Tuesday, October 7, 2008



There’s a distinct species that rules our Pune city roads, setting it apart from all the other la de dah metros …Nope...it’s not the poor cyclist, or the hapless pedestrian, neither is it the hanging-by-a-collar bus commuter, our beloved cousin Mumbai beats us hollow once again on this front with Bangalore coming in a close second…
Just take a peek out of your air conditioned skoda, and you can’t miss the ‘mummy driver’ that zips around on scooters, wrapped up from head to toe, deftly dodging cops, breaking signals and juggling mobiles and many a times, hunkered behind the scruffy boyfriend, dad can’t stand….You guessed it! It’s the Bandit Queen of Deccan….

This ageless species is interestingly - a ‘Women’s’ Only Club’. Entry to this select club is by simply wrapping yourself from head to toe in a duppatta…and taking to the roads, recklessly ferrying your kids or yourself all over town on a two-wheeler high, on adrenaline!

When quizzed by the city’s paparazzi for the nth time as why they insist on not saving their brains by wearing a helmet like their male motorcycle counterpart, the first Bandit Queen sighs deeply and mutters through mouthfuls of cloth, a perfectly irrefutable reason…
‘As per world gas emission levels report, Pune’s pollution is currently at the Nazi gas chamber level, yaar’ She then rolls her eyes heavenwards, coughs delicately to emphasize her point and piously claims that the simple dupatta is a superbly effective way to keep out the disgusting smoke!
But of course, no one knows about the 10 ciggies she smokes with her bandit queen buddies when unwrapped and chilling at a nightclub…
The second similarly attired friend grandly lists another brilliant reason that sets everyone nodding in unison.
‘ The embalming keeps your skin fair and lovely from all the UV rays man’
Uh huh, I nod blankly thinking, aren’t you already a shade darker than cocoa and wait a minute! It isn’t summer anymore… Just when you wonder if the rest of the population is missing out on a horde of secret, unknown health tips, the third bandit pipes up sagely to ask –
‘ Auntie, do you know what happens to us when we’re stopped by a cop?’ The ordinary unmasked commuter like me is flummoxed! I twiddle my thumbs nervously, scratch my head and wonder, Is this a Are you Smarter than a Fifth Grader quiz?
‘You get thrown into jail for masquerading as Phoolan Devi? I ask meekly, hazarding a wild guess.
The Bandit Queens grin evilly behind their mummification…and whisper hoarsely...
Nothing ever happens! All that the cops will ever remember of me, as I speed away into the sunset, surrounded by other Bandit Queens, is a pair of the smokiest eyes he has ever seen... So try getting someone to file an FIR if I do happen to knock you down senseless!’ she laughs.
Now I’m really impressed.
Who would have ever thought that just a yard of cloth, meant to cover a woman’s modesty could come in so handy…My pulse quickens, adrenaline floods my body and my mind begins to whirl with the exciting possibility of recruiting a troop of Bandit Queens to zoom around town, chasing down all the guys that have managed to muck up our city...
Just like Phoolan Devi did when she set out to avenge her lost love…
Long Live the Bandit Queen and may her tribe increase!