Sunday, 24 June 2012

Paying the Electricity Bill

Tamil Nadu Electricity Board

One of the things I've been most aware of here in Chennai is how many more steps are involved in doing simple things. For example, in London, my electricity bill is paid by direct deposit from my bank account so there isn't really anything that I need to do every month for it. Here in Chennai... things are a bit more complicated. I'm sure there is some way to pay on-line or via mail but we decided to go in person just to make sure everything went smoothly. So we hopped in the car and headed to the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board here in our neighbourhood, Besant Nagar.

Nipsi looking so thrilled to be here

The building itself was surprisingly run down... I guess I was expecting a shiny modern building but that was definitely not the case. If you weren't looking carefully, you could easily miss it as it looks just like all the other apartment buildings and businesses in our area. The office was on the second floor and upon entering, we were greeted with a long counter where the staff members were protected by a ceiling high fence. Naturally this seemed kind of daunting and I immediately started to wonder if the other customers waiting were secretly the hot heads the staff members needed protection from.

Counter with protective barrier

The hours of operation were pretty strict (as we had found out previously when we arrived at three to try and pay our bill) with staff only accepting payment between 8:30 and 14:30, with an hour long break for lunch from 12:30 to 13:30. It was slightly infuriating since the only sign that tells you this is located in the office affixed to the counter... so you had to come all the way into the office to find out you couldn't actually pay after all. Annoying! 

Hours when payment is accepted 

Nipsi and I got some very strange looks when we wandered in, all set to pay our bill. We quickly realized it was because we were the only women in the group. While this is not necessarily unusual, the idea of young unmarried women living on their own is still considered very strange for most of the inhabitants of Chennai. Young women, and men for that matter, tend to remain living with their families until they get married. After that, depending on your socio-economic status, some couples choose to get their own place. However, I've been surprised to find that the majority still choose to live with the husband's family after the wedding. Therefore, a flat shared between unmarried flatmates - something that is completely normal in London where rents are so unreasonably expensive - is almost unheard of. In fact, many landlords still require the signature of a husband, brother or father before a young woman can rent their accommodation on her own. I can't even imagine my landlord in London asking me for that!

Nipsi paying our bill 

Aside from the strange looks, the whole experience was relatively pain-free and quick, which left us the rest of the day to run other errands. On the way, we saw this fine example of yet another unsafe way to travel...

So, so dangerous! 

1 comment:

  1. Oh this makes me frustrated, just reading about it! I'm sure I would find some way to be INFURIATED by this process.

    ...I'm pretty sure the Newcomb mail ladies have a hand in Chennai's electricity business. It seems THAT inefficient. Then again, they loved you....