Zoning in !

“You can never zone out” here, she shrieked.

While in the US, it was a treat to be on the road. Almost everybody observed traffic signals. Their economy may be growing at 2-4% but the traffic signals work. In true American style the minimum gap between vehicles in the USA, would seem like the distance between Sun and Saturn for the average Mumbai motorist.

Although I was there in American soil for only a few weeks, I can hold court like a well entrenched native with impunity, especially if the topic was a comparative narrative on the difference between driving in Mumbai and driving over there.

So, this friend from the USA, sat next to me as I drove, on roads that sported less than normal traffic on that particular day. Within five minutes of her first ride on Indian roads, I saw her hands shiver. In the seventh minute beads of sweat began to appear. In the eight minute, from the corner of my eye, I saw her hold on to the inside of the door handle. In eight and a half, her face was buried in her palms.

It was obvious it was about the road. For my hands were firmly on the wheel and I hadn’t spoken a word, other than professional conversation. My mind was racing at a faster speed than the motorbike that held an aunty, uncle and two kids that hung out of the bike rather precariously, and were looking into the window.

Obviously a ‘phoren’ woman, face buried in her hands with a chap that sported furtive looks can be fertile feeding ground even for the dull variety. All four of them were peering into the car, waiting for action.

In a brief while, it was but obvious, that every eye atop any moving object on Western Express Highway was trained on our car. Not wanting to run the risk of being featured on some news starved news channel with a silly ‘breaking news’, I pulled over. And hesitatingly asked my friend if everything was ok?!?

‘The cars are coming too close here’. She said. In some sense, I was relieved that she didn’t get to see the aunty+Uncle + one kid + another kid precariously hanging, all peering into the car. I was certain she wouldn’t have seen a circus act of that order!

We struck a deal. I would keep the car to the extreme left, that would come close to eliminate the possibility of a Ferrari hopeful overtaking on the left. Where she was sitting. After all of this, she offered “I’ll keep my eyes closed”. An offer, that was readily and graciously accepted.

Peace returned. She turned blind. I steered through what was ‘sub-normal’ traffic. Until we came across, a case of a ‘mild’ traffic jam. She opened her eyes, squirmed in her seat, but was far more comfortable than before.

After some agnonising moments, we discovered the root cause. A broken down truck, laden with steel rods. Sprouting a few twigs amidst all the steel. The twigs, any average Indian motorist would know, is a sign that warns other motorists of a broken down vehicle!

She went from ‘awe’ to ‘open-mouthed awe’ to ‘insanely open mouthed awe’ to ‘shaking heads in disbelief insanely open mouthed awe’.

Where in the world did we think of tying up a twig and a clutch of leaves onto a vehicle that had a breakdown ! Whatever happened to ‘hazard lights’ and the ‘hazard triangle’ to warn other motorist. Questions fired in quick succession.

I replied calmly. It was simple. Common sensical. Isnt it. I wouldn’t expect twigs to sprout from a lorry loaded with steel rods. That is abnormal. An obvious implication that something is amiss here and therefore the vehicle is stationary.

So, the minute your car breaks down, you don’t run you battery down with hazard lights and such else. You just reach for the nearest twig or a clutch of leaves and append it to some part of your car that is visible to others.

Which left her in a state of mild sedation, occasionally mumbling about Indian innovation and such else. I presume its going to take her a while to recover.

Until then, ofcourse, if you are travelling to India, a vehicle sprouting twigs is not a symbolic protest about global warming or something. This is a different kind of a breakdown. Ok ?

The Vision Thing !

The Goa air reminds me of Mangalore. I guess the Arabian sea has a different charm. Quite different from the charm that the Bay of Bengal has ! I landed today and have been at work !

As usual, i picked up a conversation with the taxi driver. The scheduled taxi driver played truant and i found this young man called Raju. A very enterprising kid who sold me the ride in less than 10 seconds. As our conversation progresses, i find that he lives with his mother and younger brother goes to school.

He makes Rs. 4000/- per month driving the taxi. “During peak season time, it is higher” he says, but then, it is offset by the lean months like now. He drives well. He is patient, and is extremely helpful.

I ask him his long term plans. He cant understand. I say, “what do you want to do five years from now”. He looks at me through the rear view mirror with a blank expression. And says, ‘Maybe earn two / three thousands more”

I prod him further, ‘have you thought of things like owning a taxi like this and having others work for you..?/ ( just to give him contextual example). I could clearly see his eyes sparkle for a moment. Perhaps he imagined himself as the boss ! I dont know ! And then smiles, “Will you be interested in seeing other places..” A new conversation thread. End of the old one.

When people say, “its all in the mind” many a time i dont pay heed to it. But here was a live example. Able. Capable. Committed. Talented. Honest. Sincere. And willing to slug his butt out. He is HOT commodity in a market where people with such traits are a rarity. In a market which is driven by opportunity.

But then, all this without a vision will ensure 4000/- per month when there is potential for 10 times more. Perhaps a 100 ! Oh ! The vision thing !