Monday, May 01, 2006

Venturing Out Finally...

Driving a big car like The Beast, Tata Sierra, in a city like Chennai is more a psychological burden than anything else. Will the danged thing stop in time, will I hit someone on the side, and there are half a million kamikaze two wheeler riders who usually overtake me brazenly from the wrong side, and my heart jumps into my mouth like a frightened pup. Will I crush someone under its wide wheels? Some drunken driver ram into me from behind? In fact I have hit the car in the front on three occasions, no serious damage, so the drivers came out each time, inspected and went back with no sign of aggression. You do that in Pune, and you can't reach home in one piece.

By the third Sunday in Chennai, I was a total wreck, mentally, emotionally and psychologically. I had promised two friends, no sorry, three friends, at the other end of the city, to taste their hospitality. Ameeta, one of the more active Caferati writers, had given me perfect instructions and with eyes closed I had conjured up an infernal picture of poor old me getting lost in the maze of roads with narrow lanes that would get choked with The Beast crawling like an unhurried elephant through them. Human mind is a genius at slapping up mountains of improbable fears, isn't it?

By saturday night, I had decided -no taking wild risks, I'd rather jump into that crowded looking bus which starts from Ambattur, and trundles along till it hits Anna Nagar -it looked like a true saviour to me, for its long and winding route ends at Velachery. The magical name of the place I had never been to, and which seemed to lay at the very bottom of the roadmap that one of these yellow pages book that the thick-glasses wearing manager of the hotel had very kindly sent up. The more I studied it, the more my confidence eroded. The distance seemed to burgeon into an impossible magnitude... almost a light year.

By sunday morning, a nice sleep preceded with some beer and fried fish had bolstered my sagging nerves spectacularly. I decided to drive come what may. Ameeta in the mean time rang up asking me if I could come to her place at one o'clock instead of eleven thirty... I agreed. It seemed sensible to start out rather late, so that morning rush would have petered out. Accordingly I pushed the other two appointments, one with Hans Kaushik a full-time theatre personality and the other Dr. Rodriguez, ex-head of a nuclear research facility and a jazzhead to boot. They both said fine, to the postponement. Now driving through Anna Nagar onto Vadapalani and Ashok Nagar [both places where I had stayed in more fancy hotels on earlier visits] was easy.

Following the clues provided by Ameeta, I did emerge onto the Anna Salai and Saidpet area too. However on hitting the Guindy area, some no-entry or diversion made me emerge not near the Raj Bhavan but heading towards the airport. I had to ask a couple of cops about the road to Velachery. It seemed near enough. By then the sun had become too fierce, past noon, and the air-conditioning of the big car was becoming less effective. One of my dreams, like that about meeting Bill Gates and pestering him about some fundamental flaws in almost every programme we all use, is to meet the Tata motors design team. They've done some incredible moronic tomfoolery with this car.

You leave it in the Chennai sun, and the thick steering wheel becomes a darker version of red hot coals. I cannot hold it for a second. I keep doing a jig with the hands, and patting like a potter it instead of manipulating it. Okay there may be solutions. But for this funny air-conditioning, no apology will hold water. Some cars, smaller ones, make the head of the driver ache with cold, whilst the lower body is drenched in sweat. This car being massive, does a weirder thing. After half an hour of half-hearted cooling, it makes the steering wheel frozen, you fear frostbite. The rest of the body mind you, is teetering on the sweating thresh-hold. Makes one very uncomfortable. God help the others sitting with you. I don't want to make this a very long post... so readers, please take a break and come back for more ! The journey will continue...


At 4:47 PM, Blogger david raphael israel said...


All this makes me appreciate the perfect luxury of taxicab locomotion.

But I await the sequel . . .

At 4:55 AM, Blogger R.Shriram said...

Dear Max,
I dunno why the name resonates with English film character.
Anyways i am flattered by your pert fluency of writing

by the way please please morph - "almsot" to "almost" as my discerning eye catches typos easily

well well i wish i had the skill to describe factual experiences the way you do

gotta learn a lot from ya

till then
yours truly

At 8:00 AM, Blogger Max Babi said...

Done, Shriram,

Tks for using your discerning eye, which failed to catch six more typos that MS word could. Like Mark Twain said it's a must to invent some myths to face the ugly reality of every day life. Do keep commenting, very refreshing indeed.


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