Thursday, July 21, 2011

The street

I spent some time out on the street today. I don't walk anywhere anymore. I don't even drive. I have become the much-dreaded, much-reviled 'Driver, gaadi laana' memsaab. Anyway, the driver in question was on leave today. Although Pramod, well, his job description goes much beyond driving, doesn't it? He is what Jeeves was to Bertram. I am Bertram, yes, in my bumbling, absent-minded ways. But I like to flatter myself that those are traits borne of my writerly life. Who knows where the truth lies? To come back to the point, I went to pick up Adi from his school-bus. I was terrified I'd forget and recently Padma had told me a story about how a kid from a nearby school had been dropped off at his regular stop. Except that no one had come to pick up him. He was found later, crying and bewildered, by some passerby who noted the mobile number given on his id card and called the parents. Yes, these are the stories that parents have to live with. It's a surprise we are able to sleep at nights at all. And so I reached half an hour in advance. Fortunately I'd carried my book along. Corduroy Mansions by Alexander McCall Smith for those interested in details. Fine book, for those interested in reviews. I stood under a tree on the pavement and tried to focus on the text but given that I normally read in the plush confines of the car, this turned out to be awkward. I gave up after some time and looked up and down Linking Road and decided to people-watch instead. A few minutes later, the car right next to me, in the same spot where we park everyday got towed away. It was all most exciting. Three lithe young men in dirty overalls got down and rammed their rods of steel under the car. One of them opened the door-lock in a surprisingly swift and effortless move with a steel ruler, released the parking gear and lo, the car was gone. Lo, as in take, aye lo, yeh toh gaadi le gaye. Lo, as in lo and behold too. Being rather shamefully mean, I wanted to hang around to see the car owner turn up and to witness his expression of dismay which I thought would be most comical. Then I remembered how years back, my own car had been towed away and suddenly things were not that funny anymore. I looked away and saw rats diving into the gutter than runs underneath the pavement. How removed I am from this world, how consciously I avoid all forms of dirt and filth. What an escapist I am, in my life and in my writing. Just no place for the ugliness of the world. Even the book that I am reading, its comforting presence under my arm is delicious because it is gentle, because it describes a London that is warm and people that are far from being cynical. A cyclinder-wallah passed by, in that funny facing-the-wrong-way cart of his, filled with LPG cylinders. He stopped abruptly by the side of the road and took out an empty cylinder and placed it on the pavement. Then he sat down on it and took out his snack, a vada-pav wrapped in a bit of newspaper. He ate quietly and without hurry and I looked at him surreptitiously, aware that it was rude to stare while he ate but unable to help myself. A couple of other parents arrive and I try to make conversation, a little awkward like I always am around strangers but determined to forge ahead anyway. The school bus pulls up and the kids swarm down. Should we take a rickshaw home,  I ask the sweaty, tired little boy with his hand in mine. He looks up at me and I am startled by the eyes once again, so much like mine. Naah, let's walk. And so we do.

11 comments:

Aneela Z said...

What a jannati post! I think someone took the writer's equivalent of Kellog's All Bran this morning..how the floodgates have opened!!!

March Hare said...

That was most nice, Parul. Like the book you mentioned, this post made me feel all nice and warm inside. (Inspite of the rats.)

i-me-myself said...

Nice post Parul! Very real..and true..how we turn our back on dirt, filth and reality no?

Perfect Witch said...

A nice, personal post after a long time. A peep into you Parul!

Anonymous said...

Now if this were to be posted on fb, you'd accumulate a lot of 'likes' i'll bet.

Anonymous said...

Why should you feel like an escapist? It IS okay to turn your back on dirty rodents and cynical I've-seen-it-all people? You are a creative person, with 2 curious innocent children. Children bring back some innocence and joy to our otherwise cynical, sarcastic, worldly-wise view of the world.


Don't let a car-driver's absence rob you of that difficult-to-attain non-dirty place :)

- Cuckoo

WSW said...

This post made me go all squishy (in a nice way) especially the ending.

Wish you would write more frequently!

relativelytruthful said...

this is a really beautiful post. very slice-of-life.

Anonymous said...

Gosh, the mumbai you speak off sounds so different than the mumbai I grew up in more than 23 years ago, yet it seems so timeless. We still have the same potholes, Manholes without cover and A**holes.:)
I have not been to Mumbai in more than 23 years. Today when I do stream studies in the US,I look at the clean, sparkling streams and I still remember the stench of Mahim creek as we drove past it in the 80's full of sewerage and filth and DEAD. For all practical purposes I am American having lived here most of my life, yet somewhere deep down I still consider myself a Mumbaikar.

Aaina

dipali said...

This post is why you are a writer, Parul! Loved every every word of it.

Perakath said...

Driving down Linking Road in his dad's Innova, Perakath honked furiously at the cylinder cart effectively blocking an entire lane of traffic and cursed the day the a*hole pushing it was born.