It’s been a really long time since I blogged – something I realized only when I read a comment that expressed surprise that my blog was still active. Not that I can really call it active I guess given the length of time that I’ve been inactive in the blogging sense of the word, but hey, let’s not get all caught up in the semantics of the situation – if that is what I mean to say.
Was flying KF the other day and the movie channel happened to be showing a flick called Dhamaal which is a blatant rip-off of the excellent Rowan Atkinson starrer Rat Race (which is a must-watch in my opinion and co-stars Whoopi, Cuba Gooding Jr, John Kleese and others). Anyway, a scene in the movie involved one character driving his car straight into a tree and that really reminded me of an incident that happened with me once way back in a time and place that seems to be covered in that ever-so-romantic mist of cobwebs and dust…sorry, memories and lust…err…you get the picture!
That reminds me rather that I need to provide a smidgen of background here perhaps. It was my second year of Engineering in the God-forsaken place I describe and while I grew to love it immensely later, this was the time when the sole benefits of the place were that I was free from the shackles of home and had an illegally-acquired credit card. It was a combination of my realization of my new financial responsibilities and the credit card though that had probably resulted in my state of pecuniary bankruptcy. I am convinced to this date that this was only because the restaurant I frequented had realized for some reason that my signature did not match completely with that of my uncle, whose card it was, but some people I know believe that it may have had something to do with the fact that my uncle had been dead for the last four years and the card had expired well before even that sad passing.
Anyway, I awoke this particular mid-afternoon with the mild remnants of a hang-over of the sort that afflicts those that stay up on a 7-hour long drinking binge. One of those mild affairs that involve your feeling like a highway stone-breaker is trying to hammer his way out of the confines of your skull on both sides and is using a pointed axe for the purpose. While I do acknowledge that this vision may test the imagination of a few, I trust that it has done the job of conveying what I intend to convey.
That apart though, I felt as fit as any hung-over drunkard with a combined financial fortune of Rs 200 ever can and decided that this would be the day I traveled to the city (which had a massive population of 50 thousand people I reckon, though one would hardly have suspected that, given the emptiness of the streets after 3 in the morning) and purchase replacements for my stilts which were beginning to creak in an ominous way and also grace my friend’s place with my presence for lunch; the latter being the one of the few bright spots that a hosteler in an Engineering college in the backwaters of Jharkhand (though the place is the capital now) can possibly look forward to during that four year course in sycophancy and globe-spouting.
With these noble and charitable intentions in mind therefore, I set about the odious task of availing for myself the services of an auto-rickshaw, that three-wheeled monstrosity which cursed though it is by every motorist and pedestrian on the streets of Bombay, happened to bear an eerie likeness to manna from Heaven in the afore-mentioned backwaters of Jharkhand. After a bone-jolting 3 kilometer ride in a cycle-rickshaw which seemed to awaken an even bigger beast than I had earlier suspected to reside in that stone-breaker within my skull, I reached the highway and a couple of failed attempts at skirt-raising later (failed, only because I was not actually wearing a skirt and auto-drivers tend to be wary of drunkards hitching their jeans above their knees in an attempt to entice them to stop), I actually managed to get myself an auto; a feat that caused me to indulge in more than a little marveling at my unexpected and hitherto (and thenceforth as well, with the benefit of hindsight) undemonstrated skill at hailing autos and negotiating rock-bottom prices with them!
A few minutes later though and the man in my head seemed to die a sudden death. A death as sudden as the vanishing of the pleasant sleep that had begun to descend upon me with the rhythmic jolting of an auto traveling over gravelly roads. The auto-driver you see had turned around and was addressing me and even in my heightened state of drowsiness and despite the fact that I was reeking like a few dozen breweries, I had the whiff of a distinct and extremely strong smell of hooch – country liquor that is, for the uninitiated.
“Aap eehaa se nahi na hain?” he slurred. (“You’re not from here, are you?”)
“Err. Nahin”, I responded with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach (“Err… No”)
“Par hum to yahinye ke hain”, he leered (“But I am from this place itself”)
“Hmm… accha. Bhaiyya, zaraa road ko dekh ke chalao”, (“That’s alright, but please look at the road while driving”) I said, with the uncomfortable and growing realization that the chappie seemed to think I was some buxom beauty or something, given that he had not turned his face away from me since I had stepped into the auto – an observation that caused even my own dim brain to realize that he really could not have been looking at the road ahead, which being a national highway was populated with a far from negligible number of speeding trucks.
“Arre bhaiyya, oo sab to theek hai, par hamaara usool hai ki dil apna aur preet parayee”, he told me cheerfully. (“That’s all fine, but my credo is, dil apna aur preet parayee” – I am unable to translate this quite frankly)
“Bhaiyya, road dekh lo. Aage se truck aa rahi hai” (“Look at the road. There’s a truck approaching”).
“Arre, oo sab theek hai bhai-saab. Aaj main aapko daaru pilaoonga. Apne type ka. Aapke paas paisa nahi tha, aapne kahaa tha. Toh chaliye, aaj hum aapko pilayenge. Humaara usool hai ki dil apna aur preet parayee” (“Oh, that’s all fine, sir. Today I will treat you to liquor. My type of liquor. You said you were short of cash – I had said that while negotiating and was repenting that statement by the split second – so today I will treat you. My credo is dil apna aur preet parayee”)
The truck managed to avoid us despite the best efforts of the driver and I had realized that I didn’t really know what I fancied more: a crash and subsequent hospitalization and amputation of my foot-long lower limbs or surviving and having to accompany the lunatic to ‘his type’ of boozer!
“Bhaiyya, road dekh lo please. Dono ko marvaoge. Aage turn bhi hai” (“Please look at the road. You’ll get both of us killed. There’s a turn up ahead as well!”)
“Haan bhaiyya, zindagi mein bhi bahut turn hota hai. Isi liye humara usool hai ki dil apna aur preet parayee” (“Yes, there are a lot of turns in life as well, which is why my credo is dil apna aur preet parayee”)
“AAGE DEKHO!!!” (“LOOK AHEAD!!!”)
“Haan bhaiyya, isi liye, dil apna aur…” (“Yes, that is why, dil apna aur…”)
We went into a tree as the road turned and neither the auto driver’s head nor the auto itself happened to turn in keeping with the principle that vehicles should follow the road. As I opened my eyes, I saw that the windshield was smashed, the wiper was hanging like a grotesquely severed limb and the auto itself was at an uncomfortable incline with me back therefore at an uncomfortable angle.
“…preet parayee. Arre sala, ee ka hai? Kaun hai be?” (“…preet parayee. Hoy! What is that? Who is that?”), continued my decidedly sozzled and self-anointed would-be drinking mate.
As I crept out of the auto and tested with great trepidation, my ability to stand without support, I saw to my disgust that the chap was standing outside and remonstrating with the tree, “Ka ba? Ka dikhta nahin hai ka? Hum to bole the ki humra usool hai…” (“What’s up? Can’t you see? I had said earlier that my credo is…”) and that was when I left the spot…
Without getting into what follows, let us just leave things with the following as taken. I left the spot in a remarkable hurry and without actually paying the chappie a dime, which was fair enough I thought, given the circumstances. However, given the sudden revitalization of the bloke inside my head, who had seemingly only gone missing in order to fetch his army of fellow axe-wielders and my newfound knowledge that my knees were in fact made of a particularly wobbly kind of jelly, I decided to let laziness reign over necessity and wisely opted to hail a shared vehicle (known in those parts as a ‘trekker’ – a peculiarity that I shall describe in greater detail in a future post) that transported me back to the comforts of my room…
Needless to say, I never bothered bargaining with an auto driver again… And to be quite honest, I still don't know whether I was more relieved at being unhurt or at the fact that I had just escaped the prospect of a drinks session with the man...
Next stop? More on consulting as a profession, a Mars continuation and of course, more from the Engg classrooms…