Saturday, July 24, 2010

Blessing in Disguise

Okay! I admit it! I am a slave to the pleasures of having your own car. I have been denying it to the world, stating my minimalistic ideals in life. Always claimed that 'the car' was only a tool to help me survive the many roles I play....

Well, all that came crashing down when my car broke down, in a very martyrdom fashion, right outside my gate late one evening, just when all I could think of was a shower and sleep. Needless to say, my world got sucked into the black hole of "How do I"s..... And the fact that all the answers had to come from the already exhausted cells in my brain, did not reduce my misery.

Thus began my road to rediscovery! I had to plan the next day frantically, and had to leave earlier than usual, because I know I usually drive a little past the speed limits...... and today no such feat was going to happen!

In my part of the world, we have this unbelievable carrier called the cycle rikshaw (or 'rikshaaaaaa...' as Delhizens like to call it). Unbelievable because the driver is a fine line between heroic and suicidal - the way he pulls the rickshaw through the rogue traffic. Being in the passenger seat is no less thrilling than a barefoot walk on hot coals. I had to take one of these to reach a place where I would find a motorised version of the same - an auto rikshaw!

The cycle rikshaw guy was a weird fellow who sang loudly, and sang louder to get passers by to move out of his way. And I really didn't like the glances that came my way. But my 2 year old certainly was enjoying himself, bobbing up and down with every pothole on the road, and shaking his head to every change in the singer's pitch!

Finally, I told him to turn the volume down. The guy turns around to look at me, and stops singing. I am sure he was disappointed that I didn't appreciate his nasal rendition of the latest chart buster! He still looked sullen when i paid him and said thank you... But he did smile back at my son who gave him a winning smile and a bye-bye wave to match.

After dropping my son off, I had the next phase of my journey - the auto ride of about 40 minutes. I was dreading the ride - the heat, the dust, the pollution, and did I mention the heat...? I finally found one auto with a driver who looked less likely to fight out a bargain, and parked myself into the metallic sauna. It seemed to be music day because this guy blares his crackling radio to its capacity. Again, I told a sulky guy to tone down the volume.

After a few minutes, the wind blowing into the auto, and the traffic looking less dismal than usual, one could actually see green trees and some birds too. The buildings too, looked much better and I saw some details I had somehow, managed to miss on my daily commute to work. Kids in uniform, running to reach school..... Grandparents with kids holding on to their finger while walking.... Young go-getters rushing to reach there faster ..... Mothers waiting at the roadside with their kids for the school bus ...all kinds of pleasant distractions. Roadside vendors sprucing up their shops ..... there seemed to be some kind of cheerfulness I usually missed on my everyday hurried clutch-brake-gear-accelerator routine..... and I discovered I was now tapping my foot to the music and smiling - just like that!

After a little while, it felt like floating .... thinking about nothing in particular, and yet about so much happening all around me. It suddenly dawned on me, I was in the passenger seat - not driving, not able to really do much except be carried to a destination. Much like life itself, really. Would life be as simple if one realised that one can only do so much and that the rest has to be left to a higher power? Are the dilemmas and uncertainties of our lives that we find so disturbing, actually a blessing from the heavens? My car break down certainly was!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Induction to the Rest of Our lives

Many of us were with parents or local guardians. Many were proud to have landed there alone - albeit after many misadventures. One thing that was common among all of us was the anticipation, the fear, the exhilaration, the butterflies in tummies... the first day of college.

The sight which greeted us did nothing to clear away the tension - whether it was the potholes in front of the minuscule building, or the sinister looking guys who could have been either our seniors, or the local mafia! From the first day we walked into that building, till the last farewells, we were learning.

The learning curve was a straight line; and we were clumsily stepping over everyones' toes, including our own, trying to learn the ropes! Some of the "Firsts" we learnt in the little white building, the red-bricked, thatched roof restaurant and the 'natural' cafeteria of our college:

1. The first time we Laughed at the face of adversity - literally! We had 'sessions' with our seniors, were nervous to the pit of our stomachs, but ended up giggling like nervous Mr.Bean - causing only the 'sessions' to be more intensive. We then grew to laughing about the prospects of failing a year, getting beaten up by unfriendly local population, not getting a job..... and many more....

2. The first time we wore a 6 meter drape called sari, or tied the chef scarf. Also would like to add ... not just wearing them, but also washing them, ironing them and stealing whatever piece we had lost! We also learnt to flick knives, whisks, chef caps, aprons..... just so that we could attend a class we would otherwise get thrown out of. Heard of beg, borrow, steal? We added life to that !

3. The first time we slept with our eyes open - an art mastered after intensive training in the Samudra classrooms, especially after the challenging lunch! Other things included completing journals (I could write a whole essay on THAT one!), writing scandalous chits to one another, honing finer skills like dreaming, flirting, caricature and food-tasting!

4. The first time we ate fish, meat, rubber......oops beef, and everything resembling food that was on the plate without complaining.... ofcourse, we would go and kick the batchmate who made it later! Not to mention the first time we were coerced into eating dessert with a generous helping of table salt -we call it innovation. And how can we forget the frustration of having to eat meat with cutlery - while avoiding eye contact with seniors!

5.The first time we sat in/rode/owned a real bike! From identifying Yamahas, Hero Hondas, Yezdis, Suzuki samurai and bullets, we graduated to the art of identifying whose bike had just turned round the corner. Also the first time most of us have fallen off / flown of a moving bike! And we all had proud scars to show off!

6. The first time we tasted Ethyl alcohol ... in class. For the record, it was called cocktail session and the end of the class saw a lot of multiple personality disorders.... this progressed to many million gallons finding their way into our lives !

7. The first time we knew what 'fluttering heart' meant... ofcourse, hearts on sleeves, heart aches and heart breaks all followed in due course.....

8.The first time we understood what 'Politically correct' meant - by doing the politically wrong thing first. It is a wonder how we managed to have broken every rule in the book ..... and be pulled out of trouble by the most unexpected quarters! Also must mention here, the first time we felt the practical hues of the words 'playing politics' !

9. The first time we put our lives (or whatever we thought was worth our lives) in the hands of friends... creating bonds that were to last for a long time. The first time we fought someone else's battles, cried someone else's loss, covered someone else's mistake, paid someone else's bills...... we discovered friendship!

10. First time words meant more than words - Attitude problem, counselling, journals, Sitara, Gokulam, Oberoi Interviews, Fandango, Vellar gang, Chefcomp, ATKT - condoned...... and many more. The times we laughed till we cried or the times we discovered emotions ranging from envy, jealousy, inferiority, superiority, to infatuation.

We are one of the lucky ones .... One could fill pages with the memories from the little white building and the red bricked restaurant and the amazing natural cafeteria...... but words wouldn't do them justice, would they?