Saturday, August 3

The Friendships We Rarely Celebrate!

The car steered purposelessly into the lane, accelerometer moved around 10-40, it made a little funny sound every time the pendulum like needle swung, the radio blaring out some pesticides advertisement or was it an Election campaign? I could hardly care.

I have made one observation, while driving a person goes into this trance mode; everything fades away into some sort of a slow movie, the people on the street with their busy schedule carrying their work slowly mix up with the background, the noises from the fellow passengers and the outside world sound like distant inaudible echo that keep coming back at night when you’re peacefully in bed; anything that feels real is the slow breathing of the person himself and the road that lies ahead.

I myself have never had a great run at driving; having almost killed four people once in a traffic-free town of Rajasthan, I had accepted my inability to be the next F1 race winner. One more rich dream crushed with reality. After that incident, all my confidence went into the gutter, not to mention, rightly so and for the same reason, I was still learning driving even now

He giggled when the car made another sound. A verbal lashing followed. He continued driving.  

I remember once when I was using my phone, he had asked me, ‘Vineet, aap mereko bhi apna phone chalana seekha dijiye na? Hum bhi lene ka soch rahe hai!’ adjusting the central mirror to look into my eyes with that faint smile of his. He had one of those rare smiles that seemed to convey the whole message in all its entire form, the smile that was neither too much nor too less, the smile that reassured and convinced, if it wasn’t for this smile, I would not talk to him. But I didn’t like the way he eyed my iPhone, I knew with his salary, he’d not purchase one iPhone. ‘Acha bhaiya, aap batao na hum Roadie banne kai liye kya kare? He had asked me this question a lot of times in the past as well. I tried telling him that Roadies was just a show, and there were far bigger problems in my world that needed my attention. But he like a child never really listened to my answer. He just used this question to tell me about his dream, again, ‘pehle Roadie banege, phir modeling ya feelam industry me kaam bhi mil jayega. Wo jo ladka audition pe gaya tha wo mere mohalle ka hi hai!’ This is what happens when you are uneducated, you dream about unachievable things, set unrealistic goals. I had stopped explaining to him all this a long time back.

This was one of the busiest and the most infamous streets of town and the thumb-rule approach here was to drive as slowly as possible. People talked about a gang of Old Dudes that operated here, so tired by living they would voluntarily come in front of your car and then demand a compensation for the damage you caused to their already feeble knees. A little protest could result in the whole plastic surgery of your face, the kind of one which one uses to excite children. These old low life goons would use honor as their arguments when reshaping your face, ‘tum humko maara kaisa gaadi se!’ The same people would then go home drunk and beat their wives if they said ‘aaj rahne dijiye na!’ Even the word honor is a function of gender. What irony this life is! He drove into the street without caring much about the thumb rule and the old miserable dudes. The pendulum like moment which was caused by the unnecessary accelerating and decelerating was amusing.

There are some relationships that interest me to no end, their whole structure is based on simple terms- one of them rarely shares, he never discusses his goals, ambitions, family life while the other seems to go on and on about them, he keeps on speaking about the Chacha who stole their gaon ka zameen, or the Behan who ran away or the mohalle ka ladka who got into Roadies Audition. There’s constant chatter when they meet and yet there’s no care. At one end, these friendships are created out of boredom but on the other end they are created just out of necessity. ‘Papa ko mat bolna, aaj ke baare me!’ Trust is essential here. Once broken, it stays broken.  

The inevitable had to happen, the lapse in concentration caused the foot to push the brake a little late than necessary. The car collided with an incoming hawker and he fell down on the streets with all his belongings.

As you go back and remember everything that’s happened you realize there’s a purpose behind it all, a selfish motive and a hidden lesson. Friendship is actually not defined, the more you try to put boundaries by naming everything, is the minute you kill some of it that never really comes back. ‘We are best friends’ essentially means we are not better than it.  We have become so expert at putting these boundaries on ourselves that we do it without fail each and every time we see a new bond forming, and yet we want to achieve something with that bond that no one has ever achieved.

But the car didn’t stop. He kept on driving like a guy possessed by some demon, the way he drove four years ago in a traffic free town, till he reached a point where there were endless cars ahead at rest. He kept honking as if it was the solution to all the problems that needed his attention. They saw the hawker at the end of the street who had come chasing them. ‘Bhench, itne jam se kaise niklenge?’ The car was stopped there and it was decided…

There are some sacrifices that people don’t really feel comfortable talking about, the sacrifices from lesser beings, sacrifices from the uneducated unemployed people, who pronounce film as feelam, and who think being a Roadie is the solution to all the problems. When these low-life people make a sacrifice, no one wants to appreciate. No one wants to accept the fact that’s bare in front of them as this very fact has the capacity to change the whole social structure.

The hawker chased the car with twenty of his friends without caring about his belonging that lay somewhere on the street, it was all about honor now. Managing twenty people in such a small span is a technique every Leader would like to learn. ‘Aaj ka entertainment ho gaya!’ they must have told each other. They ran swiftly towards the driver seat and instructed him to drop down the windows, an instruction not easy to ignore when twenty people surround your car howling and shouting. Before the window was down, he looked in the central mirror with that faint smile of his, the smile that reassured and convinced, as if he knew what was going to happen, as if he knew his friend would need him. As soon as the window was down the hawker blurted out, ‘suar ka bacha, hum chal bhi nahi paa raha!’ and a slap landed on the driver’s face, the slap that could put a healthy living person in coma. Some tears were seen for a moment then it faded. He said, the driver I mean, he said something, inaudible, while another slap shut it off. Verbal abuses flew from all over the place with some people grabbing the passenger in the car as well. Some sound, weak though, was heard from the passenger, ‘Mera kya galti hai!’ It immediately was followed by the hardest slap on the driver’s face, ‘Saala, iske jaisa driver kyo rakh lete hai aap samajdar log!’ The buzzing sound would stay with him for a few days now. And yet, it was not the most hurtful of things that happened that evening.

There are some times in life that are best be forgotten, by all parties involved, by the Old Dude who although fell down correctly didn’t get anything, by the driver who got honor shed for some false sense of friendship, and by the maalik who drove too carelessly, without caring for the instruction, pushing accelerator too casually, for agreeing to change seats too easily and then in the end when it mattered the most, for uttering those dreadful words ‘mera kya galti hai!  

As some people pacified the hawker because the whole ruckus was creating a jam and eventually when they all left, the faint smile had gone as well, the face had swollen, determined the eyes looked on the streets straight ahead, in a trance mode. He felt stripped and humiliated. No word was spoken interim. No sound was heard. Everything blurred into the background while the driver drove. It was only when they reached home, he heard his Maalik say, ‘papa ko mat bolna, aaj jo hua uske baare me.’


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