Thursday, November 22, 2012

Dear Aarya ( 3 )

Dear Aarya,

Sorry that I havent been able to write to you sooner. I have no excuses. I was busy just imprinting everything. Seeing.

Indian Roads.

I had forgotten how mad the driving scene is in India. Having been spoiled rotten in the Sand City with its 6 lane roads , one way traffic and those voyeuristic cameras that flashes when you least expect it, I was not prepared for the utter chaos that goes down here as traffic.

I love it.

Last week , I stood by the corner of Madiwala, watching the road, while a bicycle repair guy brought to life my cycle that had been lying neglected in the building parking area. The seat had been stolen, and in the process, the perpetuater, possibly one of the kids in the building, had managed to break the back brake. I figured that I will repair the bike and give it to my son, who was celebrating his 9th birthday.

What can I say? I am a cheap father.

The shack that advertised its service as 'Bycycle Repare and Spair Parts', was a neat , clean, wooden cabin, the size of a porta toilet. Inside it hung various cycle parts like meat in a butchery.In the corner was a neat stack of tyres of various sizes. The mechanic worked outside, with his tools that were kept in an evidently organized mess, within a tin box. His other implements was a large plastic bowl with water in it, to check for punctures and a air filling set up.

I had explained to him , largely in mime, what I wanted done, since my language skills does not exceed beyond Malayalam and English; and that too is claiming too much. Since it doesnt take a high IQ to figure out what was wrong with the bike, the man set to his task with a focused intensity.

So while he worked , I watched the traffic.

India is a celebration of contrasts. It also exhibits a patience and tolerance on the roads that one finds rarely in the Sand City. There was a family of bulls in the intersection where 4 roads meet and is kept in control by a traffic light and a traffic cop, who was now more interested in how my cycle was coming along. Ramiyah, the traffic cop, in his white starched shirt and the customary walkie talkie was busy fining vehicles on a random basis, when he could tear himself away from the gripping scene of my cycle getting a seat.

The bulls lazed in the middle of the intersection, while the vehicles swerved around them to their destinations. There were buses filled with beautiful people, autorikshas carrying people and in some cases , things one normally does not see being carried in an auto. The one I saw had a man with building scaffolding in it. Obviously a painter, with his washed to oblivion shirt which in some past life had a color that was now a greyish shade. He was getting down with the tools of his trade, when the large metal scaffolding hit against a parked scooter , causing it to fall down.

Ramiyah, was not amused. He said something in Kannada, which must have been directed at the painter's eyesight. The scooter owner, who was sitting at another shack,which seemed to be an eating joint, near the Cycle Repair shop, casually got up and righted his scooter with one hand, while holding onto his piece of dosa in the other. He then moved the scooter away from the parked auto so that the painter had enough space to unload. After which he went back to his seat by the shack and resumed his breakfast.

Ramiyah, by now had realized that the battery of his walkie talkie needed to be recharged and handed it to the cycle repair guy, who took it and plugged it into a socket somewhere inside that small cabin.

Horn seems to be the most integral part of a vehicle on the Indian roads. I probably must have heard more horns in the 1.5 hours of drive from the airport to my apartment, than the 15 years I had spend in the Sand City. In India, the vehicles talk.

There seems to be a language of horns here. As I stood there and watched, I realized that it was not just a cacophony of noise, but a pattern of established sounds , much like the singing of the blue whales. They were communicating!

There are the short blasts which stood for , I am here.
There are the long ones, which stood for, I am behind you and I am in a hurry.
There are those medium blasts, which says, what the fuck!
Then there are those, continuous beep beep beep, while the vehicle weaves its way through traffic, much like the 'make way, make way' chants of the Tamil pilgrims to Sabrimala.

To integrate myself back to the Indian scene, I realized that, I needed to relearn the language of the Indian roads. I decided to join a driving school and get myself an Indian licence . Mainly I wanted to get over my fear of the perceived aggression of the Indian roads. This was brought home to me while I walked back to my apartment pushing my repaired cycle. I saw in front of me a gang of children, dressed in red checked shirts and kakhi shorts, with knapsacks on their backs, weaving their way through the onslaught of Indian traffic. They were all around 9 years old. I do not know if the traffic made way for them or they found a way through it. Either way, there is only one way to learn how to swim:

Be ready to get wet.

I will update you how that went. How are you? Enjoy the solitude that has fallen on your lap so unexpectedly. Seperations need not be lonely. You take care.



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