Chronicles of an Oxymoron: Star date 12/12/12
|Shades of India|
Like the legendary king stuck between heaven and earth, I am (I think) in the process of transitioning from the past life to the future. Having closed one chapter while not sure which book I wanted to pick up next, I set off on a four week trip through various cities in India. I have a vague plan to meet friends and family who I had not seen in many years, conscious that my sub-conscience would be processing an overload of internal turmoil, as I tried to match it up with the reality of my external world. Hence I decided to keep a chronicle of sorts marking the various stages of this journey. Here’s the first post.
Laxmi’s log, star date: 12/12/12, on route Jet Airways flight 9W 356, BOM – MAA
Post: Shades of India
“Don’t we have to go right?” My Dad turned around from the driver’s seat of the ten-year-old car, he so fondly called Anamika. Why do cars or space ships for that matter mostly have female names? “No, no, to the left.” My mum butted in from the seat next to him. Unbeknownst to him, she was of course in the driver’s seat, as she had been for most of the forty-one years of their marriage. Like most men, he was unaware of the reality of the situation and the inherent contradiction that he had lived in for most of his life.
“Oh! Oh!” he fretted, “I missed the turn off, that’s it we are going to be late now, that…was…the turnOFF FOR SAHAR…” As his voice rose exponentially with every second, building up to a fever pitch of desperation, I woke up from half-asleep-half-awake comatose state that pre-dawn car rides normally have on me, deciding it was time to finally put him out of his misery.
“Remember I am going to Chennai, Dad?” I rolled my eyes wondering when we had exchanged roles that the parents in the front seat were squabbling like the children in the back, which is what my sister and I had been but just an eye-blink-of-a-moment-ago. “I guess you look at me and can only see international flights right?” I laughed in a flash of insight. It had been fifteen years since our first drive to the Bombay—now Mumbai—International (Sahar then now referred to as Chattrapati Shivaji Antarrashtriya Hawaii Adda—yep always loved the way the last two words there sounded in English when alliterated from Hindi.) airport. Since then, they had been constantly, annually, driving me to the international airport in the city. So of course it must seem a big surprise for my Dad to take a different route to drop me to a slightly different destination. Trust me to overanalyze this simple incident comparing it a metaphor for my life, wondering if it was time for me to change lanes towards a slightly different destination. It’s a question that will not be far from the surface of my mind over the next four weeks as I set off of on my own version of a Bharat-Ek Khoj, metro-India-yatra. The trick will be to leave this tricky question for my sub-conscience to deal with, while I concentrate on simply delighting in the untold pleasures of spontaneity and unpredictability that my home country would doubtless afford at every turn. Can I pull that off? I wonder.
|May the Goddess of all things – big & small,
in making the right decision
Back to the trip to the airport at hand then; I could hear my Dad chuckle as he calmed down, and we drove the rest of the way with no further incident. Except for my mother admonishing me to ensure that my whatsapp-app on my India mobile worked so I could keep her updated on my almost every waking moment through the next few days. It’s a double-edged sword when the parent is able to match you pretty much step-for-step in terms of staying connected. That also answers my question as to where I get my technophile-genes from. I fumbled around for my PAN card and the printout of my plane-ticket to the armed guard at the entrance, wondering for the n’th time why Indian airports were the only ones in the world which demanded that you flash evidence of who were before gaining entry. Who was I anyway and where was I headed? I wasn’t the person whose picture was on the PAN card. I was fast fading from the person I had been on getting my British passport—a document, which I avoided showing as ID—for that promptly, double the prices of most services in the country.
I was hitting the half way in life mark and still asking some very basic questions, I realized soberly, as I stopped at the airport bookshop. Then spotting Shades of Greydisplayed prominently next to a copy of Indianomixand The Lord of Mathura I chuckled (why was I not surprised?) … As I stood there, a safari-suit-clad-gentleman who seemed to be in his late forties—thinning hair, his tie flapping over his gently swelling paunch—came by and honing in on said copy of Shades of Grey, fingered it lightly before turning it over to read the synopsis on the back. As if sensing my perusal, he suddenly turned to me and I stared back unblinking. Turning away—perhaps feeling guilty on being caught in the act—he put it away, his movement’s jerky as he moved on swiftly. I laughed in delight, my humor restored. I maybe changing, but it was reassuring that East or West, some things (such as thinly disguised soft porn) continued to exude the same appeal.