"Whatever can go wrong will go wrong, and at the worst possible time, in the worst possible way" - Murphy's Law (version 3.0 (?))
I was actually planning to call this post 'Bangalore to Bangalore (via Mangalore)' but decided against it cos' it wouldn't do justice in describing my Mangalore (mis-) adventure.
Unable to land a good date in Bangalore to give the TOEFL test, I had to settle for Mangalore - a city located a good 350+ km away from Bangalore.
(Why do I have to give TOEFL? Supposedly to let schools abroad know how good my English is as a 'Foreign Language'.... And to note that most Indian students have studied in English all through their academic life!)
The journey is supposed to be 7-8 hours but took a good 11 hours thanks to awful roads, an accident on the way and to top it all off, a strike in Mangalore which brought traffic to a standstill for miles.
First time in Mangalore and I was too dazed to get into 'observation mode' but I couldn't help but notice how nice the three-wheeler drivers in the city were. Clocking Rs.17/- on the meter, I gave the driver a Rs.20/- note. The guy actually started fumbling for change to return Rs. 3/-. Impressive! ( In Bangalore, you would have to demand your change even for a Rs.50/-)
I had to report at the test centre at 4:00 PM. Reached there at 3:30 itself.
And then, the nightmare began.
I was one of the first to be let into take the test (there were about 25 others) but guess what let me down??? The microphone input volume was on 'mute' and there was no way the test-taker could adjust anything once he/ she has been logged in to the test screen.
After repeated attempts to get the System Administrator (who seemed clueless) to do something about it, we found out that the ETS server had crashed too.
The organizer(s) were running around frantically between various rooms only to come back and inform us that the test would be rescheduled.
And then much later, there was a ray of hope. The server was alive and kicking again. Only to be let down by the fact that most computers still had their mic input volume on mute!!!
There were temperatures rising, pissed off faces, agitated souls....
Finally around 6:30, we started the 'test'!
I've written thousands of tests but nothing will ever come close to way this one tested my patience.
After finishing the test at 2230 and walking half-way to the hotel before I could find a 3-wheeler, the Hotel informs me,"no food left".
I walked up the road and found one restaurant open and must say I managed to get a good thali at that hour. However my joy was shortlived. In no time, the restaurant owner started switching off the lights and brace yourself, the waiters turned up with brooms, mops and buckets of water. And without a warning, there was soapy water all over the floor.
Bon appetite, eh?
I tried to make my way out without eating the ice-cream which arrived with the waiter's finger dipped in it (yeow!)..but they were nice enough (!) to insist that I finish the ice-cream!!
2 steps out of the hotel and it starts pouring!!!! And it poured real heavy......there were rats, dogs, cockroaches, centipedes, used paper cups and slippers dancing around in the rain.
And if you think I am kidding, NO I'm not!
After an eventful evening, I somehow made my way back to the hotel room completely drenched. Only to be welcomed with a power cut!
The return journey the next day was pretty eventful too. Boarded a 11:00 AM bus. A few B-grade Hindi songs, a couple of movies and a lunch break later, the bus stopped bang on the highway and the conductor announced "those who want to pass urine, please get down.." (yes! yes! that's what he said)
Among the many men who got off the bus, there was a woman who returned completely pissed (no pun intended). Wish the conductor could keep in mind that women can't just stand by the road-side and do their thing!
Anyways, when the bus did stop at a proper place, I had to encounter a perpetually flushing urinal and 3 men waiting behind me in a queue for their turn. For some strange reason, I had Queen/David Bowie's 'Under Pressure' ringing in my head all the while :D
I was hoping to reach Bangalore by 7/ 8 PM (Heh! The dreamer that I am!).... Reached the city at 9:15 PM only to be welcomed by heavy rain, horrible traffic and two bouncer-like 3-wheeler drivers blocking the pre-paid 3-wheeler counter. Obviously this lilliput of me didn't get past them. Had to argue with the available 3-wheeler drivers about the exhorbitant amounts they quoted.
Playing on potential passengers' helplessness in the given weather conditions and manipulating their vulnerability, the drivers quote unrealistic figures
Here's a sample:
Me: "Kammanahalli..How much?" ((It usually costs about Rs. 70/- to get home from the stand)
Driver: "Rs. 200 /-"
Me: "Are you flying me home in a jet for that price????"
Driver: "Haha! No...it's raining. So you have to pay more......"
Glad it's all over!