10 December 2010 – Friday – Bombay, India
We awoke this morning just after 7am. By 9am we were back on the road with our cool car and driver. Our intention was to first go to Juhu for a walk on the beach, and then to the Juhu Costa Coffee for coffee, like H and I used to do every morning when I stayed here a couple of years back. The only problem was that it took so much time to get anywhere near Juhu from the Guesthouse at Chembur, that we scratched the beach idea altogether and went straight to Costa Coffee instead. We had breakfast and then sat for an hour chatting before leaving R alone to finish a PowerPoint presentation for her work. H and I and The Little One decided to go to Lokhandwala to change some more money (again on the black market) and leave R to work in privacy.
Getting to Lokhandwala, which wasn’t that far away, again took an impossible amount of time. The traffic was snarled and thick, it didn’t matter what road we took.
How does anyone get anywhere in this blasted city? It’s impossible. And what if you really had to travel great distances? Man, you’d be fucked. You’d grow old on the roads. Literally. Yes, it would probably be faster to walk, but since there is no place to walk, except on the roads with the rest of the insanity, you’d end up dead for sure. You’d either get whacked by some idiot, or by exposure to the heavy pollution, which drifts up from every roadway like the skirt of a sultry whore and settles thick over the entire city like her discarded lovers. And the last thing you want to do is end up injured somewhere in need of medical attention. I can’t tell you how many ambulances I’ve seen stuck in heavy traffic, lights flashing, sirens wailing, stopped dead, just like the rest of us, as dead as their precious cargo is slowly becoming in the stretcher behind them. You just can’t win here. And don’t think I never thought about faster, alternative routes. The thing is they really don’t exist. If there were secret, faster routes that hardly anyone knew about or used, our driver knew them. He knew the city better than most people know their own sock drawers. But even taking quick routes into account, the crazy idea of trying to get from point A to Point B in this city is like a serious bad dream. It is like one of those nightmares everyone has when they are running like the dickens, pumping their legs like a madman, but not moving anywhere.
That’s exactly how it is here.
When we finally reached Lokhandwala, the car stopped right out in front of the money-changer and in we went. Once the transaction was completed, H decided she needed a new pair of sandals and knew exactly where to go for them. She told the driver that we’d be back in 10 min and headed across the busy street to the shop. After about 30 min, however, we finally found what we wanted and headed back to the car.
The only problem was that the car wasn’t where we left it.
It was gone.
Not only that, but we had left our cell phone in the diaper bag, which was the perfect place to keep the phone during our travels, except that today, because we were only dashing across the street for the sandals, we left it in the back seat of the car.
It meant that we had no way of contacting the driver.
So we stood there like idiots for the longest time, looking up and down the busy street like we were watching the ball at a tennis match, praying that he miraculously appear before us like he always seemed to do. It was an odd predicament to be in, like when you’re a kid and you lose your mother in a crowd. Now you know you should never lose your mother in a crowd, and you have this sinking feeling in your stomach that you are probably going to get in a whole lot of trouble for doing it, and, like a lost child, all you really want is for your mother to step out of the crowd of strangers all around you, scoop you up in her soft, warm arms, and take you home. But you somehow know, even at that tender age, that’s not going to happen and all you are left with is to sit down on the ground and cry your eyes out because you have no idea what to do next.
That is exactly where we stood.
At the side of the road, like two miserable children with a baby, cranking our heads to the left and right, ready, at any second, to collapse onto the curb and start bawling our eyes out.
But even the baby knew that wasn’t going to work.
So we needed to think of something else fast. All of my instincts told me to wait right there and not move at all, but H had an idea and ran off towards the shoe shop we just visited, thinking the driver might be waiting outside it somewhere on the street. I wasn’t sure how the driver could possibly know which shoe store we went in to, so I volunteered to wait on the corner, in plain sight, hoping that if I stand out in the open he will spot me. There was no bloody way on earth I could ever hope to spot him with all the people and crazy traffic buzzing around me.
So for over an hour I stood there on the corner with The Little One, trying my hardest to make myself as conspicuous as I possibly could. But how could I be any more conspicuous than I already was?
My bright idea didn’t seem to be working at all.
H kept pacing up and down the street, hoping against hope that, if he was there, she could spot him and his car. But that didn’t seem to be working either.
Finally, when H came and joined me, I suggested we turn around and go back to the money-changer, which was only halfway up the block, thinking that if he was anywhere, he might be there waiting for us.
It seemed like such a simple solution to our predicament.
Why then did it take so long for us to come up with it?
Sure enough, as soon as we showed up outside the money-changer, he came running up to us, waving his arms.
I have never been more happy to see someone in my entire life.
It turned out that he was chased out of his original parking spot by the Bombay Traffic Police and just moved the car up to one of the side streets ahead.
But while waiting for us there, he fell asleep.
I figured it could have turned out a lot worse than it did, so both H and I agreed that we were just thankful we found him and that we wouldn’t drag him out of the car and shoot him dead for making us wait.
He took us back to the car and then drove us all the way back to Costa Coffee to pick up R, who was understandably upset we had taken so long, and from there we drove all the way up to Inorbit Mall. We had a bunch of stuff to get for the wedding in Kolkata in 4 days time, so we chose to go there as we’d been there before the last time I was in Bombay and knew what to expect, plus it was on the way to H’s NIFT (National Institute of Fashion Technology) friend, whom we had planned to meet with in the evening. Sandeep had planned a big party for H and had invited a whole bunch of H’s old classmates to his place to celebrate H being back in India and the birth of The Little One. It was actually a really great thing he did for H and us. He worked very hard to pull the whole thing together and it really was a whole lot of fun. It was a good thing we agreed to spend the night at Sandeep’s house, however, because by the time the party wound down, it was after 1am, and we wouldn’t have reached the Guesthouse until 3am.
But we all had a really great time that night. It was a great party.