Wednesday, 4 August 2010

The tale of a weighing machine

If you have been to Indian railway stations, you may have seen those tall contraptions that show your weight. A couple of weeks back, I stood before one of these in the Jatin Das Park metro station. The colourful LEDs blinked in perfect rhythm, the cardboard disc with black-and-white stripes (which invariably remind me of Newton's colour disc) rotated without any hesitation. All symptoms of an alive and kicking thing.

The previous time I had weighed myself, I got a measly 56. This was a goodish 4 below the 60 I weighed back in class 12. With some expectation of improvement, I stood before this shiny yellow giant in JD Park and took out the necessary two rupees from my wallet. Stripped down to whatever bare essentials my surroundings allowed, to get as accurate a reading as possible (removed the watch, put the mobile phone and wallet in my bag and set it aside, removed my sneakers; a la James Blunt).

Normally what happens is that you put the money in the slot after standing on the platform, the machine purrs for an instant, and gives out a small receipt which has your weight on it (some of these receipts often add a Bollywood line as a bonus - I remember one from my childhood that had a rip-roaring Sunny Deol fataka written below my 24 kilos).

This machine - this contraption - kept silent for a long while. I thought, "maybe it's doing some complex calculations, or maybe it just operates on some outdated calculating system" and stood there for ten seconds in anticipation. I put my fingers in the receipt-spitting slot to check if the paper was stuck somewhere inside. Uncheck. I banged lightly on its body, hoping that would set in motion some old rusted gear. It didn't. The monster just kept silent. Like a Jyoti Basu of yesteryears whose CPI(M) goons had committed some dastardly act. Ate up my two bucks without a single regret.

My dignity lost, my two rupees lost, I boarded the train to Sovabazar. And then I thought, "damn, isn't this how a government acts?"

P.S.: It hadn't occurred to me when I first wrote this piece on Facebook, but these weighing machines are several times larger than needed. When those round light things that doctors have can tell your weight efficiently, pray why do you need something the size of an ATM? Which leads me to this.

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