Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The great Indian license trick

I know India is full of tales like this but it doesn't reduce my amusement whenever I come across one from the files of one of my friends.

Once an executive was making the journey from Pune to Mumbai via car. Her driver - a shiny new recruit with a B.A. degree - was making very good time. Our executive, we'll call her Aparna (just for kicks), was looking forward to the meeting.

The car enters Mumbai. Shortly at a traffic intersection a police officer, also lovingly referred to as a Maamu, pulls the car over. The officer peers into the car and says "License kuthe aahe?" At this point sharp car driver is looking like a bheegi billi. He says all he has is a copy of his license, not the real deal.

The officer asks him to step out. Aparna is furious. She dials her HR to yell at them. "What kind of a driver did you find for me!" she thunders. "Didn't you do a license check!" She hangs up her phone in disgust.

She peers warily over thinking she's screwed. She notices her meek driver deferentially handing over a piece of paper some notes to the officer. Later the driver returns to the car and merrily starts driving.

Aparna is baffled. "What just happened?" she asks.

The driver turns around - the cockiness is back.

"Memsaab" he says "these maamus know from our license plate that we are from out of town. So they'll stop our car. If I give them my license they'll keep it. And it will cost me Rs. 1000 to get it back. Instead I have about 10 copies of my license in my pocket. The fine for not carrying it and instead showing a copy is Rs. 300. So I save Rs. 700 each time I do this. I can do this as many times as I want as long as I pretend to be a dumb driver. Its the price I pay for being in this business!"

Aparna doesn't say another word for the rest of the drive.

There are several morals to this story.
  • Never underestimate your driver

  • There is a workaround for every workaround

  • You don't need an MBA to create a business model for an operation



Anonymous said...

Its so crazy how normal this is in India.

On an entirely different note, I know I'm going way off-topic, but I couldn't help post this link knowing our Drifters' amusement for the love stars have for numerology.


Anonymous said...

spruha, i agree. anywhere else this is fodder for comedy. in india --- we are like this only! indian ingenuity at its best ;). i had my brush with this recently - paid USD 50 for carrying a second laptop into india. the negotiation with the customs guy was both educational and amusing!

Anonymous said...

Sidekick,my cousin-sis had come down from the Us last month and was 'caught' by the customs guys for not declaring her fancy camera. She who has been in india , and knows the 'We r like this only' remained cool and said 'No way, I am not going to pay any duty cos this is old'. Then he threatened her saying 'I will check up how much it costs, but that that may take one or two hours'. So she coolly replied 'no probs, I will wait'.The guy was shocked and then finally said 'Madam, kuch to dedo'.She was so put-off and said 'No way'. Finally he thought that this girl was not going to budge, and so very irritated, asked her to push off.Obviously he needed to find his next bakra. She said she really enjoyed this exchange after having lived in the US for 2 years where things r all very clear and theres no scope for any negotiations.

Anonymous said...

And this is only administrative 'we are like this only-ness' that we are talking about. On a recent trip to the Kumaon Himalayas, we learnt that villagers often turn out their old and/or sick livestock into the jungles to be eaten by leopards, and when they are, they claim compensation from the government stating loss of livelihood as the reason. So it works both ways -:).

Anonymous said...

man...shee....at all dese shitty tricks for earning under the table!!speaking of the article....i had a similar experience when our family was travelling from surat to bombay...de maamu at dadar stopped us n asked my dad to produce his license n sed tinted glasses not allowed esp on vehicles from gujarat!!wtf?den he tuk my dad's licnse...and also asked for 'chai-paani'...to which my dad simply sed ...ill let mr rao[the commisioner of police that time] handle u!luckily my dad knew all dese powerful ppl well...and de maamu was like shocked n let us go...but seriously..he was askin sumthing like 3000 bux that time!![15yrs back]

Anonymous said...

This thing works both ways. My friend who had just learnt to drive in Delhi decided to take the car out one day by herself when she did'nt have a license. She hit a couple of villagers on a bicycle. Fortunately, they werent hurt at all but she drove them to the nearest hospital paid for their visit and left. The hospital took her address.

Two days later a cop shows up at her house and asks for money or show her license. My friend told the cop to come later, called her uncles in Kanpur who got a pre-dated license made for her and mailed it to her house.

This was 20 yrs ago. Sadly Delhi has'nt changed much since then.

amitscorpio said...

thats a ingenious workaround ... but can anyone think of a solution to this problem??

about the customs people ... i had a similar trouble when i visited India in december. I was asked how many laptops i have and i told him 2. the moment he heard it, i was taken aside and told that there will be duty on it. I didnt offer him anything and asked him to show me the counter for paying duty. he tried to get something out of it but as soon as he knew that i m a student and not gonna give him anything he let me go!!

Anonymous said...

My Dad, who btw is really well built, has this really authoritative voice and manner of speaking, so he plays it up a bit and pretends to be in the police himself. So all he has to do is say "Wait, let me show you my ID" and the guy goes "Nahin saab, koi baat nahin saab..", or "Pehchana nahin kya?" or "Chal mere saath, thaane chal ke baat karte hain" and the maamus give this shit-scared look and apologize.

Anonymous said...

Everytime I go to India, this has happened to me. Last time I went which was few years ago, we had customs people follow our car which had a Gujarat licence plate out of the airport, then they finally pulled us over and said that I didnt finish my customs properly and I still owe them money. My uncle talked to them and said that the airport officials would'nt let me out of the damn place if I hadnt finished the customs process!

It's sad how people from India are used to such abuse but I guess there is only so much you can do about it!

Anonymous said...

girlie girl, I am surprised. I thought all the harassment was limited to the airport.

How do they stop you? Do they have cars with sirens?

Unknown said...

Now that I haven't heard before. I wonder if anyone from Customs is reading this and can tell us their side of the story.

Anonymous said...

They had those undercover-cop style sirens...and they had radioed another police car to stop us at the next light...isn't that freakin unbelievable!??!

Anonymous said...

All I can say is that I am super depressed by these stories. The country has come to this....and we all kind of shrug it off....what would it take to really shock/shake us?

Unknown said...

Mind Rush, for some reason I never bought into the stock excuse of "well, if you gave the police enough money by salary, they wouldn't cheat". We all know of people who are paid enough to last them a lifetime but are still corrupt.

Its not about money or the lack of it. Its always been about work ethic. And hence, its not a change that can be brought about by shock. Its too deep-rooted.

Anonymous said...

Amen to that, Aspi!!