Wednesday, 27 August 2008

A weird day in the life of...

i woke up dreaming i was being strangled. whenever a dream wakes me up it usually has some correlation with real life. when i dream that my head is being banged against a table, there's usually someone banging on the door, if i dream of flooding, it usually means i left the bathroom tap open last night when there was no water and now that morning brought water its overflowing. strangulation and drowning usually meant i was in the middle of an asthma attack. not that it bothered me much, my canister of instant relief was lying by my bedside. a coupla shots, and im back to superman. except this time i'm wrong, the inhaler is on my office table, amongst the multitude of junk that i've accumulated there, like a magpie's nest. and this usually means i have to go out to the nearest medical store, and get a new one. fair enough, i think, and begin to get up, only i can't get up. whoever was strangling me in the dream had already done a bloody good job. the bike was out of the question, and a hospital enters the equation, much to my dislike.

i pick up my phone, another bedside object, and call the number for a cab which a friend had once kindly given me when i was stuck with a flat tyre in the middle of the night a few weeks ago. i lay around taking deep breaths till the cab comes, recovering enough to walk down. its always like a video game, if i stay still, i get back some of my health points and can move about a bit. only i cant stay still till i recover completely, that would take the bloody day. the cab is here, i put a sweater on, realize i dont need it, but keep it on anyway, and begin moving down the stairs like a seventy year old. and my wheezing would put the nilgiri steam train to shame. three hours of wires, tubes and needles pass by as a blur, and the medics have restored me to full health. i can resume the game again, and the phone is already ringing with my next mission.

its a friend, who was till recently a neighbour. i dont tell her that ive just been patched up, lest she not give me the mission. she is a biker, and had arranged for her bike to be sent to delhi from here, and turns out the courier guy was now untraceable with no news on the whereabouts of the bike that was sent ten days ago. the bike isn't worth all that much monetarily, at least compared to mine, but i understand her plight immediately since she probably values it more than i do mine in terms of sentimental value.

so its back to the house, on to my own faithful steed, and off to office to print out her email with the details of the courier and to go snoop around. what fun, a real life detective story. except of course, its no cakewalk. there's obstacles to be taken care of first. i'm also a juggler on the side, and i have three projects on my act. and one of those, a short week's assignment, ends tomorrow and i havent started on it, and have been evading the boss' call for a discussion the last coupla days. which means that if i don't show him something today, i'm screwed. dont get me mistaken, i dont usually bother to give deadlines too much respect. if i meet them, i meet them, if not, well, too bad.. which probably explains why all the aero engineers that gave anonymous feedback on me as part of our appraisal process said the same thing : he knows enough about airplanes that we can't fool him and make our work easier (and his difficult, conversely), but he needs to manage his time better. as you can see, our attitudes on deadlines didnt really agree. so this short assignment was supposed to be my coup-de-grace, coming up with what was supposed to be insanely good stuff in a week, and in a week only. and i was on the verge of botching it.

so the first thing to do in office, obviously, is to run to the copier machine, grab some A3 sheets, and sketch like it was the end of the world. or the end of design, at least. of course, without any ideas no amount of sketching would come to anything, so i was forced to take time out, drink copious amounts of coffee, super strong, and then put my brain into overdrive to find a few vague notions around which i could make my living. with a sum total of three such notions in hand half an hour later, i start sketching again, all the time realizing that quick sketches were not much more than doodles, and that a paper napkin would do more justice to these than the A3 that i was wasting. either way, i was spinning stories in my mind to sell these, a lot depended on it. the mission of finding the missing bike seemed like it was long ago, though i was itching to help her out.

in the end, the obstacles were cleared. turns out the deadline got extended, and i was never told of the same cos they wanted to keep me on a tight leash. needless to say, they were more than surprised at the work i came up with, but on the flip side there's more to keep me tied down in the days to come. but that's a different story, for a different day. at about six, when i could justifiably say that i had done enough to keep my day's pay as a designer and could now moonlight as a part time private investigator, i stepped out of office. only to find a wall of water. it was raining in a way noah could relate to, and i wasn't noah. i'd shaved my beard a while ago. and i have a love-hate relationship with the rain, which was now tilting significantly in the direction of fanatical hatred. thanks to an errant dry cleaner, my life protecting armor that is a black and yellow jacket had been parted from me for the last one week, and having recently recovered from an asthma attack, i probably shouldnt be anywhere near the cold rain. dejected, i called my friend up and said that i would have to defer the mission by a day, weather permitting. turns out she doesnt know too many other moonlighting investigators in bangalore, especially ones unhindered by rain, so i kept my case.

the rest of the evening was hide and seek with the rain. when the rain finally hid, i hopped on the bike and made a dash for it, straight into the floodwaters on bannerghatta road. having literally drowned on this road once, bike and all, i had quite a time getting to dry ground. the rain hid long enough to lull me into a sense of security. i stopped for dinner on the road, and took my time eating and then having the routine chai. then, just as i got on my bike for the home run, all hell broke loose. the rain came down in bucketfuls, and i was soaked before i could find a bus shelter or shop to take refuge in. so, soaked to my underwear and cold to my bones, i rode on home in a crabby mood. sure enough, there was no power at home which meant that my favourite activity of wasting time on the internet was out of the question, so i got even crabbier, till i finally decided to get some candles from the nearby grocer's. in the candlelight, i noticed a murakami book lying around, one that i had wanted to read but wasn't able to find the time for. in a final effort to make something out of my day, i started reading it by the candlelight. and for the first time in a while, felt really good. i was fighting the urge to sleep and allowed the book to grip me, the candle flickering and dancing and adding to the ambience. it went on for hours. and just as i was enjoying myself for the first time in the day, the power came back, and bathed everything in the antiseptic light from the CFL. the mood was ruined, i got back to believing there was a grand conspiracy against me with even the electricity board involved. even the candle seemed to be mocking me by thwarting the attempts of the now enlivened fan to extinguish it. so i started writing this.

what a brilliant-lousy day.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

In praise of the unscheduled stop..

y'know what i like? waypoints.. not the planned sort, those random ones that you make in the middle of journeys. i've always loved those, i'm a big sucker for an unscheduled stop. there is nothing i love more than a train stopping at a remote station for another train to cross it, or when a long distance bus pulls into a gas station or a restaurant, or when your flight gets diverted to another airport 'cos there was a thunderstorm over your destination. there is something strangely alluring about these places, even though they may not be particularly beautiful or interesting if you look at them from outside the perspective of an unscheduled stop. yet when the train pulls in at a station whose name i'm not sure i can pronounce, i run to the door at the risk of losing my seat, even.
i guess it's sorta like meeting someone you know you're not gonna meet again. like those strangers you strike up conversations with when travelling. you might find them interesting and try to talk more, or even end up talking more yourself knowing there's the safety of anonymity. you're only together for so long. they might lead dead ordinary lives outside of that interlude, but you might think they were the most interesing person you met. its the same with these places.
i step onto empty platforms with nothing but bored and sleepy dogs that are actively ignoring me, and i think i've reached someplace i might want to spend a long time in. i linger on the platform, trying to understand the smells and sounds of the place, and often stand transfixed long after the train has started moving, only to snap out and reluctantly walk, then jog and hop on the footboard of the coach that will take me to the destination. when the bus stops on a highway for passengers to answer nature's call, i get out even if i dont have to go and then play this little game of walking as far away from the bus as possible before i hear the driver honking and then rush back. when my flight to ahmedabad stops at bombay on the way, i walk down to the rear of the aircraft and stand as close to the open door as possible, and i can tell you that's about the only time i wish that i could be in bombay. cos i already know i'm going away.
similar things happen on the bike too. i'm an estimates guy. when i set off on the bike, i've got numbers running in my head. distance, estimated time of arrival, time enroute on various legs, fuel, mileage.. time being the most important. i get disturbed by people who want all the pencils on their desks facing the same direction, but i get pretty cranky if these numbers of mine get disturbed. which usually means the stops are pre-planned, and i zoom past for most of the journey. yet often, something catches my eye about some places. its more often a small rock or water filled ditch than a scenic mountain, but i stop for the couple of mintues allowed by the confidence that i can catch up with my numbers by riding faster and drink it all in.
i guess destinations dont hold that charm for me. i mean, when you get on a vehicle to go somewhere, you're most likely going to reach where its taking you. factor in all the obstacles and possibilities you could possibly think of, but even then the probability is well in the high nineties. and that is what bothers me about thinking of life as a journey, from birth to death. we forget wandering, we look at waypoints as just things to pass through, not to linger and savour. we are often too bothered about saving our seats than going to the door to see new stations waiting.