19 June, 2008

Just a puppet on a lonely string, Oh who would ever want to be king?

Splendid. She had no balance in her cell phone. None whatsoever. Not even for a missed call. And she was planning to meet him in front of Wenger’s in 15 minutes. There was no way she could manage that with this traffic. With nothing better to do she plugged in her earphones and listened to Chris Martin’s latest. He crooned in his characteristic brooding manner amidst the clash and bang….The breeze mixed with the fumes making her cough. They had been at this particular traffic signal for over 10 minutes and the autorickshaw still seemed a kilometer away from the red light.

She shouted above the din, “Bhaiya kitna time lagega pahunchne mein?” (How much time will it take to reach?).
“Madam aadha ghanta toh lag hi jayega.” (It will take at least half an hour)

“I’ll never make it in time,” she fretted. She looked outside the confines of the auto. There was a kid making faces at her through the window of a car. Pigtailed and covered in lace, the child seemed fascinated with the sights around her. Traffic signals certainly didn’t bother her. Her manicured mother now coaxed her away from the window and gave her a lollypop which seemed to placate the inquisitive child.

On the other side there was a scooter groaning under the weight of a pot-bellied man, his make-up laden wife, daughter who sat squashed at the back and a toddler of a son who stood under the handles hanging on for dear life. She wrinkled her nose disgustedly, “Damn the population. If there weren’t so many people I wouldn’t be stuck in this traffic.” Objectivity in situations of crisis was one of her strong points.

Motorcycles were whizzing past irrespective of the stationery traffic, weaving their way through the traffic, defying lanes and all safety concerns. Amidst all this was a little scraggly girl balancing a baby on her narrow hips. Her hair was bleached by constant exposure to the sun and looked like that of the models’ who were on the covers of the magazines she was trying to sell. Flies sat around the baby’s mouth and it began wailing loudly. Unperturbed, she carried on reciting the names of the magazines.
Honk! Honk! The light had changed colour. The engines were starting up. Exhaust pipes spewed out their sins and the entire body of automobiles began heaving like a monster awakening. Suddenly, a young boy – he must have been eleven or twelve, emerged near the auto, his shirt drenched in red, his eyes open wide in terror.

“Didi meri madad karo,” he screamed, “Ek aadmi ghayal pada hai sadak par. Please aa jao. Please didi.” (Help me. There is a man lying wounded on the road. Please come. Please)

He began tugging at her kurta, tears streaming down his young face, forming rivulets through the grime. She gave him a stern look, seeing through the ploy straight away. Fake tears coupled with some good acting and red paint and you could cajole any unassuming stranger to help you. Many people had got led away by such stories of distress and robbed/raped by paying attention to these fiends. The newspapers were full of it. So when the little boy began crying, she turned away saying, “Kisi aur ko buddhu banao.” (Go fool someone else)

“Nahi didi, woh mar jayega. Bahut khoon…khoon khoon. Aap hospital ko call kar do.” (No, he will die. A lot of blood…blood blood. You can call the hospital). He began mumbling incoherently and clutched at her feet in desperation, willing her to make eye contact. Suddenly, as if on cue, the after effects of the green light filtered down to the auto and the traffic moved. The boy was left behind wailing. The incident had left her shaken, she wanted to believe the boy but common sense told her otherwise. “Anyway I don’t have enough balance to call a hospital,” she placated her conscience.

After another forty minutes through heat and smoke, she found herself in CP. He will be fuming in front of Wenger’s pacing up and down, feeling awkward and not knowing what to do with his hands. She almost smiled as she pictured him grumbling, his hair a mess and his forehead ceased into a frown. With a useless phone and him no where in sight, she felt utterly handicapped. “How did people ever make and manage to keep plans before cell phones?” she wondered. “Where the hell is he? He is late and I was worrying all this while. So much for all the lectures he gives me about punctuality.” It’s strange how we find it hard to empathize with people in a situation for which we would have liked to be forgiven. Cursing him, she went into the pastry shop to grab a mutton patty for herself, a mushroom one for him and two éclairs (both for herself – he didn’t care for sweets). She stood watching people walk through the arcs of Connaught Place. Old people doddering, young ones cuddling, gossiping, haggling, boys strutting, girls sashaying. The evening was fast turning dark and the flies gave way to mosquitoes. There was a slight breeze and the stars were beginning to twinkle. She sat around, idling, angry at being made to wait, worried about reaching home late, disgusted with him and his utter callousness (he could’ve called at least).

An hour later, she got up in a huff. The Wenger’s doorman gave her an apologetic smile. Maybe he had seen many people stood up before. She certainly hadn’t and wasn’t too happy about it. Reaching home in a rotten mood, tired and irritated, bubbling with horrible things to say, she lunged for the phone and jabbed in his number with vehemence. Deep breathe. 1 2 3. “The number you are trying to call is currently unreachable. Please try after sometime.” It was the proverbial last straw.

* * *

She groggily opened the paper and scanned the headlines. At the bottom of the second page, there was a small piece on an accident. “Famous lawyer’s 24 year old son dies due to car accident. Delay in medical help costs life.” The article went on to moan about the city’s deteriorating and deplorable medical facilities, the insensitivity of by-standers who watched the man die and how an 11 year old had tried and failed to get any help.


  1. Wow. A very touching story. And very well-written, could almost see that ending coming, but still, definitely well-written!

  2. Nice but all too predictable really. You've come up with better ones.

    And yes, I've no clue as to what the title means.

  3. good one... but ya u kind of know the end.. have gone through an accident where it took two hrs for someone to pluck up the courage to take three injured kids and a dead auto rickshaw driver to the hospital.... it is sad the way people are so scared of letting someone else's misery and blood spill over their time...and the way mistrust and treachery have seeped so deep into our lives...

  4. Abhi: thanks

    jd: now that hmm could mean a lot of things....hmmm?

    Piper: The title is from coldplay's latest single viva la vida. And Ive come up with worse too :)

    Nive: Ya its the utter callousness that makes me wonder. The ending was predictable of course but sometimes real life is painfully predictable too.

  5. ok ok, i won't add to the
    'i knew what was coming'... but yes, very well written

  6. plot - decent. good.

    style - different.

    my take on style - pichle zamane mein likha hua stuff better.

    moral advice - oh yes. bring it on.

    comment - you are good with describing stuff. nature mostly. people. yet to see.

    fiction - ok. so you have moved onto fiction too. remember dafchee?

  7. yesh.. predictable indeed. depressing stories are good when they got the punch :)

  8. sopho:

    @ comment - I have come to accept that I am a dunce when it comes to reading people (you know their nuances, their good/bad/bitter) so I was bound to goof up trying to write about them.

    @ fiction - No I havn't "moved on". A story pops into your head and you write it out kya fact kya fiction who cares(maybe since I rarely think things through, I end up with predictable tales fact OR fiction). And yes I remember him (memory isnt ALL THAT bad silly).

  9. one never knows

    with the kind of deterioration you have undergone, one never knows


  10. One of the best that I have read. Always knew u had very good words and thoughts but read u for the first time and let me assure u, u have made another regular reader and fan for yourself. And of course u are worth it.


  11. cartoon! Great seeing you here :)
    I will look forward to seeing you here more often

    take care



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