fellow trundler passenger train to pass. Folks in the bus stretched n got out for chai/cigarettes/nature's calls. I will use the cliche now - suddenly, out of nowher (its true) - a guy appeared and put three cards on the ground. "There is an ace here. Select a card and if its an ace, I pay you 300 bucks, else you pay me a 100. A couple of guys, who again materialized out of nowhere started playing this 'ace the ace' game. A lot of mone exchanged between them, with the acers winning. In no time, the passengers which included my friend (shall remain unnamed to save him from embarassment) jumped in.
    Me: My friend, don't do it!
    Friend: You say that always. Its easy money!
    Me: There is a scam going on here. The guys who are winningare his buddies
    Friend: You would be the last person whose judgment I would trust.
    (There was some history between us)
    In no time, my friend and many more folks lost approximately 5K. The train slowly crossed. We boarded the bus. It started its trundle. And people realized they have been had. My friend didn't speak to me for the rest of the journey.

  12. Recently shifted to Mum-bhai from Saddi Dilli..
    Whoa! Such things happen in this angelic city?


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