They are on the road again

I was 15.

It was early evening.

Maybe 5 – maybe 6.

That time of day when you don’t really know if the sun is rising or setting

Unless you look at your wristwatch.


I was on my TVS scooty on my way to Biology tuitions.

Where we studied life and such.

I was about to experience it firsthand.

An unsolicited practical.


I took a turn into a lane.

There was a mob of men.

Young. Old.

And that funny age when you don’t know if you are young or old.


They spread out across the road like a giant organism

I stopped. I had to.

They came forward.

As one

They pulled me off my vehicle.

They looked menacing.

They had something in their hands.

They rubbed something on my face.

They were screaming something.

They were reeking of something.

They touched me.

Not one

Not once.

Maybe five men

Maybe ten men

Or did I imagine it all?

In the middle of the street.


I remember my eyes burning.

I remember crying.

I remember touching my face and thinking I am bleeding.

And yet I saw everyone was smiling.

Even passers-by.

Some even laughed.


Then they left.

Just like they arrived.

As one.


Was it 10 min ?

Was it 1 hour ?

I don’t remember.


I remember running.

I remember howling.

I remember a palatial house

I remember barging in

I remember curling up on a stranger’s sofa and crying like a baby.

No not a baby.

A baby has no real sense of loss.

I cried like someone who has had something precious – something irreplaceable snatched from them.

I remember a kind faced lady

I remember a glass of water

I remember a soothing voice.


Then I left.

Was it 10 min?

Was it 1 hour?

I don’t remember.


That lane was not lonely. It was a busy road beside a very prominent college.

It wasn’t late at night. It was evening. Before dark.

I wasn’t wearing a mini skirt. I was in full length baggy jeans and an oversized t-shirt.

I wasn’t a sexy looking woman. I was a skinny gangly teenager.

Those men were not menacing. They were celebrating.

That was not blood on my face. It was my tears mixed with the crimson powder they had rubbed into my eyes.


They weren’t screaming in rage.

They were screaming Ganpati Bappa Morya



It is that time of the year again.

It is 2 decades later.

The beasts are on the road again.

They have forgotten me.



A 15 year old remembers.

I remember.


National Threesome Day


Over the years it has become increasingly apparent that Independence Day is a day of formalities,reiterations and make believe. And we have all learned to continue the farce of patriotism while stabbing our fellow nationals in the back in the self righteous name of religion, caste and food habits. Yet I am at the end of the day an idealist and still continue to hope for the best which every new decade promises.

So instead of delving deep into our Indian inadequacies I prefer these days to focus on the quirks.

Because the quirks – oh the quirks –  they define us.

They are not only highly entertaining but wonderfully stupid making us almost lovably psychotic.

Have you ever noticed (at least it holds true in the city I live in)that all through the year the average motorbike capacity is 1 or 2 people ( or at the most maybe a kid )seated sanely heads down? The head down position is mainly to avoid eye contact with the police since the rider is mostly helmetless. Unless the helmet is being carried by the pillion – in which case the rider is proudly riding chin up and the pillion slips the helmet on and off at every traffic light.

But I digress.

Suddenly on 15th Aug (and on 26th January) the rules of the average 2 wheeler capacity change. Independence day is suddenly a day when 3 guys are on a bike.

Like the day implies independence in all forms.

No judgements to be passed.

Explore the limits of your fantasies.

And apparently the fantasies of adult Indian men include unnecessary flag waving, yelling like maniacs, whistling, littering but most important of all – RIDING THREESOME.

2 boys can’t be friends on National Threesome day.

It has to be an odd number.

3 or 5 or 7.

Thus ensuring 1 out of every 2 or 3 bikes you will see is laden with 3 men. Yesterday I actually counted 40 such combinations. I kid you not.

And you are welcome. I do my bit for the country. Taking surveys of madness is also a service before anyone objects to my pastime.

The excitement in their voices. The glee in their eyes. The glow on their faces.

I tell you – 1 day patriotism does more for their complexion than all the ‘Fair and Lovely’ creams in the world.

Patriotism is like a drug with all the high and absolutely no dependence whatsoever.

You can indulge in it on 1 or 2 days of the year and float blissfully through the rest of the year without a freaking care in the world even if the country is falling apart.

And it is Free.



No wonder they play the National Anthem at every cinema hall. It does pep up our mood thus making sure people get through third degree torture like When Harry met Sejal without killing strangling the person beside them.

In fact if cinema hall owners have a house full movie or trains/flights are overbooked and they want to accommodate more people I suggest they play the national anthem 3 or 4 times and distribute the national flag.

The patriotism might motivate people to sit 3 in a seat in a patriotic threesome.

Happy Threesome Day everyone.

Cross Section of The Indian Driver(up-the-wall)

I like to think I have travelled a bit – so I do know what I am talking about when I say the average Indian driving on the Road is unique. I do not think any one country has the same diversity of species as can be found on our roads.

Forget roads.

One road.

Any one road in India will have at least one representative of all the following species.

Mr Thinker

That one man who will stop his two wheeler at the busiest intersection and of all things – think. I always wonder. What is that profound thought occurring to him at precisely this moment? What could it be that cannot wait ?

Socrates with a theory.

Einstein with a breakthrough.

A new financial policy ?

A way to eradicate illiteracy ?

The end of terrorism ?

Right there. Right then.

You have to stop in the middle of the road and think. Stop at the busiest turn. Look left – look right and see the oncoming traffic. But remain zoned out.

Into this place of incredible enlightenment.

Mr Philanthropist 

His heart is enormous and generosity unparalleled. From the windows of his car will come bottles, plastic and other fun non biodegradable stuff. He will pitch out wrappers.. subway sandwich leftovers.. water..a plastic bag… an unwanted relative or two…and when he has nothing more to give he will give of himself. Literally. Body fluids will be dispensed left right and centre.

At the RED signal – he will open the door of his Fancy RED car and spit out RED fluid – smile at his neighbors and go on unaffected without waiting for thank yous and accolades. Such a warm giving unselfish heart.

Mr Left-is-Right

He is the one with the right indicator on when he wants to turn left. The one who will take the left most lane when he wants to turn right. The one who will look  bewildered at you standing in the right lane – because according to his poor little mixed up mind – it is the wrong lane.

How can you stand towards the right when you want to go right ? How incredibly foolish and so sadly predictable!!!

Mr Politician

He is the one who will make the most noise for absolutely no reason at all. None. He will honk behind you at a red signal. Like Dumbledore you are expected to wave a wand and make the signal green so that you can move out of the way of his highness. He will Honk EVEN when there is absolutely no one on the road. Empty stretches of pristine road. And STILL he feels the need to announce his arrival. Empty vessels making the most noise and all that.

And he will go that extra mile to outfit his scooty with the horn of a truck – just so that he can make an entrance !!! So you hear a jarring siren and literally jump to the left imagining an 18 wheeler behind you .. and there he will be on a mangy little two wheeler grinning from ear to ear shuffling along like an 85 year old.

Mr Boss

He is the guy who will park at the doorstep of the shop he wants to buy something at. It doesn’t matter if that means double parking or triple. It means that for 20 min traffic will be reduced to a snail’s pace because a two lane road has been reduced to 1/2 a lane by the parking skills of a donkey. If it were possible to park inside the shop – he would. Most of the time though he will park badly in front of the shop and call out – chotuuuu… and make the proprietor come out to deliver his stuff. God forbid he needs to walk two steps to his destination. He may drop dead.

All land is his.

All parking spots are his.

All bumpers of cars he will dent because of his superior sense of orientation – are owned by him.

Even his car number will be 1 or 8088 – with the 8’s designed to look like Bs.

Mr Stuntman

He is Ajay Devgan from his Phool aur Kaante days. Weaving in and out of traffic. Jumping signals. Sucking his breath in and squeezing between a truck and a pedestrian. And the most dare devil act of all… taking on a school bus head on. Everyone knows school bus drivers are the most vicious of them all. The phone numbers written behind the bus in order to complain probably keep ringing off the hook.

Mr Diarrhea

He is in a perpetual hurry. On empty roads – in traffic jams. Red green orange blue violet signals – they all look the same to him . Yellow. The color of diarrhea. The kind he is constantly afflicted with. The reason he needs to race against time all day. An upset stomach. I usually make way for such people as a rule. Poor chap.

The difference between him and the stuntman is that the stuntman mainly is a daredevil. Not really in a hurry. This chap has an agenda. He isn’t doing it for the thrills. He genuinely is in a hurry. He is a stuntman with diarrhea.

He is the guy we should send to represent us in the olympics.. he will bring home the gold for us every single time. All we need to invest in for him are – adult diapers.

And Finally

Mr It-must-be-a-woman

This is most special species of them all. The ones who combine all of the above species and still blame all traffic mishaps on women drivers.

He has his left indicator on and turning right – bangs into a woman on a two wheeler and yells – ladeez..chalana nahi aata. ( Ladies .. dont know how to drive)

Is half drunk and bumps into the car ahead – ladeeeez park karna nahi aata…(Ladies dont know how to park)

Is speaking on the mobile and a woman dares to honk behind trying to move ahead – speeds up extra and says… what else ? Ladeeeez

And on a parting note –

If you are stuck anywhere -anywhere –  behind a parked vehicle – in traffic – in a narrow lane where the oncoming traffic is blocking your way – behind a broken down truck – at a signal – behind pedestrians jaywalking -at a blocked road because some genius has decided to erect a shaadi ka pendal mid road – in the middle of a procession on the road –   if you honk asking people to move – they will give you the quintessential Indian traffic gesture. No no – not the middle finger – that is western and oh so boring.

The Indian one is – right hand out and beckon…. like – come forward come forward – don’t worry – the road will widen on its own – space will be created on its own – things will move out of your way – your car will shrink – Angels will come down from heaven and escort you – soft instrumental music will play in the back ground – all you have to do is just be brave – come forward – come forward.

The Age of Innocence in Coach B2 on the Jabalpur Amravati Express


Train journeys always make for weirdly interesting conversations and encounters with fascinating people. Even when you want to just curl up into a ball and read a book – there are always those people who will not hesitate to poke a stranger and start a conversation. Facebook got the idea of the “Poke” from the Indian train traveler. No kidding.

So we are on the train from Jabalpur to Nagpur… The train has been lovingly named by passengers as the ‘ambulance train’ because of the number of passengers traveling to Nagpur for the better medical facilities it offers as compared to Jabalpur. So it is not an uncommon sight to see people hooked up to saline bottles or limping about with a walker, accompanied by caregivers, nurses or just relatives. There is no record of the sick-but-now-cured-passenger return percentage back to Jabalpur but I am assuming it is good going by the fact that it is always full to capacity.

That night my parents and I settled in and I was feeling particularly accomplished because I had managed to secure three lower berths which in train speak is equivalent to the Holy Grail. But my bubble burst in exactly 4 minutes past boarding when a man accompanied by a hobbling relative and his wife parked himself opposite and began to enquire which berths we had. Before he could complete his soon-to-come-obvious-request – I told him – yes you can have my lower berth for your sick relative but not my parent’s berths-  hoping to cut the conversation short.

Unfortunately my so called generosity got him all over excited and he settled down next to us and began one of the most hilarious conversations I have ever had with a co-passenger. Actually you could hardly term this a conversation – it was more of a monologue with us contributing to it with a series of grunts and giggles of various decibels.

He began with the question – “are you this?” ( of course most of this conversation is in Hindi – therefore some of the humor may be lost in translation but nonetheless) I looked at him for clarification of what he meant by “This” and saw him making a contorted gesture which after many unsuccessful attempts (which included tribals and circus clowns) I deciphered to be ‘The sign of the cross’. I finally said “yes – we were catholic”.

This made him launch heartily into a discourse on how and why catholics were different from other people and kept looking at my mother and me for contribution. My father had smartly feigned deafness and kept staring blankly at the seat in front – so he had long back abandoned the attempt to engage my dad in the conversation. I passed time by staring intently at my mobile phone, leaving my poor mother to nod her head in apparent attention.

The conversation flitted capriciously from work to trains to electricity to language and at some point it veered to dentistry and suddenly he got all animated ( as in more than he already was which is difficult to imagine but it happened ) and enlightened us how ‘toothbrushing’ was the cause of tooth decay and wear. How one should NEVER use a tooth brush. The best possible oral hygiene habit is to clean your teeth with your finger. As if that as not enough he asked me to guess which finger… I tried to pass on the question but he wouldn’t budge so I said – the index finger I suppose.

So he then tells me with a smug know-it-all expression – No. It is the middle finger. The middle finger is the best.

Then he whips out his middle finger and proceeds to wave it all around showing everyone the best possible implement for tooth cleaning.

At some point during this conversation a couple of people walking through the compartment passed us and saw this man waving his middle finger at us and their expressions changed from alarm to bewilderment when they saw us smiling in response to the gesture.

The sniggers around didn’t even percolate through the first layer of his consciousness. He actually took them for murmurs of encouragement and went on to regale all of us with anecdotes about the very useful middle finger.. “the middle finger is ideal because it can reach anywhere and everywhere. Even hard-to-reach places. “

By this time I was barely holding my laughter in and had to pretend someone had sent me a funny joke on the phone. My mother in all her innocence was still nodding at the man and shot me a pursed-lip-look to discourage my bad behavior. The whole middle finger meaning never quite reached her and it didn’t occur to her that it could be an abuse. I did not think to enlighten her.

We finally called it a night and retired to our berths some 30 minutes later but I slept like a baby knowing there are still people like my mother and that man out there in the world.

One innocent having a conversation with another.

A world where the middle finger is still a mere appendage ( and now may be the possible replacement to the toothbrush 😛 ).