RTO – Rotten Traffic Officers.

The biggest mistake I have ever made was to loose my license. No – Actually it was not making a copy of my license.

And because I had lost my license, and of course the RTO did not have records of the 5000 odd licenses they make per day, I had to apply for a new one. It’s online now – By The Way. For all ye people who looked at me with pity, and said “You had to go to the RTO? Why? I sat at home and it was sent to me” Yeah! Lucky you! But I had to go for it! Tsk!!

Online dates were not available, so I decided to do it the old fashioned way! Through an agent – which was a driving school. When I signed up, I was given a badly printed-paper with road signs and laws and bi laws and side laws and the works. On the day of the test I went through it with a smug smile, thinking – ‘what the heck, its all common sense.

Needless to say it wasn’t as easy as, just going to the RTO and filing the paper and sitting for the tests. I was told my date was for the day before and I would have to go to an officer (who would definitely be a stern fat man, sitting in an air conditioned room with few more fat sweaty people running around trying to please him). I was told to say I was unwell on the scheduled day and could not make it and to please allow me to do it today. All bloody lies. I was hale and hearty and drinking beer.

After this I told the man that I was doing no more favors for him. Either he does this dirty work or I move on. At one point he said he was obliging me –(Obliging me?? Him?? I was paying HIM money! I was funding his next paan, cigarette and drink!) It’s at that time that I threw the papers on the ground and stalked off. (And had to explain later, why my important documents, had shoe prints on them.) Needless to say he came running behind me, saying he was only a mere sub agent, not in his hands and all the regular blah blah!

Now the RTO looks very, very impressive- the new one In Andheri. One cannot see it, from the main road, because all roads to the RTO are closed off. How do we get in? Through a by lane, with an illegal entry via a non-existent U turn. Yes – This leads to the RTO!!! I was roaring with ironical laughter.

Once you get in, it’s the same old office most of us have been to. Sweaty people holding thin grainy papers in their hand, milling around, agents shadily standing in corners, tobacco stained betel juice coloring the “DO NOT SPIT” signs, and office windows with clerks permanently on lunch break.

The learners license test was done, and I passed!! Of course it was all common sense, because nothing, which was shown in the printed-paper, by the agent, was asked in the test!

On the day of the driving test 30 days post the learner’s test, the agent came to us, very surreptitiously and asked us to go the adjoining plot, to give the driving test. Why was he whispering, and looking around shiftily like a drug dealer, I will never know. But I must say I was intrigued! Maybe the local Don had just given a test too? Like I said – “Everyone” now has to give a test!! (SMUG SMILE)

The “test” plot was a death trap! It was a huge ground. Dogs were running around and chasing – Goats! The “Test” road was a huge stretch of quick sand! There, exists (hopefully it hasn’t fallen since the week before) a tin roof shed, the size of a single bed! Approximately 50 people were standing underneath it. (Bombay lends its own laws of mathematics). This shed was next to a stinking toilet, very thought fully displayed as GENTS and the other one as LADEEZ. I heard somebody saying there is no water in the toilet. Which made me laugh again – at the irony behind it all. For – it was pelting with rain, and broken buckets were installed under the shed to catch the leaks and they were over flowing. Discarded tires were filled with rainwater, and old discarded bottles were swimming in the muck, but no water in the toilet!!

I was finally giving the test. Ladeez first you see! It thankfully wasn’t in the quick sand road. I was told to reverse. I put the car in gear and was about to reverse, when the instructor(?) says, don’t press the accelerator! The car was stinking and all I was thinking of was boiling my hands sterile, so I just did what he said. After a few feet, I was told to move ahead and stay on the left. Again changed the gear and without pressing the accelerator, I moved ahead. Before I could brake, the clutch slammed down, the car braked and I was told to get out! I had passed!!!!!! I really cannot say what I felt, because I was numb from the experience. I don’t think I will quickly get into road rage again, its not the fault of the drivers on the road, because as long as you know which gear is what, thou shall be passed.

I am waiting for the license to arrive by post. This time I shall be keeping the copy with my jewelry in the safe deposit box.


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