Day 22- Ringing in Wintery Love

In the past 22 days, every waking hour of mine has elicited one emotion for sure- that of hope. The hope to find some prompt to post. Some fodder. Any grub that I can latch on to.

Today too was no different. I kept looking out for a sign that would tell me, “There! There’s your today’s post!” which came in the form of aloo-methi ki sabzi** and rotis! And while making them I kept feeling jubilant because to me aloo methi always meant that winter was round the corner.

 

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So when I went to check on the WordPress site for today’s prompt, I secretly wished that it would have something suitable for my state of mind. Voila! It sure did.

Elicit

As it turned out our dinner did elicit a sense of nostalgia in me. It took me home to Delhi where we would all be layered in our winter-wear, too cold and lazy to walk to the dining table so keep ourselves snuggled inside the razai and be served with hot and steaming chapatis and aloo methi ki sabzi or even methi ke parathe by Ma. Right when we would think that ringing in winter couldn’t get better, she would go one notch higher and serve us gajar-ka-halwa! And that would officially welcome the season.

Even though there is no “winter” here, there are signs still, that we have come to look forward to seeing that could elicit a certain kind of wintery love. So when those signs present themselves nothing can stop me or Namnam from feeling inexplicably happy.

 

** Aloo-Methi ki Sabzi- A curry made with Potato & Fenugreek leaves

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Auto-rickshaw wala

The bus stops in front of Bikaner House.

Its almost midnight.

Way past the ‘decent hour’ for any woman to be out in the city.

I alight after a thoroughly enjoyable 7 hours of journey from Jaipur. Right behind follow my almost-6-year-old daughter and my mother.

We walk a few steps looking around for the best mode of transportation that would safely take us home. We have barely made it to the exit-gate, in comes a herd of auto-rickshaw drivers encircling us..offering us to drop us home. “Madam, kahan jaana hai?” “Auto mei baith jao”

We have another 20-25 kms of travel yet to cover to finally reach home.

Each of them has his eyes firmly fixed on us.

Right then, a flurry of thoughts come hitting me like a curse,“So which one of them would end up molesting us tonight?”…

“What if one of them drags us to a deserted land and rapes us?”..

“Which one of them would eventually succeed in looting us..and killing us?”

No sooner do these thoughts creep into my mind than I clutch my child tightly and hold on to my mother protectively.

I look around to see whether I can find a cab for us instead. Yet again the crippling thought seeps in.

‘What if the cab-driver ends up knocking us off?’

“Dont be crazy”, I tell myself. There has been no untoward action by any of the auto-rick drivers that drives me towards such thoughts.

None whatsoever.

Each one is merely doing his job of convincing us, persuading us to sit in his vehicle so he can earn his bread & butter.

Then why worry?

Brushing those thoughts away, I, along-with my mother and daughter get into an auto. My mother, the firebrand that she is begins to argue with the driver about the outrageous fare he quotes.

Paranoia hits me yet again and I urge her to stop provoking him lest he harms us in any way. I keep chiding her,” Stop it Ma, this is not a safe time and place for two women to get into scuffle with a man. We still have a long way to reach home”. Of course I tell her this in Malayalam. I dont want his ears to get what I am saying lest he thinks we are helpless and an easy prey.

All through the auto-ride I am alert.

The auto-driver is driving at the perfect speed. He is cautious and minds his own business.

Yet. Every time there is a sharp turn or a delay in taking a turn my heart skips a beat.

Every time we reach a dimly lit road my heart skips a beat.

In my own crazy head I prepare and plan to fight him in case he brings the auto to a stand still in those unlit roads and tries to come at us.

Nothing of that sort happens.

We, then, reach a well lit road. Vehicles plying either side continuously. But not a single soul in sight.

I wonder out loud to my mother about cities like Mumbai where people freely move around till past midnight with no fear of safety. Or so I have heard, correct me if I am wrong.

Wistfully, I wonder if I can even imagine a similar scenario in my own city. I wonder if I ever will get to associate my city with safety and security without a shudder or cringe.

On the way I spot two girls standing at the side of a road, perhaps waiting for a cab.

Our auto-driver swiftly turns to give them a look.

And my scary thoughts go on an over-drive again.

“What did that look convey?” “Did he see prospective passengers in them?”. “Did he hope to fetch them and earn some more money and retire for the day with a content heart?”. Or. “Did he have any lustful intentions brewing in his mind?”

As these thoughts play havoc in my mind, I realize that the auto-wala has safely brought us home. I pay him and walk in to the safe confines of home with my daughter and mother.

All of this sets me thinking….

Is this what my city has come to mean? Is this the city where I was born? The city that brought me up, made me stand up on my feet? The city where I didnt care what I wore, but today I stand the risk of being blamed for my dressing if I get attacked? The city where I didnt have to think twice before venturing out, irrespective of the time or day, but today I have to keep my guard up even in broad daylight? Is this MY city where I stand the risk of being blamed for getting molested because I went to the bar? Because I wore a skimpy dress? Is this MY city where I am forbidden to move around after 8 PM lest I get raped?

Is this MY city where I dont even have the freedom to walk freely as I please?

Never have I felt so helpless and unsafe in my own city.

Happy Independence Day BTW

Whats your honking style?

**Blabber post**

Ok, now being someone who is born and brought up in a place like Delhi honks have been an integral part of my life. Even before I learnt how to drive on Delhi roads I learnt to appreciate( or not) a the horns of the raging Blue-line buses and the snooty auto-rickshaws and the impish Marutis. Why, I have been honked at by even the cycle-rickshaws. Boy what attitude! What music to the ears with so many horns all around you as soon as you stepped out of the house! How could they not be a part of your life?

And then when I started driving, oh boy what a field I had by honking at all and sundry! I used to honk at even those cows spread royally in the middle of the road as though they were in a garden! Even those dogs and cats loitering around waiting for their mates had to be urged- by way of my honks, of course- to find a cozier place to breed!

Anyway in the last 9 years or so that I have been in the Middle East, a no-honk zone, I have been so spoilt with the organized driving and peaceful silence that now when I go home the jarring sounds of the horns blaring into my ears cringe me.

Having said that, the reckless and rash driving that I have been observing in Doha roads lately makes me wonder if my love for honks may get rekindled after-all! Oh you have to hear the different kinds of honks that I blow these days to believe me!

Honk #1– When you are driving at a speed of 100km/h and all of a sudden a pedestrian sprints across you just about getting away from coming under your car, you screech out a ‘Nooooooo’ with your honk! Trust me you’ll come across a lot of such such irresponsible morons here!

Honk #2– When a measly-looking vehicle is attempting to sneak in between you and the car in front in an already stifling traffic jam, you honk to say,’ Dont even think about it!’ FYI the message can be better conveyed when the honk is administered in broad daylight coupled with your piercing stare shooting right through his glass-shield!

Honk #3– is used when the role reverses. I mean, when your car is the measly-looking vehicle attempting to join a stretch of cars(read the Land cruisers, Patrols and the ilk). This time you meekly honk and give the sanest smile on earth to say,’ Please let me go..please please, or else I will cry and tell my mom that you’re not letting me go…waaaaa, waaaa!’

Honk #4– When you are enjoying the drive on a reasonably empty road listening to your favorite song and just when you are turning right, out comes this car from nowhere and zooms past you from the wrong end, as though in a terrible urge to relieve himself! Thats when you blow the dynamite of a honk shooting the nastiest curses that you can think of,’ @##$%%$#$…you douche-bag..teri toh mai!’

Honk #5– This one is a harmless one. When you spot a friend or an acquaintance on your way, this honk simply conveys,’ Hi there! whats up?’

Honk #6– But if, instead of reaching your friend(mentioned in #5), it reaches the ears of the vehicle in front of you, it can be misconstrued as,’ Hey there, move faster, you tortoise’! Which can attract variety of expressions and sign-lingos from the tortoise BTW. He/she may give you a taste of your own medicine by way of the piercing stare from his/her rear-view mirror which can shoot through YOUR glass-shield this time or or he may raise his hand in a dancing-mudra like this

which loosely conveys,’ Whats your problem? 😡 😡 ‘

OR he/she may just shoot the dynamite honk #4 at you!

Honk #7– is administered when there is a monster-trailer on road and you want to get past it. Most of these trailers are usually well in their lanes and rarely bully you. But their very enormity is so intimidating that you cower. Thats when you plead with them by way of this honk which says, ‘ Hey truckaasur! Please dont crush me! Please please please! Have mercy!’

Honk #8– This is R’s favourite! This is a ‘just like that’ honk! Literally. He uses it for the love of using it! Just like that. A Delhi-ite to the core! He honks when he takes the car out of the garage. And then honks again while waiting for the gate of the compound to open. He honks when he sees a car speeding off … on the opposite side of the road! :roll:. And of course he makes use of all the honk-categories that I mentioned above, during the course of his drive. And honks even when on a long drive with not a vehicle in close-shave quarter…just to spite me 😡 ! He goes ‘honk’ and gives me a sheepish smile to say ‘just like that’ 😐 Aargh!

Did I just say my love for honks was rekindling? Or not? 😀

So what did you honk today?

Dear Jayanti, as you leave us to usher in a new chapter in your life

I cant help but look back on all the years that you have been with uncle & aunty…with us and wonder at the time flown by.

I have written to you before about how indebted I am to you for being there for us ( and I am hoping you would get your child[ren] read the letter one day and know how much you mean to me and my family), yet after all these years no amount of thank yous seem enough to truly express my heartfelt gratitude.

Although I knew this day was to come at some point in time, I never realized it would hit me so hard so soon…until you called me last night to say good-bye.  The minute you said, ‘ Didi mai jaa rahi hoon’ it dawned on me that the moment was here for real. I had so much to tell you but the sheer overwhelming nature of the situation made me struggle for words!

I wanted to tell you how much I was going to miss you. How much I would miss discussing the latest episodes of tele-soaps :D. How much I would miss calling out to you.

I wanted to tell you how bereft the house would seem without you around.

I wanted to tell you that when we come to Delhi, like always the first thing that Namnam’s eyes would look out for as soon as she enters the house would be you.

I wanted to tell you that she had drawn you in her family chart alongside her Ammachu, Ammamma and Thaatha. For her you are family. For us too, Jayanti 🙂

I wanted to tell you how much Namnam would miss running around you and cuddling up,

I wanted to tell you that she would terribly miss making your hair, undoing it and then combing it again and then undoing it and then clipping it again…and I would miss watching you sit through all of that patiently with your ever-effervescent smile 🙂

I wanted to tell you that I would miss watching you drum Achan-your uncle’s head playfully while waiting for him to finish his tea, hearing you recount a fun-ride you and Aunty had in a metro, watching the three of you laugh and crack jokes at each other. Even though watching you with uncle & aunty evoked a tinge of envy in me for the simple reason that the moments made me realize that you were getting to spend far more precious time with them than me. Yet those moments reassured how beautifully the three of you gelled with each other and how wonderfully you had accepted each other. For a daughter who lived so far away from her parents, believe me Jayanti, you were a great source of reassurance that my parents were in secure hands :).

I wanted to tell you to stay being the ever-smiling, loving and caring girl that you are 🙂

I wanted to tell you that if ever you felt challenged in any walk of life, you must be bold and strong to face it. Be known that Uncle Aunty, Raghubhaiyya and I will always be there for you.

I wanted to tell you to always stick to your grounds, to never compromise on your ideals, for I know how strong willed and principled you are.

I wanted to tell you, as you gear up to embark on a new journey, to be accepting towards your new family and command as much acceptance from them. Having said that I hope and pray that you are blessed with a wonderful husband and a wonderful family 🙂

I wanted to tell you to be happy. And I remember now that I did tell you that. I really want you to be. You deserve to be. In every bit of the way, my dear girl. May God bless you with all the happiness in the world.

Love always

Didi