Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Monday Blues

Are you a perfect driver? Do you know the nuances of driving inside out? Are you a stickler for road rules? If your answers are in the affirmative, gosh, you are a misfit to be a driver in Chennai city [taro-city] where drivers on the road, mostly the atrocious auto ones, create chaos and anarchy not for them but for others.

So, it is good if you know driving by halves so that you could be a slanging match to those half-boiled drivers on their bizarre driving. For, they learn driving only though a half-a-day capsule driving class as their dying wish is to sit behind the wheels of a car and not to learn proper driving.

I met with a touch and go accident on a Monday morning while I was returning back home from Marina beach after a hectic jogging. The mishap occurred because I made a grave mistake: I observed the traffic rules. There were many occasions when other drivers on the road badmouthed me; calling me names coz I was driving normally observing the prescribed speed limit.

Even my family members always loathe traveling in my car. ‘Who would like a camel-ride on a metro road’, they would quip. Once a flippant little girl said to me sarcastically: ‘uncle, do you know there is a part called accelerator exist in every car.’

Coming to the accident, this was how it panned out. I was driving my Santro on the extreme left on the road, halted my vehicle when a schoolboy in front had difficulty negotiating a pot whole as big as a shrew’s mouth. But then, a biker from behind rammed into my car. She did as a normal drive would do in Chennai. Yes, bikers here won’t accomplish two things at one go: driving and at the same time observing traffic rules.

After slamming her vehicle into mine, she did what any reasonable person will do in the circumstance: varoomed off and disappeared in a split second. The young school boy too cycled away without noticing that he was the cause of the accident, a freak one at that.

When an accident occurs even in a remote place in Chennai, you’ll first see a crowd rushes to the spot from nowhere … like a flash in the pan. The arrival of the crowd has always been sudden and swift like a lightning. And then, somebody in the crowd, instead of offering first-aid, will start advising to whoever is in a state to listen. That means, to anyone who is technically not dead or dying.

Naturally, I too was at the receiving end. ‘You should have been more careful’, I heard a lady speaking from the throng. ‘I was careful and that’s why I stopped my car’ I bellowed hiding my usual thin, subdued voice. For, I know the crowd psychology… I know the way a throng would behave in such a situation. That’s way I shouted in a falsetto voice so that the people standing around me would think there was nothing wrong with my driving. The lady who shouted at me now looked at the other way.

‘Was she drunk’? Another scrawny man, seemed a peddler, shouted. ‘I don’t know.’ I spouted my lips. There was an awkward silence for a few seconds before someone chimed… a pesky intrusion. ‘You’re lucky. Last week a cyclist mowed down a motorist in the signal. The driver died on the spot, his skull was broken.’ This is an exaggerated morbid fetish … a hyperbole. The speaker must be a script writer though he did not let any such airs’, I thought amusingly. You will always have people like that, recounting gruesome accidents in the most ghastly ways to someone who is beginning to reconcile with the trauma he/she is involved.

Seeing the commotion, a beat constable came running over to us. When I started narrating what happened, he cut me short and asked: ‘Did you notice the register number of the bike?’

‘She sped off even before I could feel that someone hit my car’ I began slobbering.

‘Oh, there you’re. Educated people are like that. You aren’t alert, but blame the police for not booking the offenders,’ the beat constable shot back accusingly.

‘Can you at least tell me how she looked like?

I didn’t want to disappoint the cop this time. So, I happily started giving forth the facial features of the biker who rammed into my car:

‘The biker was a lady, sir. She was incognito, covering her face with duppatta. Her whole face and head was shrouded. She wore sunglasses. She had long gloves pulled up to well over her elbows.’

The policeman stood aghast, looking at me sternly.

The road was now getting busier with  heavy morning traffic. I started off my car hoping the police would net the lady soon.

Image courtesy: Google
Inputs source: NT                                         

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Sentimental Chameleons—Part III

Another day blossomed in the Plant of the Universe. The sun was young; a cool guy—yet to become a tyrant. Sharma had left home for the station much earlier. On the way, he bought a sweet packet from a Sweet Meat stall. ‘Why, I couldn’t speak to the motorman so far? I must speak to him today by all means and hand him this packet as a token of my gratitude for what he has been doing to me and my family’, Sharma thought, grinning.

Stepping into the platform, Sharma went straight to the place where the motor cars of the unit trains would halt. He sat in one of the rugged cement benches and focused his eyes on the tracks.

A few seconds later, a unit train chugged into the station with its motor car halted at its usual place with a thud. Parking himself comfortably near the car, he looked through the window, holding the sweet packet tightly. Gosh! His man was not there. Instead, he saw a sturdy young man sitting behind the wheels. Sharma’s face went pale. Disappointed, he returned back to the bench, perked up his ears, waiting for the hooting of another train.

Two hours went by, but it seemed a decade. Sharma flitted about the station for some time, had seen many trains screeching to halt at the station and then chugging out of the station with screams. But, he couldn’t see his man … his benefactor’s face. He became restless; the agony of waiting got into his nerves. ‘May be, the motorman is on leave today’, he moaned not taking his eyes from the tracks. His eyes became heavy with fatigue; he felt something tugging at his heart. Finally, after some more waiting, he abandoned his ‘Operation Dharshan’ with great reluctance. His heart whined; he became nervous.

Dispirited, he began rambling on along the platform again. When he came near the SM’s cabin, he saw a big crowd milling around therein. An old woman was wailing inconsolably, her hair disheveled, eyes swelled. She was sitting on the floor, beating her chest with hands and crying endlessly. Lying in state near her on a bench was the body of an old man.

Sharma bent down and looked at the body. He shuddered, his heart collapsed. He couldn’t believe his eyes. To make sure what he saw was not an optical illusion, he looked again at the body. No doubt, it was the motorman. He could very well recognize the goatee trimmed haphazardly. The face, full of creases, wrinkles and scars, was familiar to him. Sharma turned his head away from the body in disgust.

‘I saw him yesterday. He looked fine. How come he died so suddenly today, sir?’ He asked the SM [he is Sharma’s long term acquaintance] when he came out of his cabin calling out the wailing old woman, the motorman’s wife.

‘He’s Daniel sir, one of my best friends,’ the SM spoke in a whisper, his voice broken. ‘Dany had his off today. He came to see me. We were talking about his daughter’s marriage. Suddenly, he complained of chest pain, started throwing up. We scurried a doctor from a nearby hospital. But before the arrival of the doctor, he collapsed and breathed his last. Life was not kind to him. His financial hiccups got better of him.’

Sharma stood transfixed for some time. The unexpected death of his favorite man began to oppress him badly. But, he stood strongly on his ground. It only took a few minutes for him to recover himself from the shock … to make up his mind. Having got rid of the sagging spirits, he walked out of the station hurriedly after throwing the sweet packet on the tracks. ‘I got to live, no matter how many skies are falling around me,’ he thought. When he got home, his mother knitted her brows in wonder and asked him: ‘Why, Sharma? Why did you come home so early? Are you alright?’

‘Aiyo, Amma, I saw a dead body in the station. An old man. He looked so decrepit and ugly’. Sharma spoke smugly, his face contorted. ‘I couldn’t bear the sight of his face. It’s disgusting. I felt like throwing up. The moment I saw the body, I felt as if some impurities had crept into my body. I want to get myself cleansed. I must take a bath now. That’s why I rushed home without going to the office.’ Sharma went to his room, took of his clothes and draped himself in a towel.

‘Did you see the motorman today? His mother asked. Her face was writ large with anxiety; thoughts were hovering over ‘Boomi Puja’.

‘No, Amma. I didn’t see him today, nor do I want to see him hereafter. After all he is a human being, not god. I heard a Sadhu from Kashi coming to our Hanuman temple tomorrow. We’ll go and have a Dharshan of him.’ Sharma said after stepping into the bathroom and slamming its door.


Image courtesy: Google