Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Driving Mr. Robb

One should always be careful what questions one sends out into the universe, simply because the universe may just decide to answer at the most inconvenient moment. Imagine if you will, little me coming home from work, with Driver driving as Driver does, Hindi hop on the sound system and traffic all around as traffic in Delhi tends to be. See, Driver has driving issues.

First off, he knows nothing about Delhi and I find myself often pointing this way or that to direct him to where I need to go. A simple trip to say, A block in Vasant Vihar becomes a sight seeing expedition that almost requires shots and extended leave from the office. I was merely looking for early evening cocktails and ended up asking directions at the Embassy of Rwanda. Of course they had no idea where to go and so we went round and round until I was suffering from the early signs of whiplash. A trip to Dilli Haat, just down the street and around the corner of my house sometimes includes a quick pass of the Taj Mahal and spectacular views from the lower Himalayas.

Driver’s nice, many times grumpy, and always directionally challenged. He knows certain places and only one way to get to each place. As in most cities, there are always multiple ways to get from A to B, but that whole concept seems to be lost on Driver. I know more ways into the office than he does. He also seems to believe that in Delhi, there is only one place to do certain activities. If I am coming from Gurgaon into South Delhi and I ask where to buy a digital camera, for example, driver knows one place which is on the exact opposite end of the city. Buying a Carram board meant sitting 1 hour each way in traffic when there are several places to buy them within walking distance of the house. If there is only one traffic jam anywhere in Delhi, you can bet your bottom dollar that we will be sitting in it. And his knack for finding potholes is worth all my respect and admiration. I often get out of the car without any clue as to where my internal organs have been relocated.

So during a moment of backseat frustration, stuck in the middle of traffic with almost no air-conditioning in 40-plus degree weather, itching up a storm, I made the fatal mistake of asking “can this get any worse?” No sooner had the words left my mind than I saw smoke coming from the hood of the car. Yes, Driver’s car overheated. And not just that, we were marooned in the center of traffic. Cars honking, people looking at the goras, pointing and laughing. Cows swerving. Well, they would have swerved if there had been any in the streets. There were at last 5 lanes on either side of us. Motorbikes, rickshaws, bicycles, cars, busses, trucks all giving us the third eye as they drove past. We had to choice but to abandon out Titanic before we were sucked down under the flood of traffic. Using my Delhi hand, I safely navigated us across the street where we did our best to grab a rickshaw. Not that easy at 6:20 on a Monday evening. They were full and a few even refused to take us. Normally they see gora and think “ka-ching” but not dice. Finally, Driver came to the rescue, flagged down a rick and shoved us inside. Soon we were on our way home, the warm fumes of exhaust from the passing busses softly smacking us in the face.

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