I love weddings, as long as they are happening to others. Most of the people at a wedding are happy. They feel good about themselves because they are dressed in what they consider their best clothes. There are a lot of things to eat. Married people feel good that two more persons will be sobered down. Unmarried people feel good, hoping that their turn as bride or groom would not be far away either. Male oglers enjoy the sight of well-dressed, decked up, and makeup-ed females, who in turn enjoy being ogled at, as males watch them when they are looking more beautiful than they actually are. The bride and groom are happy to conjure up thoughts of the romantic nights and sleepy days ahead; the bride and/or groom is sometimes bashful thinking that everyone around is also imagining their romantic nights ahead. Foodies are happy with the wide variety and huge quantities of food, and alcohol lovers feel good that they have the moral and ethical right to drink. I love it because everyone is charged up, except some sulking relatives of course. In fact, even sulking relatives come well dressed and with empty stomachs—ready to watch, be watched, and enjoy the food. They know that eventually, someone will pay them extra attention, force them to eat, and they will have to pretend that they are being force-fed.
It was Friday evening once again, and I was happy—like many other people. A break from the usual routine of office and visiting many different places was on the cards. A wedding reception, a drinks party, a religious ceremony—we had everything that weekend.
Friday evening was reserved for a wedding reception.
Golu, aged two, like most kids of his age, looked very cute. Sitting on his mother's lap, he was excited about going out. His happiness made everyone around him cheerful. His mother, Anjali, was sitting next to the driver's seat and was well dressed for the wedding reception. Sourabh Choudhary, Golu's father to be precise, was in the driver's seat and looked as impatient as ever.
About thirty years ago, when Sourabh started going to school at the age of four, a girl in his class had nicknamed him Sobu. Since then he had come to be better known as Sobu than Sourabh. Since the name was given by a girl, Sourabh didn't mind being called Sobu. In fact, sometimes, he forgot that his name was Sourabh. A few weeks before that Friday, he had got a call.
'Hello, am I speaking to Mr Sourabh?'
Sobu replied, 'Wrong number.'
After putting down the phone, he remembered he was, in fact, Sourabh. He fumbled with the phone, but I guess it is hard to reconnect to the call by confusingly fumbling with the phone.
That Friday, I was happy for a couple of reasons—one of them being that the whole family was wearing new, good clothes. Golu wore a red T-shirt and blue jeans while Anjali was in a sparkling maroon sari and a lot of make-up, which made her look pinker and sexier. Grandpa, sitting in the back, wore a sky-blue shirt and black pants, which contrasted perfectly with his silver-white hair, and grandma, sitting next to him, wore a sober light-green sari, looking like the perfect family-loving, God-fearing maaji from a Hindi movie.
'But,' I hear you say, 'who are YOU?'
Who am I?
To take the story forward, you have to know who I am, and I will feel good if you don't laugh at me. I am a permanent resident of this car. This car is my home, my playground, my workplace. I am a cockroach who got into this car by a stroke of luck, and I always thank God for giving my life this exciting turn. I used to live in the Choudharys' house among the old newspapers, eating nothing but paper shreds. It used to be so boring, eating newspapers 24´7. Then one day, they wanted an old newspaper in the car to wrap something in, and I, along with the newspaper, landed in the car. My life changed completely after that. I started getting lots of different things to eat as variety became the spice and staple of my life. Sobu used to eat his breakfast in the car sometimes, and I would get the leftovers. Golu would frequently spill eatables in the car. So I enjoyed all kinds of delicacies—paranthas, biscuits, sandwiches, shahi paneer, chocolates, even whisky, beer, and rum. I would enjoy the nice music played in the car, swaying my antennae, and tapping my feet to it. I knew what was happening in the family. The rash driving by Sobu used to scare me sometimes, but apart from that, I used to live a perfect life.
The second reason why I was happy that Friday was that I could expect a nice feast in the car itself. I am not implying that any of the family members would steal food from the party. I knew, however, that Golu would not eat enough during the marriage and so his mom would get something for him, in case he wanted to eat on the way back, and I would automatically get a part of it. Actually, this was another reason I loved Golu, other than the fact that he was cute and naughty.
So there we were on the highway, on our way to the marriage, and late as usual. So some adventurous drive was expected since Sobu would try to cover the one-hour distance in half an hour (but without much use). As usual, he blamed the women for wasting too much time on their make-up and getting ready. It was another thing that every day, he would be late for the office even though he got his breakfast and everything else on time, and so he normally couldn't blame anyone for making him late.
Many people were driving comfortably at 60-70 km/hr but the speedometer of our car hit almost 100. The smiles washed off the faces of family members. They did nothing but watch Sobu passing cars, trucks, and bikes. Of course, the others driving around us didn't know we were in a hurry, so they took a few seconds to give way. But Sobu had no patience. He would just pass from the wrong side, sometimes coming to the extreme left (supposed to be the slowest lane), and dashing to the extreme right in a split second. He honked, switched on the dipper, and yelled at people if they made him wait even for a second. He just couldn't wait.
Wow, a small relief seemed in the offing. There was a beautiful girl in the adjacent hot, bright red car. 'Now he may lower the speed to look at the beauty properly,' I thought. 'Come on, dear, let's appreciate natural beauty for some time,' I screamed romantically. But who listens to me? L Without giving any regard to the natural beauty, Sobu kept on moving with his unnatural rhythm. I knew why he did so. Beautiful girls never looked at Sobu because he always looked so impatient. Beautiful girls admire patient men—every man should know.
Grandpa was holding the handle on top of his window tightly, as if it were the brakes, using which he would be able to stop the car if required. Grandma was involuntarily swinging along with the car, feeling shy when she came close to grandpa and feeling scared when she moved away. Anjali and Golu were holding each other tightly—as if a drowning man can survive by holding on to another drowning man. No one dared tell Sobu to drive slowly. He was young, he made good money, he was the owner of the car, he ran the house, and he had the right to behave the way he wanted.
Until an innocent voice said, 'Papa, susu.'
Whatever papa had in mind then, he had no option but to stop. Though Golu didn't say it was an emergency, he was smart enough to give enough time to papa, but Sobu immediately changed three lanes within half a second to come to the left of the road and applied sudden brakes, as if susu was about to rush out within a second. Thank God, he had at least pulled the car to the side of the road. The kind of ruthless mood Sobu was in that day, it had seemed he would have stopped in the middle of the road. He probably didn't do so as Golu might have refused to piss in the middle of the road. As soon as the car stopped, everyone heaved a sigh of relief, as if they had not been breathing for the last fifteen minutes.
The happy man, Golu, was enjoying letting free his little susu, trying to wet as large an area as possible. A small ant on the ground felt some mist, looked at the source, smiled at Golu, and scurried away.
Golu would wear his jeans in the car. Papa handed him over to mamma because they were getting late.
The bright red car had arrived. Driving comfortably and slowly, she passed ahead. She was looking more beautiful than before, probably because she felt good that despite struggling to beat the road conditions and the traffic flow, we were not ahead of her. It increased her face value. After living and travelling in the car for years, I had observed one thing—people who drive comfortably become more beautiful over time.