Saturday, March 03, 2007

Saturday Morn Live

0730 hrs on a Saturday morning is by no means the right time to be on the road. Hell, I find it ghastly to even picture myself in conscious state at that time. But, when my humane side took over (rarely does that happen) and I set off to help out a friend at that ungodly hour, the only solace I found was in the fact that I had the steering wheel in my hands and the driver's seat under my ass. Call it Children's Day or whatever, but two scenes involving kids embedded themselves in my head.

Scene One: Somewhere close to the Andheri railway station, a little girl, who looked not more than 8 years old, dragged a reluctant younger boy (presumably her brother) through the traffic jam (For the unfamiliar ones, YES, Mumbai has traffic jams on its roads at 0730 hrs... on a Saturday morning!) The boy looked half-drowsy and made me rethink why I was up at this hour of the day on a Saturday morning. He left himself be dragged across the road by his sister whose efforts at that moment seemed to be concentrated on reaching the other side of the road safely with her brother. They (rather, she) seemed to be taking some hard chances as the cars sped by in the rightmost lane and I slowed down to let them cross ahead of the car I was driving, the last obstacle between them and their goal - the Other side. Suddenly her eyes met mine and perhaps she didn't realize I was going to stop to let her by anyway. An authoritative raise of the hand and a stern glare was her immediate response. At that very instant in time, she ceased to be 8. She could have been a 18-year-old girl dragging her boyfriend to the clearance sale at the showroom across the road. She could have been a 38-year-old mother dragging her unwilling son to school. She could have been a 68-year-old grandmother with no regard to her own life, yet determined to ensure the safety of her grandson whose hands she clasped. The moment passed me by as did the 8-year-old girl.

Scene Two: I got off the Aarey flyover at Goregaon and rejoined the rest of the traffic on the highway. To my left, auto rickshaws lined up at the kerb for their daily mornign wash so that passengers could seat their derrieres in 'clean' vehicles (I'd have used the word 'clean' minus the quotes if the water that washed the rickshaws was actually not black and muddy). It's not an unusual sight on a regular Mumbai morning. Urchins of all ages run around with little buckets of water and a rags that are as black as the colour on the rickshaws. As I glided past them, two kids on the pavement were hailing a rickshaw that seemed to be slowing down towards them. With a competitive edge, one kid raised his rag to show a slightly less dirtier rag to gain one up on his rival. The rickshaw driver broke both their hearts and went ahead towards the eventual winner. The victor in this case being a pintsized firebrand who had gotten off the kerb and on to the road with a rag in hand and a whistle in mouth. Blowing on the whistle furiously, he flagged the rickshaw in line behind another. He went up to the rickshaw ahead and smartly tapped on its roof to notify its driver that his time at the rickshaw-wash was up. As the rickshaw broke the line and injected itself into the traffic just ahead of me, my last sight of the young, wise marketing genius running to fill his bucket yet again, but not before guiding his hard-earned, most recent customer to the tea stall just around the kerb. Customer Care.

An early morning lesson in life for me. Hah, kids!

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