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Top 5 tips to buying petrol in Chennai

In case you have been spending the past few days in the International Space Station, let me bring you up to date with what is happening in Chennai. The petrol and diesel situation in Chennai is becoming worse. In brief the situation is this. There is no fuel in the city. Neither petrol nor diesel. It cannot get briefer than that. But as always brevity leads to some inaccuracies. It is not that there is no fuel at all. There is some fuel. Somewhere. It is just that nobody knows where.

As my friends would readily attest, I am a socially conscious, ethical, large hearted, selfless individual reminding them mostly of those heroes in the movies who, while mouthing take-my-life-but-spare-that-person’s  dialogues, run and position themselves, with open arms as if about to hug somebody, between the gun and the intended recipient of the bullet. Not wanting to prove them wrong, I thought I should make a list of tips for those who have had the privilege of not having to fill petrol in their vehicles in the last one week, but whose fuel level indicators are slowly making them come back to earth and urging them to wonder what all this fuss about fuel shortage is. Here are the top 5 tips then.

1. Connect: The first step is to find out which petrol bunks still have petrol. For that, log in to Facebook. In the past one week, anybody who had had the courage and perseverance to fill their petrol tanks, is given a fan page on Facebook. So if you find all the people who have become celebrities in the past one week, you can reach out to them and find out where they got their petrol from. That will be your starting point. If you are like me, who cant navigate around Facebook, then I suggest you travel through Chennai, stop at every traffic signal, and talk to people who are still moving around in motorcycles or cars. Let not their god-like appearance deter you from approaching them. “In situations like these petrol owners indeed appear divine. But it is an illusion”, says Chennai’s leading psychologist, who also runs a show on Zee Tamil, solving matrimonial problems of most people in Chennai. But such a strategy, might might lead you to be mistaken for the others who normally sell toys, children’s books etc at signals. But you have no option. If you want petrol, some sacrifices, like losing your self respect, are in order.

2. Plan and Prepare: I do not know if you have scaled Mount Everest before, but if you have, then you have a slight edge. If you have not done that, I strongly recommend doing that first. Don’t just start your bike and head for the petrol bunk. Plan ahead. Think of the rations you will need. Get lots of instant noodles. Take a tent. Learn how to pitch it. Take a sleeping bag. Carry a torch with 2 sets of spare batteries. Learn how to attend all your nature calls in the open (don’t worry too much on this point. You can learn this on the go, since there will always be people on the street ready to show you a demo). Recharge your mobile phones, take your MP3 player. Get yourself some books, preferably the ones with titles like “No one will cry when you die” that are out to motivate you to do higher things in life. Make a list of old friends with whom you have not been in touch for a while, but have been thinking of talking to on the phone. Even better, if you have friends in the neighborhood, ask them to join you. After all, they too will need petrol. This will ensure that the few days you will spend at the petrol bunk, pass off with as little pain as possible. Take up astronomy as a hobby. That way the nights will be much more educative. But to all those Everesters, I need to tell you something. Don’t carry your mini stove. It is Chennai and it is May. You will be laughed at without any mercy.

3. Keep your spirits high: Do not tell your mom you are going away for a few days. You know how moms stretch goodbyes. I learnt it from reliable sources, that my mom used to cry even when I left for school everyday. With an adorable child like me, I cant blame her. But moms of even ordinary children, do have the that tendency, you know. And the moment they start crying, all your will power will crumble like the walls of a Low Income Group apartment built by the Government. With your wife, it is a different matter altogether. Tell her what you are setting out for. So she can be proud and tell others what a dreamer her husband is. Your esteem will rise in her eyes. I am telling you all this, because once at the petrol bunk, life is not at all easy and you need to keep your morale high. I have warned you.

There will be the petrol bunk owner, who has a room inside the premises with an air conditioner, who will refuse to wake up, even as thousands wait outside the petrol bunk, with unbrushed teeth and unemptied bowels and bladders. There will be the policeman, who regulates vehicles into and out of the petrol bunks, who will occasionally let his own family members in, without their having to wait in the queue. There will be other dreamers, no doubt with intentions of making their wives proud too, who will rush ahead of your from behind not caring for the ethics of standing in a queue. You cannot fight with them, as you will have to conserve as much energy  as possible for the final leg where oxygen levels start getting really low(Mountaineers have an edge, I told you), because of increase crowding as you get closer to the petrol. There will also be the petrol bunk attenders who will make statements like “This is going to be the situation for the next two years”. You need to be mentally strong to overcome all of this.

4. Don’t carry cash: With rising petrol prices, the Central Government, in all its compassion, has given an advisory not to carry cash to petrol bunks to pay for the petrol. We humans, are incapable of handling large numbers. With the current levels of petrol prices, customers, given the price of 1 litre of petrol, will not even be able to calculate even what 2 litres would cost. Keeping this in mind the government, has decided that it was best for citizens to leave all the complicated math to the Department of Space, which, in addition to its core strength of astronomy (which means they deal with huge numbers everyday), also seems to have good experience in dealing with lots of money. Now, when some one buys petrol, we will not know how much it cost us, till we go home and see the account statement, at which point we can have access to BP reducing drugs. This is in one sense a good thing, as it leads to reduced violence at the petrol bunks.

You might object to this idea, since not every citizen in India might have access to credit or debit cards. The government’s focus on aam aadmi shines through here, and so it specifies in the advisory that, for the benefit of those who still carry cash to the petrol bunks, all outlets now must have emergency medical care to handle heart attacks that could result as soon as the customers are shown the bill.

5. Don’t move: This is by far the best tip that I have come up with. Travel as little as possible. I understand that many will say they have to go to work. Show me somebody who raises this objection and I will show you somebody who either does not understand Math or is an Ambani. I have always been good at Math, I did my undergraduation in Mathematics, and I know how to do formulas in excel, I am a reasonably good software engineer too. I spent an hour  calculating my monthly budget yesterday, and it stuck me, that instead of spending money to travel to work and earn a salary, my deficit would be much lesser, if I just sit at home and earn nothing. My wife too agrees. I am serious. How else do you think I was able to find time to write this post?

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