While we all have romantic and other notions of our past – nostalgia and memories, our life as it stands today sucks up most of our waking thought-time. Then, as much as we trust and believe in the relative stability of our life, something happens. I don’t mean the life-threatening kind of things. A harmless inconvenience that shakes the foundation of our life as it is today.
Of all the gifts that I brought back home for friends and family, I wish I had brought one for myself – the 24h-48h converter – you know – the one that converts a day in two. Didn’t find it anywhere, so I had to do all the things that I wanted to do in half the time I had planned for. Of this, one was a trip to Pune – a relatively straight route for 200km on a six-lane highway. Hired a cab (it’s generally good sense not to sleep when driving and I have been hugely deprived of it since I landed), and headed off. A few 50km before I got there, the accelerator cable of the taxi chose to take the day off.
First, you get only half of what you asked for, and then, you end up spending a precious hour on the side of the massive six-lane and each passing vehicle leaves behind a unit of pity in the same currency – oh – poor you. It became a desperate situation. While, it isn’t the done thing, I started waving every vehicle that didn’t seem snobbish. After a while a milk-tanker-truck becomes curious and enquires why I am learning to fly. There is a generous offer to drop me off at the closest fork-in-the-road to Pune. There are already six people in the cabin meant for three, apart from the driver with the walrus moustache, waxed for added eloquence. There is some small talk about the taxi with its hood open in a permanent yawn. I almost feel like a city buffoon. I am a complete misfit and everything about me seems to be screaming at me saying – you don’t belong here.
I am sitting on a makeshift bench with my feet on the engine hood. In exactly the same pose as SRK had in Swades, I tell myself. Only there isn’t a boat and a river. It’s a truck on a six-lane expressway. I imagine grand things about homecoming and a country awakening and all that. The 20kmph truck is oblivious to my lack of time. I am almost in a time warp. The only way to be able to spend time with folks in Pune, is to spend time in this truck (more than I budgeted for).
You spend time, to save time.
We finally reach the fork where I bid goodbye to the Walrus from Satara and paid a ransom to a rickshaw that took me to the final destination in the city.
You spend money, to save time.
Pune is a fast growing city. It is seen as one of the alternatives to Bangalore. Every other metre of the road is under construction. One diversion takes me into my university – I have never been in it since I graduated. Another one takes me through a small lane I had almost forgotten – my first sales job and small rickety blue cart that sold boiled eggs as a snack for the nearby offices.
You take a diversion, and you lose all the time you gained.
I sometimes believe I make too big a deal about roots. When I know, really, how illusory the concept itself is, if you do not keep with yourself, a basic semblance of memory. If in the walk on the road ahead we are to ignore everything that we learnt at the milestone behind, what then, the purpose of roots?
And because I am happily back with my books again, I know now exactly what Richard Bach thought D. W. Shimoda would have said, if he had told Shimoda that he had failed in finding his soulmate. Donald Shimoda would have said, “Flying with the wind, Richard, from town to town, has it ever occurred to you that’s not a way to find her, that’s a way to lose her?”
The same night, the broken down taxi and the hapless taxi driver still by the side of the road, I took the State Transport’s night bus (after 15 years) back to Mumbai and went to bed at half-past four in the morning with my confusion, hoping tomorrow would be level of clarity that I have always known. Little was I to know that no answers are meant to be straightforward, once you are out of school.
There had to be a reason why so many places and instances from fifteen years go came together to remind me of I-don’t-know-what in a single 24hr block.
He’s the biggest mystery-monger of them all.