Thursday, February 26, 2009

Traffic Offenders and other roadies (3)

I knew it.
I knew it from the time I was a little child, that three was an unlucky number. How was I to know that that number would come to haunt me day in and night out, when I was out driving on the roads?!
Three wheelers! Auto rickshaws. Autos. Whatever you choose to call them.
They scuttle across the Northern part of Mumbai like they own it. As a matter of fact, they think they do. That part of the city is largely infested by them and as they increase in epidemic proportions, the lesser population can do nothing but give in. Give in to the noise, the indiscipline and the sheer incorrigibility of the auto rickshaws (and their drivers) of Mumbai.
I’ve seen them in other cities and I am sure they are worse. But in a city where I am myself behind the wheel, these three-wheelers take gross (or maybe pestilential) proportions.
Cockroach! I say with venom as one scuttles right across me cutting into my flight path.
If there was an evolution of species in the automobile world, autorickshaws would be the equivalent of cockroaches. Darwin, God bless his soul, would have heartily agreed with me, if he sat with me in my passenger seat, that they do behave like cockroaches.
For one, they have this amazing capacity to scuttle infuriatingly slowly in front of you. Then, again like cockroaches, they can turn around and face you and look you squarely in the eye in a blink. And the pestilence does not end there. They have this amazing capacity, like their creepy-crawly lookalikes to weasel themselves into the smallest of places and add to the mayhem that already exists on the roads.
What’s really uncanny about this resemblance, (and believe me, guys, I am sort of getting a doctorate in this area of research now!), is their fragile quality – a push here, a shove there, or a decent-sized pothole and they’ve upturned themselves very much like the insect upended with flailing limbs and antennae.
I was once in an autorickshaw that was knocked down by a bus! The bus just gave a gentle nudge and the vehicle toppled sideways, went skidding around in circles till it came to a complete stop. When the spinning stopped, from being seated vertically, my friend and I were now sideways, almost in a crouch-like position in contact with the road. We emerged from the autorickshaw in full view of a very helpful crowd, like Goddesses emerging out a lotus. If I was not involved in the accident myself, it would have been funny. Needless to say, if you’ve ever seen an auto toppled sideways and the driver emerging with great agility out of the side entrance of the auto, you’ll know what I mean.
It is said that in case of a nuclear holocaust the only species likely to survive is the cockroach.
I would add to that, it will be the cockroach and the auto rickshaw driver. Let me explain. Have you ever had an anxious moment when your car indicator is not working and you have to either resort to hand signals or worse still, no signals till you get quick help from a mechanic? The auto driver never has that anxious moment. In the first place, he’s unlikely to use any indicators (or even headlights in pitch darkness) at all. Secondly he is unlikely to give signals… he just likes to keep that surprise element going in your life. But, in case, just in case, one fine day, he does decide he wants to signal a right or a left turn, he doesn’t depend on indicator or hand signals. Driving behind an auto while you are concentrating on his next move, oops! What’s this? Voila! Here’ a leg! Out pops a foot from the side! You blink. It’s either bare or shoddily clad in footwear that has seen better days, precariously dangling from the toes. And its gracelessness is somehow telling you that our fellow traveler is likely to turn right. Talk about being footloose and fancy-free.
So what’s the solution for these road cockroaches? A good pest control spray. If you ask me my choice, I would pass over Baygon Spray and choose HIT!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Back from a Hiatus

On 26th November at 10 pm, my son had casually switched on the television. Suddenly all hell broke loose as news of some firings were reported. Soon more came pouring in. Like most other people thoughts of gang wars at Leopold Café (with Shantaram being a recent read) crossed my mind. But things seemed to get much worse. V.T. Cama Hospital. The Taj. The Oberoi. Riveted, we sat glued to the television.
As the painful drama unfolded over the next three days, I sat, ate and had countless cups of coffee in front of the TV screen (and I don’t watch television otherwise!) I even slept with the TV on in the vain hope that my keeping it on would result in this whole nightmare ending quickly.
The agony I suffered, like most Mumbaikars, cannot be described in words. It was a simultaneous assault on our city, our people, our guests and most of all, on our national pride. It stirred nationalistic feelings in us that were probably last experienced by our parents or grandparents before 1947. Suddenly a violent streak emerged in the best of us. Even I was now ready for war.
In those few days of terror, my blog dried up. Went kaput. Bust! A writer's blog had become a writer's block!
I just could not bring myself to write. Everything seemed so trivial in the face of such immense tragedy. Over the next few days heart-rending stories of loss and survival were told and retold. Some people we knew. Some we knew about. Some were people who knew people we knew. In any case we were connected and the collective sorrow became ours alone.
Can anything be greater, more important than the senseless loss of human life? Can anything be worth writing about than what was already being written by the hand of Fate? Can anything be worth reading than what was so tragically occurring in and around us?
I couldn’t find anything. I was silent.
But the silence has not been well tolerated.
It was heartening to know that people had been reading my blog.
So having been spurred on with some friendly ‘nudges’ (and a knuckle rap, thanks NF!) I decided to explain my absence as a ‘hiatus’.
I even checked out the word on, guess what, Facebook. And helpful friends returned with helpful definitions. A break. A pause they said. I agreed with the meaning but was wondering if it was appropriate in these circumstances.
Till I looked it up in Wikipedia. The first obvious definition was
: A period of time where one is on a break
But as I read on it gave me the exact meaning of the word:
a period in which one is injured or hurt.Kind of sums it up, doesn’t it? Do I need to say more?

Except that I am back.