Monday, March 29, 2010

Talking Letters

Dear Baku,

I live on six parallel. Russians never bothered to add a street or if they did the taxi drivers don’t remember now. I would say the address as Blue buildings, Almali market, New world market, etc. and the reply would be six parallel, ok. So many Manats and off you go. Finally, Natik cleared the air. He knows a bit of English and drives few slb employees around, makes good money. When he is not driving he can be found loitering at slb reception or with slb security. I missed the bus that morning and had to call him. I gave my usual pickup landmarks and he just said ok—six-parallel—nine-o’clock—come-to-Almarah-bank. After I jumped into the cab I had to ask him. The story goes like this. I am sure you know. It’s your story. Still correct me if I am wrong (and I will let Natik know next time I miss the bus, which I plan not to, it’s quite an expensive taxi ride in Baku if you are an expat). During the time of the federation they named the seven parallel streets from one to seven starting with one from the city centre. A smart, easy and convenient approach I would say and I guess with the gust of the wind outside the window you send your agreement. Now there are new addresses officially, for the same places, it is not federation anymore. Its Azerbaijan as you know, you are the capital city. Yet the cabbies still run between and with the parallels. Change in the name of country didn’t do them good or maybe it did. But the seven parallel sisters live on, as streets and in legend. Sisters designed and destined to never meet.

You know the interesting thing about the taxis here. I believe everyone who owns a car and is not absolutely rich to not bother about making more money carries a small magnetic light with TAXI written on it. When they feel they have an hour or two they just roll down the windows, snake out their arms with the taxi sign and snap-fix it right above their heads, on the roof of the car. And there stands another taxi. No taxi sign is in the centre, all on the head of the driver. The wife (or whoever) calls and they snake the sign back in and off they go home (or wherever). And what is with all these Mercedes, every other car is a Mercedes and all taxis. You must be joking. You make Indica sound like a luxury brand in comparison with Merc.

Did you also missed an hour today? Actually it was yesterday. Did you miss that? I was an hour behind all other folks for nearly 30 hours. Got up on time and was out on my way to catch the 7:20 (am, everyday!) bus. The streets and roads had a different life. The usual sweeping ladies were not there. The army lad who is walking down hill every morning was not walking down. The couple of taxi drivers that wait the corners of the streets were missing. And inplace of all that the whole city was on the streets, all the cabbies, all the school going children and office going adults and nowhere going rest of them, both children and adult. Something was wrong with your people. Did you drink too much last night? But then I had the suspicion, not on your drinking habits but on the ticking seconds. While I killed 48 hours of the weekend you skipped an hour in one heartbeat. Had to ask a cabbie for time and he confirmed it, you did skip an hour. You shouldn’t play such tricks on weekends.

I have couple of other things to say but I will keep those till later, next time, slept at desk in the office today, late night movies on Sunday are never good. So I will catch up on the sleep.
And you try to reduce that glow in the nights. Better tell your President to switch of few lights. Makes sleep hard.

Signing off, Kelman Desai (T).

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