‘Petrol ke daam aasmaan choo rahe hain’ was the headline in the morning news. Prices of petrol are touching such heights, that a bottle of beer and a litre of petrol are almost the same so, ya to ghoom lo, ya jhoom lo. In every household ‘chai pe only charcha’ is about ‘petrol pe kharcha’.

India being a land of jugads, people started buying ‘shells’ of old cars and attached them to donkey carts. They called it a ‘non ac jahaz’. At least there is shade for the “pilot” and the passengers to commute comfortably. Imagine savings on petrol, with a feel of a car.

There was a time when adulteration of petrol was at its prime due to its rising prices. Kerosene and naphtha were added to petrol. Budgets then and budgets now went for a toss. ‘Sarkari maikama’ people were famous for selling ‘sarkari petrol’ in black, siphoned out of government vehicles. Now gormint is doing the same to the money from our pockets.

Gormint had a jugad to counter illegal sale of kerosene. They infused a blue dye in kerosene. Any vehicle emitting thick white smoke out of its exhaust, like a steam engine puffing, was sure to be using such adulterated stuff.

People modified diesel engines for motorcycles to save money. The difference of prices between diesel and petrol then was more than thirty bucks. Now that price difference is marginal. The news anchor highlighted the fact that petrol prices in Nepal are much cheaper than in India. People cross over with their empty jerry cans and come back and sell petrol in ‘Black’ after topping up their own vehicles. Had Pakistan not been in the way, Indians would have driven across to Iran to get cheaper fuel.

It reminded me of how things got mixed up in our car’s fuel tank. We were returning from our weekend outing and the ‘caution light’ of low fuel came up on the dashboard. Luckily we were close to the only gas station in our vicinity. This petrol station they say, is known for its purity and correct measurement of fuel. But they too mixed it up.

Like their usual drill, “saab zero check kar lo” and I nodded. “Kitna dalna hai”? I told this guy “tank full kar do”. These petrol pump guys love people who say “tank full”. You suddenly become their preferred customer and a boy appears with soap water to clean your windscreen. In went the nozzle and was locked to automatically stop when the fuel touched its tip.

What was he filling? My eleventh sense told me that he had shoved the wrong fuel pipe in. Like a flash, I got out of my seat and went to the rear and my heart sank. He had put the diesel pipe into it. Without wasting a second I pulled the damn thing out but by then about fifteen litres had been pumped in. I lost my shirt.

These days from the same curb side pump there is a provision, that from one side you can have petrol going and from the other side diesel. With cars now available in both versions, unless one specifies, such mishaps are bound to happen. Petrol pump chaps did not charge me for diesel and apologised. He gave me a suggestion to put a sticker “PETROL” on the fuel tank flap, which I have yet to comply with.

The dilemma in my mind was whether to drain out the fuel tank or take a chance to top it up with petrol and see if something happens. I went for the latter. The anticipation that the car will give jhatkas and show some nakhras, sometimes spurt and backfire. If the car broke down, then it would have entailed ‘car pe bin matlab kharcha’.

My fingers were always crossed that one day the car won’t start. I would start it and watch the exhaust, if it threw black fumes. That too didn’t happen. Gradually, the fuel indicator kept shifting left and one day the low fuel indicator light popped up. I thanked my stars as the car was running fine. We topped her up with petrol. Just to give it a thorough mix, I shook the car like the master of ceremonies for Tambola says, “and a shake” and shook all the numbers in his basket.

Be that as it may, we all don’t know when will brakes be applied to the speed at which the prices of Petrol are skyrocketing. We Indians will definitely find a new method to beat the prices soon. It is not correct to burden the common man’s budget like this. Is the ‘Gormint’ going to bring down petrol prices or only do “kharche pe charcha”? I wonder!