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Published: December 18th 2012
Somehow, I always end up flagging down the slowest rickshaw in Bombay. I’m usually never in a rush to get anywhere; more than happy to arrive whenever I arrive, I leisurely sit back in my sedate transport and bathe in the fumes of all the other autos whizzing past me. But, sometimes, on my way to go dancing, when every minute spent putt-putting
down the road could be a minute spent on the dance floor, I’ll wish that my chariot had a little more horsepower. We’ve all heard the warning before – be careful what you wish for, you just might get it!
It was a Sunday afternoon when my wish finally made it through all the red tape, landed on the desk of the wish granter, and got signed into action. I was going home to Marve from a friend’s house in Andheri. Although the two sites are situated only ten kilometers from each other, the journey between them takes at least 45 minutes, and up to an hour and a half, depending on traffic. Even though I didn’t particularly need it that day, I got my fast rickshaw. And I got home in 20 minutes.
I had hardly sat down on the laminated bench in the back, before the auto lurched into full gear, almost plowing into the car ahead of us. The driver sent forth a series of honks, as if the sound waves would make the car blocking our path instantly disappear, clearing the road in front of us. Honking is a form of expression in India and my driver was truly an artiste. He had even installed a top-end instrument of his craft into his machine of work. Every time we rushed towards an upcoming bumper, he’d lean over, flip a switch hidden under the dash, smash his thumb into the horn, and a new, even more obnoxious toot would be hurled like an insult at any who stood in our way. BaLOObaboo BaLOObaboo!PAWpumPOMpaw PAWpumPOMpaw! TWEEdeeedeee DEETWEEdeeedeee!
The driver must have truly believed in the magical vanishing powers of his horn, because we continued to race full speed into pedestrians, bicycles, buses and cars, never slowing down until the last possible second, when our obstacles failed to disintegrate. Then, right at the moment before impact, he’d slam on the brakes. Hardly hindered by the sudden loss of momentum, he’d negotiate around these nuisances and off we’d go again. I let myself go loose, determined to enjoy what I thought would be the last ride of this life.
At his next horn blast, the driver caught sight of me laughing in the rearview mirror, my giggles encouraged him to put on a better show. The horn changes became more frequent, the speed more reckless, the braking more instantaneous – with me laughing like an idiot in the back all the while. I was shocked to arrive at home in such a short time, and without a scratch. Yet, I was a little saddened to know that in this city of millions, I’d never encounter this crazy driver, or his crazy horn again. Unless, just maybe, if I wish really hard for it.
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