Sorry, Bilbo Baggins. The title of this post seems the same as that of your immortal book, but then you’re a fictional character, and hence your book or its title doesn’t have any copyright protection. Haha. Gotcha, right?
Well, I make this post from my home city of Chandigarh, having returned from an arduous train journey aboard the Jan Shatabdi that plies from Delhi to Chandigarh. Arduous, eh? Yes, in more ways than one.
I think I can be the brand ambassador for Toyota’s JIT (just-in-time) methodology. Never ever have I boarded a train more than 5 minutes before its departure from the New Delhi Railway Station. (Sumit’s law of errr….. train boarding??? No matter how early you start, traffic on the roads conspires to make you miss your train.)
Sometimes, after stuff like this happens to me, I throw my head back, point to myself, say “You loser” and laugh loudly. (This is normally done when no one’s watching.) At other times, I shake my head sadly, look up towards the sky and sigh, “Why me?”
Anyway, so I boarded one of those cabs that ply illegally from Gurgaon to Delhi, stuffing people like birds in a coop, with the driver hell-bent on practicing for Formula I. As luck would have it, the man sitting just behind me couldn’t stay quiet for even a minute. He was rambling, and rambling, and rambling, and…. (get the picture, right?)
Then, the seat was such that we’d all be thrown forward as the driver braked, and then thrown backward as he accelerated. So, the entire journey was spent with the driver cursing other road users, none of whom seemed to have any sense whatsoever, the man in the back seat cursing/talking/shouting in some language I was unable to identify. The journey was punctuated with traffic jams caused by doting parents who tried parking as close to school gates as possible, to avoid their wards any inconvenience.
So what, if they were blocking the way for a few hundred road users waiting behind? I mean, people these days, SHEESH!! They can’t even wait 10-12 minutes, before honking. At least have some respect for family ties.
After the interminable journey, the next part was the much more comfortable Metro ride from Karol Bagh to Connaught Place (Yes, I refuse to call it Rajiv Chowk. Bah!!) and then to the New Delhi Railway Station. I rushed to the platform and found that the train hadn’t left me behind. Whew!! I waded through waves of humanity of all shapes and sizes, before reaching my seat (which incidentally was occupied by a South Indian uncleji accompanied by a motormouth teen.)
I sat there for a few minutes, willing the train to move. The gods heard me! (But, they exploited the loopholes in my wish, and the train ‘moved’ but only just.) Since the number of words the teen was speaking per minute was more than the number of metres being covered by the train in the same duration, I decided to shift to a place much more alluring.
I shifted to the middle of the chair car compartment, where the best possible company for a solitary man travelling alone was present. Having eyed the fortuitously vacant neighbouring seat, I made a lunge for it and made it. I turned to my right and smiled at the object of my affection. (Argh, you useless people! I was ogling the power socket to plug in my laptop. Duh!!)
Then, I pulled out my laptop and plugged it in, but the power socket was out. With a sigh, I settled back into my seat, and began to read ‘The Kite Runner’ by Khaled Hosseini. (Cry out in disbelief if you want, but yes I am a voracious reader who had not read the book till yesterday.)
Eventually, the book turned out to be the only positive of the evening. The TTE came, saw that I was not carrying a copy of my ticket, and rudely asked me to quote the PNR number, all the while muttering under his breath. I mimicked the muttering-under-the-breath bit, and gave him all the details in as surly a manner as possible. He fined me 50/- and issued me a duplicate ticket. Bah!!
I settled lower and lower into my chair, and became totally engrossed in the book. And so I stayed till the train stopped at Ambala. We reached Ambala at 1825 hours and stayed there till 1915 hours. (The 35 km track to Chandigarh is a single line, so we had to accommodate more important trains.) I made some deeply disgruntled noises and went back to reading.
“Trains! Never on time!!” said a voice, breaking into my reverie.
I looked up to see an elderly uncleji looking at me, in anticipation of a reply. I nodded at him and smiled, turning back to my book. I think he took that as a signal to continue. (Little did I realise that I had unleashed an avalanche of words upon myself.)
So, within the next 20 minutes, I got to know that the man was a Diploma holder in Mech. Engg, had been working with BRO for 30 years, had two sons, the elder one being an MBA student at some Hyderabad-based college offering MBA in agriculture and the younger one being an engineering student.
Meanwhile, the train whistled mournfully, and reluctantly moved on. Now, suddenly uncleji asked me about my background and credentials. I mentioned in passing that I just completed my MBA. His face remained blank when I mentioned my alma mater – XLRI. Then, he smiled sympathetically at me and told me that college brand is important and that’s why he only sent his sons to the ‘best’ colleges. When he asked me my specialization and I told him ‘HR’, he wanted to know what MBAs in ‘HRA’ did, and whether they were responsible for managing the HRA of employees in companies. (ARGH!!)
I tried explaining for a few minutes, but then the man had given up on me by then. Or perhaps, his attention was diverted by the train that had stopped again. (For the first time, I thanked Indian Railways for being inefficient, and Ms. Mamata Banerjee for being a nincompoop and a clod.)
I finished reading the last few pages of the book, as the train pulled into the station, and made a beeline for the exit, looking around to make sure that no uncles or any such menacing figures were chasing me. And so, having met my father who’d been abusing Ms. Mamatadi for over an hour, we got into the car and drove back home.
P.S. The book is fantastic! In fact, you shouldn’t wait till an uncle pushes you towards it on a boring train journey.
… that it’s not going to be your day.
Well, the day began brightly enough. As usual, I grumpily pulled myself off the bed, and began to deconstruct the happenings of last night as I wiped the drool off the laptop’s keyboard. Well, at around midnight, I had been watching ‘Ek Chaalis ki Last Local’ – having heard that it was worth a watch and had apparently dozed off somewhere in between.
(Btw, you evil mind! The drool was not because of the presence of an ‘oomphy’ Ms. Dhupia in the movie. For the record, I don’t even like her.)
Anyhow, I digress. So, I turned my gaze towards my wrist to look at the time and then realised that I have not worn a watch in ages. (No, I don’t have chronometrophobia – the fear of watches/clocks. It’s just that I keep losing them.)
So, I looked at the luminous display of my mobile phone, and my eyes nearly popped out of sockets (ala Jim Carrey in The Mask). It was 8.26 am. There was no way I could shave, bathe, get my dreadlocks in some kind of order, have breakfast, and reach office before 9 am. On second thoughts, I could do all the things 3-4 times, in the time that it would need me to reach office. (That’s your cue, regular reader, to recall the last post written berating the traffic in Gurgaon. As for the non-regular readers, HMPH!!)
Then began one of the biggest exercises in optimization. I had never tried brushing teeth and shaving simultaneously. (Note: It doesn’t save much time, and should only be attempted if you use a good razor.) After performing other morning ablutions that should not be detailed on a blog, I was ready. Almost.
I literally ‘washed down’ my toast with a tall glass of cold coffee, and made my way to the parking lot. After revving the engine, I took off with all the urgency of
Narain Karthikeyan Michael Schumacher, leaving a few startled early morning walkers in my wake.
And lo and behold! It seemed that I had beaten the traffic after all. It was 8.50 am, and looked like the morning crowd was still a few minutes away. I pumped my fist in exhilaration, and stepped down on the accelerator, determined to make my podium finish. A few minutes later, having nearly run over a woman who seemed to be training to be the next Usain Bolt (Either that, or maybe she was just running to board one of the infrequent buses to Delhi. Or maybe, Big Bazaar had announced an ‘early bird’ sale and you know… ), I reached office.
I made my way up to the 7th floor with remarkable agility and speed. (Oh, believe me it takes sincere effort to hold open a closing lift door, and step in.)
I entered the office to find it deserted. Huh? Just because the MD is away, these people are chilling out, eh? (Sumit’s law of punctuality: The day you reach office early, there’s no one to see you.) Muttering furiously at the tardiness of others, I plugged in my laptop and opened its lid, to see that the time was 8.01 am.
Yes, somehow my new-fangled, Samsung Corby had auto-adjusted the time and set it one hour ahead. (Blast you, Samsung! We don’t have daylight-saving time here.)
And so, instead of 9 am, I was in office at 8 am. AAARGHHHHHH.
P.S. No, I’m not ‘employed’. The office being mentioned is that of my Uncle’s company. Till I join my job, I am just helping him a bit in setting up some HR processes. So, I’m not even supposed to have fixed office hours. Double AAAARGGHHHH.
I’ve spent the last couple of days in Millennium City, Gurgaon. And well, my hitherto dull life has taken a much more happening turn in the last 48 hours. I had been fuming at the emptiness of it all, sitting idle and twiddling my thumbs in boring old Chandigarh. (For the record, even though the IPL might have you believe otherwise, twiddling one’s thumbs is an expression that is not to be equated with ‘oongli cricket’.)
Anyway, in just two days, I realised that life in Gurgaon can be anything but ‘emply’ – especially if you’re referring to the streets. If you’re someone who’s used to living in the ‘fast lane’, avoid Gurgaon at all costs. Because, the fast lane doesn’t exist in Gurgaon traffic. Come to think of it, the concept of lane also doesn’t exist. :|
The entire scene at each crossing resembles one at a battlefield. Every inch of space is fought for, and armies emerge from various directions, determined to stall the progress of those marching on from other directions.
I do think India must be among the countries with the least safe driving practices. You find lanes being switched at will, pedestrians walking across the road with utter disdain for their own safety, people with one hand on the wheel and the other firmly clasping the phone to their ear for that urgent-call-that-just-can’t-be-taken-later. It makes you want to scream, kick, punch, abuse, and then kick some more. (Talk about road rage, eh? That’s where it probably comes from.)
Traffic cops stand by the side, leisurely chewing tobacco and checking out girls. Of course, once in a while these guys realise that their incomes are not sufficient to fund their ‘extra curricular activities’ and stop an erring motorist or two. After a few rounds of negotiation and much of the motorists cash-on-hand consumed, these gentlemen resume their vigil.
Praised be the ones who honk, lest we fall asleep due to the ‘speed’ of the traffic.
Just wanted you guys to know that one of my posts has been selected by Blogadda for their ‘Spicy Saturday’ picks – a collection of what they deem as good writing.
I did think I was the cat’s whiskers for managing such a feat till I read some of the other selected posts. Krish Ashok’s tribute to his grandmother is a wonderful, wonderful read. Poignant, touching, and makes you salute that brave woman.
The Restless Quill expresses her views on
eve-teasing molestation. And one can’t help but agree that the despicable incidents that women are subjected to everyday need to stop. And no one better than the womenfolk themselves to take charge.
And then, there’s Anuja aka The Princess, who has listed down some very commonsensical things that women expect from us guys, but never get. A real eye-opener, and a must-read for guys. (For girls too, so that they can appreciate guys like me much more. :P )
Ah well, Pepsi makes an appearance on this blog courtesy a contest launched by Indiblogger.
Now, the deal is that one is supposed to submit four funny posts and write a fifth one (this one, in case you’re counting) and answer a simple question, “If you were the game master, what challenge would you like to throw to Ranbir?”
I seriously hope you have seen the ad, with a certain Mr. Sanjay Dutt wearing an outlandishly designed, oversized costume (ostensibly to hide his beer belly) throwing challenges at Ranbir. And the challenges happen to be so ludicrous that one feels like telling Ranbir to take a month’s supply of Pepsi from oneself, and get the hell off the screen. (One can hear the girls saying “Boo” and asking one to shut up. :| )
Anyhow, one seems to digress. So, the point being to find a challenge for Ranbir. I guess the biggest challenge in one’s life these days is the fact that one’s favourite football club – Liverpool is performing even more abysmally than the Kolkata Knight Riders (no kidding!). So, the challenge would be, to kidnap the match official for the next 4 matches, take his place and ensure that the matches go Liverpool’s way, resulting in Champions League qualification.
Doing so will get Ranbir the key to the hidden stash of Pepsi that he can consume for a lifetime.
And commenting on this post will entitle you to a party from me, if I win the contest. So, as the game master, I challenge you to win a party for yourself from me! Comment now, it takes only 27.5 seconds.
They made a lovely couple, huddled together in the cold winter night on the last seat in the old decrepit bus, as it hurtled towards their destination. Like them, there were only a few passengers courageous enough to take on the challenge of the inclement weather and travelling by the rickety old bus. The bitter wind crept in through the battered windows, and toyed with their hair, throwing it into disarray. She remembered how Aakash loved the wind in her hair, and how she used to enjoy his fingers playing with her long, lush hair…
But today, Aakash seemed lost, distracted… He had that faraway expression in his eyes that he would always have when thinking of something. He stared out of the window, his eyes narrow slits against the cold, and his brow furrowed in concentration. She thought it was because she was going away. Only for a few weeks, but still… She was flying to Bangalore from Delhi to meet her parents. And if the thought of parting hurt him half as much as it hurt her, she could understand his quietness.
He hadn’t talked much during the entire bus journey from Jaipur to Delhi. He’d been staring right ahead, looking worried, with a inscrutable expression on his face. How much he really loved her!! It was amazing… In such a short time, they had become so fond of each other. She smiled to herself in the semi-darkness and put her hand on Aakash’s. He flinched and took it away. She was confounded. Hot tears of hurt welled up in her eyes, but she brushed them away. She justified his reaction to herself, “He must’ve been startled by the cold.”
Finally, he turned his gaze to her. She felt the same warm, cosy feeling when his dark-brown eyes pervaded her being. The cold wind kept up its relentless attack, trying to claw its way into the warmth in her heart. She looked at him, smiling, expecting a warm hug, but he just looked at her vacantly, as if she didn’t even exist. Bitter waves of disappointment washed over her as she realized that he was somehow preoccupied and not quite with her.
“Rachita, I….,” he suddenly said.
“..really love you,” she completed his sentence in her mind. It had been so long since he had said those magic words. She craved to hear them again.
“Uh….,” Aakash hesitated.
She recalled the day that Aakash had proposed to her, and she had accepted. This was the same hesitant Aakash. That day also, if it hadn’t been for her encouraging smile, she doubted if he’d have been able to utter ever a word. But he had said the words, and walked arm-in-arm, gazing at the full moon, which was blushing with a shade of soft crimson. She smiled to herself and blushed lightly.
“Let’s….let’s…,” Rachita closed her eyes in sweet anticipation of his next few words.
“…..stop seeing each other,” Aakash mouthed, barely audibly. He was sweating even in the December chill. But, a huge tidal wave of relief seemed to wash over him as he got these words out of his mind.
If he had been bothered enough to watch, he would have seen, the wilting of the rosy face. But he was oblivious to the slump of her shoulders, to the great tears of disbelief that welled up in her hazel eyes. Nor did he hear the huge, racking sobs that shook Rachita’s petite frame. She struggled to look for one last bit of compassion and love in his face, but found only indifference. It was not the face of the Aakash she had loved. It was a stone face.
The din from the bus’s engine bit into her bleeding thoughts. The cauldron of her sadness brewed up a concoction of tears, bitterness and hatred. Her uncontrollable sobbing left damp spots on the seat of the bus. The bleak, cold wind whistled around her, mocking her for her naivety. Other passengers swayed with the motion of the bus, either asleep or ignoring the drama that was playing out around them. The haven the darkness provided was snatched away by the overhead lamps that had just been switched on. The crisp night air kept attacking her, disregarding her attempts to numb herself. It was a conspiracy. Against her. To strip her of dignity, her beliefs, her love, and sanity, and to inject her with tortuous betrayal.
Aakash started for the exit as the bus stopped at the airport. He walked without guilt, with his head held high. No remorse, unperturbed. Her eyes still sought him, as she moved towards the departure terminal. He walked away, and she felt something break inside her. One part of her wanted to run to him, to hug him and just cry. The other wanted to hate him for leaving her.
The plane took off, leaving Aakash behind, leaving behind all her memories, and dreams. Leaving behind the naïve, little girl she had once been. She looked out of the airplane’s window at the full moon with tear-filled eyes. It did not have its usual pallor. It had a crimson hue. As if it had been bleeding with some hurt been caused to it….
Her parents waved to her as she descended the steps at Bangalore airport. “Happy Birthday, Rachita,” her mother hugged her and said, “So, what did Aakash give you as a present?”
He gave me a crimson moon Mom. A gift to keep and cherish for life. A crimson moon.