THIS IS FOR MY FRIEND AND DRIVING COMPANION DEEPA, WHO IS PART OF THE TRAVAILS EVERY DAY. THANKS DEEPA FOR BEING THERE!
Every morning for the last few years I get into my car to go work with a sense of adventure. And it’s not just about work!
It begins as soon as I drive out of my gate. It’s thanks to the local municipal corporation, with a little help from the road authorities, the telephone and electricity departments. Sometimes I think they all work like a constellation on an astrological chart (my astrological chart, particularly) so that I have an eventful ride to work and an equally fun drive back home!
It goes like this. In the rainy season, the weather assists the powers-that-be to keep the roads in a fairly challenging condition. Anyone living in Mumbai in the rains will understand that I mean potholes. But the rains help the constellations for just about 4 months a year, give or take a week. What about the remaining 8 months?
This is my theory.
Every car in Mumbai is equipped with a satellite-equipped, highly sensitive, SRI(Smooth Ride Intervention) System. You are obviously not told about this but it is there. A central tower (at the SRI System Headquarters) is linked to this satellite system and someone there surveys your ride from one destination in the city to another.
I have adequate proof of this central repository of data intervening the minute the information from my car’s SRI System beams on to their radar screens.
It works like this.
One morning I set out for work and the road is smooth, the traffic signals flow well-timed into one another and I reach office in about 20 minutes.
With my indomitable optimism and sense of gratitude I thank my stars for making this one of the better drives to office. Uh-oh. Mistake Number One. Big mistake. Beamed even bigger on to the SRI System central tower.
A being sees the screen and proclaims in a gruff voice.
“That was way too soon. Check the route quick.”
Red alerts flash all around the headquarters. My route to the office blinks in an unearthly bright green on the screen.
“There” the SRI Head points out. “That’s where the problem is. I want that taken care of right now”. If any of you doubt the efficiency of any of the local authorities, now’s the time to sit up and take notice. The work is carried out in minutes; while I unsuspectingly sit through strategic meetings in the office. On my way home in the evening, I will grimly realize that I have been ‘spotted’.
At the end of the day, I proclaim to a colleague once again how smooth the drive to work was. Mistake Number Two.
I sail the first few minutes in wild elation on the way home. So encouraging is the drive, that the mind has already started making plans. Gym? Local errands? A quick coffee with a friend? There’s time, I think happily. I’ll reach home in daylight. Famous last words. Be warned: the SRI System fitted in your car is also capable of picking up your trains of thought. Happy Thoughts was Mistake Number Three.
I come to the junction closest to home… destination barely 3 km away. And there it is: A 3-feet trench dug right across the road!
It’s boarded up with a small scrawl on a corrugated tin sheet which cryptically tells me: Road closed. (Actually they could have proclaimed, ‘Road open’ and I would have still had to agree. But right now is not the time to get caught up with words.)
There is no place to take a U turn. As I struggle and inch my car back and forth carefully to avoid the 3 feet trench I try and think.
Couldn’t they have put up a sign early up the road saying this is a dead end?
Did they think that technically it isn’t a dead end because someone like Bond, James Bond, could have flown over it?
I make a mental note to join MI6 just to get Bond’s car, but right now I have to deal with a slightly lesser, yet dearer vehicle.
Sweating, cursing, trying to save my humble four-wheeler from other turning and returning beings I back track almost half the way, find the alternative route home jam-packed with other drivers. The SRI System headquarters have it all covered with cold and calculating efficiency. There are two paunchy policemen casually chatting with each other at one point, systematically ignoring the traffic snarl. An errant auto rickshaw driver has created a gridlock at another. A full-fledged fight reigns between a cyclist and a car driver and two pedestrians. There is general mayhem. I switch off my car, switch on the music system and wait. This is going to be a long one.
When I reach home late in the night, I mentally make a note of taking another route to work tomorrow. But I stop myself immediately. After all the SRI System works almost every where. And right now at the headquarters they are trying to second-guess me. I can see the lurid green light blinking and that SRI System Head saying, “There. That’s the route for tomorrow. Dig that.”
My undying sense of adventure takes over as I leave for work the next morning.