Friday, November 03, 2006

Of tippers and tippees

Ok ok I admit the last word is made up. But I am talking about one of the great pillars of the Indian cultural heritage --- bakhsheesh a.k.a. 'tip'. Like every good son, I too celebrate Diwali at home with my family. Now, my folks live in Lucknow, which is pretty much a provincial town, the new Pijja Hut and Cafe Coffeeday notwithstanding. Ya ya, I know, a metro doth not a Cafe make, but I guess you know what I am trying to say. The bakhsheesh syndrome (BS) is in full swing in such towns during such occasions.

A few days before any major festival like the D-day, there is palpable BS in the air. Hordes of wannabe and veteran tippees start popping up all over the neighbourhood, like dengue cases in Delhi. They come in all colors and shapes too. You have the postman, the garbageman, the bai, the 23 peons in sarkari offices (my dad is a bank manager in a nationalized bank), the driver, the Blue Dart courier delivery kid, the watchman and so on. Every year, I find a whole new genre of tippees showing up at my folks' house.

Now as all of you know, the tipping process is a three-way handshake. First, the tippee initiates the courting process, where he/she sends out pheromones to allure the tipper. The second phase is when the tipper acknowledges that he/she too feels the same way and the third phase deals with the negotiation and transfer of the tip.

The courting phase is usually almost silent, with all signals exchanged aankho-hi-aankho-mein. I say "almost silent", because, usually phlegm is always involved. For example, the postman shows up to deliver a greeting card from my relative, and then lingers, all the while coughing his lungs out in order to convey his desire for the tip. I part with some of my money, just to keep a safe distance from him. The courier kid is pretty savvy in this aspect. He acts coy, flutters his eyebrows, smiles and tells me that he has come 200 metres out of his way, in the afternoon, just to deliver my junk mail. This ploy always works with me, because I get all weak-kneed and get entangled in throes of passion with him, also involving a 20-rupee note.

The garbageman and the watchman usually do not believe in a silent exchange of vows. They show up at the door and go "SHOW ME THE MONEY!!" (politely ofcourse), as if the Lord himself has chosen them to be tipped on the holi day. Nothing wrong with that, its quick, simple and effective. But lacks that element of romance and elusion, the playing-hard-to-get feeling, which is very essential in a relationship between a tipper and a tippee. It is very important for love and money to co-exist, if you ask me.

Then comes the mothership of all tippees -- yes, thats right! The bai. Unlike the watchman and the courier-kid, this one doesn't have to indulge in any foreplay or dirty-talk to get her tip (Ya I know what you are thinking, you SICKO!, it doesn't mean that). It is tacit that the day before Diwali, she is going to get a big load of gifts from my mom. This time, I was fortunate enough to witness the holy transaction. It involved a saree, two boxes of sweets, a packet of almonds and some trinkets. The goodwill, the bonhomie was too much for me to handle and I had to turn towards my computer-game, lest they see my tears of joy. A happy home is definitely one where the parents and the bai live in perfect symbiotic harmony.

Apart from the fine gentlemen and ladies who comprise the class of tippees, we have the extortionists who take undue advantage of the situation (ya i know, the word "undue" is unduly used). These are usually members of some vague mandir committee, who wish to construct a western style toliet in the temple compound, for the squatting pleasure of the priest. These people show a matter-of-fact attitude, as if my wallet really belongs to the Lord (Hindus say there are 84 crores of them, so which one?). Then begins the stare game, where I try to act macho and unyielding, but something about the triple-stripe tilak on their foreheads convinces me that they will break my bones if I don't pay up.

The other kind of extortionists usually consist of some people representing an orphanage, who soul-stirringly explain how the orphans will celebrate a dark diwali unless I fork out fifty bucks. All fine and good, except that the orphanage's name has three spelling errors, and there is no register, which makes me suspect the entire operation. Sometimes they do end up taking my hard earned dough, but mostly, I too give an Oscar-winning performance on the lines of "Aapke sahyogi [colleague] aaye the, unko hum de chuke hain. Diwali ki shubh-kaamnaayein".

The final kind of tippees comprise of the lucky ones, who usually are not looking to get involved, but circumstances throws them into the relationship. Allow me to elaborate. In the few days after Diwali, somehow there usually is some electrical and/or plumbing problem with the house, which requires minor repairs. The repairmen show up and do their task diligently. Now before they leave, and here comes the good part, my mom usually shows up with a box of cashews for them to take home. Strictly, this is not a tip, because they don't ask for it, and we don't grudge giving it. But the sight of a quintal of dry fruits and a ton of barfis as gifts is enough to break the strongest of us. Strong enough for my mom atleast.

I hope I have convinced you of the rich cultural heritage we carry, and as a sign of being patriotic, I hereby request you...ahem! ahem! (cough) shell out a buck or two whenever you read my blog.

PS: I thought I had seen it all, but a week after Diwali, my Delhi-waala garbageman showed up for a tip. It was also the first time he had offered to pick up the garbage of my house. I told him that I am flattered, but I am already seeing someone. Fidelity is important to me.


Tara said...

Very funny :-) bakshis or bonus is very common in all parts of the country... I remember during the Durga pujas in bengal, this "bakshis-factor" was pretty rampant.. it was like a threat almost.. no bakshish, then no mail for a month... or the kamwali wouldn't show up if she didn't get the sari she wanted..
Nice take on the issue..I especially admire you for your fidelity.. :-D

Mudra said...

Lol... very nice! My mother believes in calling the phone-guy, the cable-guy and gang in advance for the tip just to make sure that none of our connections are severed suddenly!

Interesting take on the issue, with all the courting-comparisons :)

Anonymous said...

hey you have an impeccable and impressive way of presenting the way you tell small things so vividly...great going dude!
PS: but nothing till now has outdone your- gunda blog!..that was just too good man!

Anonymous said...

Simply awesome... you seem to have fully recovered from the marathon ;) The analogies are hilarious, albeit expected-only-of-you :D

And fidelity ? Or is it all about keeping all the multitasking mutually-exclusive :p:p

Asterix said...

@tara: Something tells me you don't trust me when I speak of fidelity ;-) Don't go by my looks, as I had said in a previous post. Thanks, by the way.

@mudra: Thanks. Courting is everywhere. I believe, except for marriages, romance is omnipresent :)

@anon: Thanks mate. Gunda can elevate an ordinary mortal onto new heights of creativity, so I don't think I am gonna be able to match that post anytime soon :)

@tweety: Ya I have fully recovered, as is obvious from my analogies of the carnal nature ;-) And yeah, there is only one garbageman in my life and there will always be one!

Anonymous said...

This was a real good one! Thoroughly enjoyed reading it and could relate to every bit of it :)

Anonymous said...

Dil khush kar diya !

Isi baat pe ek aur comment... Diwali bakshish ;)

Asterix said...

@goldensilence: Thanks dude! And regarding the bakshish, I think you forgot to give me the dusshehra and id ones ;-)

sangy said...

the body language intrigues me, though...that perfect mix or bashfulness and brazenness..just right for the purpose. it is a talent, and a useful one at that.

Asterix said...

@sangy: Yes, its an acquired skill, and difficult to acquire at that. Thats why I am warming a seat in an office and the freeloaders are living it up on tips!

Anonymous said...

There are tippers and tippees ; but if you are that amazing tipper who tips everyone so well they actually go happy without sulking; you will be titled the " Tippu Sultan !!"

Cool post..but as someone mentioned - the Gunda post was really the coolest one! i actually read all the reviews of gunda in imdb and am hinting for a cd of the same..

Asterix said...

@flaashgordon: Thanks mate! Your hint has been well taken :) An address will be required for delivering the CD.