Saturday, October 4, 2008

My first Merc (Almost...Maybe) Episode 2

[In continuance with the first episode located just a post below this one]

I went down to the Route 44 Auto Sales again. This time it was to take a ride on the 1987 Mercedes 560 SEL that was wonder of wonders well within my budget.

When the salesman started the V-8, the noise was hardly impressive. It was merely a whisper, a sound so sedate as compared to what I had heard of an V-8 in my imagination. I got into the passenger's seat as the salesman took me along for a spin gratis. He had somehow sensed what my eventual decision was going to be, so I didn't force my case for a test ride.

1,80,000 miles. That's how far this car had been driven since it rolled out of the assembly plant 3 years after I was born. Now that's a long long time ago but today it felt like it was good for 1,80,000 more. It felt like a ghost cruising a few inches above the road that normal cars ran on and when the sales guy pressed on the accelerator, it was being inside a video game. The old engine still had so much juice left in it! It was as close a feeling to heaven as you could get. Back in the day, it was known as the "Porsche hunter" on the German Autobahn. Now I am sure I know why!

As we circled all around a deserted parking lot, the salesman droned on about the magnificence of this car and the legends associated with it, but I did not need anyone else's opinion. For the first time in my life, I felt that something was too good to be owned by me and that I did not deserve it. One day when I am in a job that I love and am somewhat satisfied with who I am, I'll buy one such car. Right now, I just don't feel that I have done enough in life to be worthy of something as exquisite as this. Let her go to someone who can devote his attention to her and treat like the queen she is. I'll just bide my time. Yes, in the future for sure, but only when I am ready! 

Friday, October 3, 2008

Floating all the way down

I am sure everyone has a weird dream which returns time and again to mystify them and wake them to a confused state of mind. 

Back in Bharuch, at the group of flats where I stayed, terrace cricket was the most popular sport especially when smashed windows in the flats surrounding our 'international' grounds were too fresh a memory. There were a number of stadiums to choose from, varying in size, the views it would provide and the dangers that lay hidden all around it. There was the big stadium, the terrace on building A-1 where the length of the pitch was suitable for full blooded straight drives but surrounded by locked flats when eventually the ball went beyond the terrace boundary walls. Then there was my building's terrace, building B-4 which was small but the pitch was conducive to the full range of strokeplay available in cricket. The pretty girl in the building opposite to us added to the incentives of that stadium and the shanty houses behind my building and the co-operative society's walls from where no ball had ever returned consisted of the negative factors. Also there was another terrace with a magnificent view of the Narmada river but there was this hefty guy who did his evening exercises on the terrace and did not take too kindly to us pottering around with our heavy plastic ball. And all these terraces had a common disadvantage: the brunt of which I had borne too often. 

The rules were simple. If you hit the ball out of the terrace direct or on the bounce, you'd have to not only fetch the ball but also declare yourself out, assuming of course that the ball was somewhere wanting to be found! It was a painful exercise this dreary sprint (Yes, you couldn't walk. That was the infallible code of honour in the cricketing brotherhood of our flats.) as you rushed down from the fifth floor (No lifts in our apartments too) in the hope that mischievious looking kid downstairs hadn't made off with the ball already, all the while knowing that it was time for fielding duties again when you made the journey back.

On days that I made the journey too many times and dropped off to a tired sleep, I'd dream of us pals playing cricket. When the ball would drop out of the terrace off my near perfect square cut, I wouldn't take the stairs. I'd jump over the terrace boundary on the fifth floor in very 'filmy' slow motion. grab the ball in mid-air and race back up through the stairs to resume my batting. How catching a ball somewhere in between the 3rd and the 2nd floor helped the umpire reverse his decision, I don't know but that's how the dream went! I would do this multiple times in the dream as my batting score went on to double, triple and quadruple centuries. 

I had this dream so many times that I'd wait for it every night to show up once again to execute variations to it. Sometimes I'd somersault over the boundary wall, sometimes just back flip and all the time I'd be varying the style of my descent. I'd catch up with the ball in mid-air and fly against gravity doing a loop-the-loop high in the skies as my friends watched agape.  I would sway from side to side like a flat piece of paper in the breeze delaying my descent from the fifth floor to the parking lot as far as possible. I'd twirl like a human helicopter as I came down like a tornado (and this is my childhood, long before the gruesome "Shaktimaan" series premiered on TV in case you are accusing me of plagiarism) amidst the 'aunties' that had gathered for their evening chat sending them home screaming as a punishment for their disapproval of our cricket. These and many more such strange alternative versions of my favourite dream come to mind. I wish to have that dream just once more to remember that feeling before I taste a small percentage of that thrill in real life when I free-fall out of a plane on this Saturday.

My first Merc (Almost...Maybe)

I've never really liked Mercs that much. Sure, they are helluva lot expensive, look good and are perfect examples of engineering but they've never rocked my boat like say a Porsche or a Ferrari or a Jaguar would. Sure, the occasional CLS or the 300 SL is a relief to the eye but they do not cause a flutter in my heart probably because I've seen too many of them. I appreciated Mercs for being Mercs, that's all! Until now...

Across the street from my house is the Route 44 Auto Sales office for used cars. Parked right outside for the past 2 days with a big, yellow sticker across it which says $1495 is a big silver Mercedes. All right, it's a 1987 model with God only knows how many million miles behind it. But you know what? I don't care. It's the most sensationally pretty Merc I've seen in a long long time and it's priced dangerously well enough to make a deeper dent into my non-existent savings of US dollars. Guess I am not gonna be the guy who returns with the riches from America. I'll be more the guy who went there and came back poorer!

Will I buy it? Like I said earlier, I don't trust myself these days and am getting to be impossible to predict even for myself. To even be in a situation where I can think of buying a Merc; to hell with how old or beat up it may be, is a dream prospect. And I am already in that dream. Here's a car I wanna buy and can buy, just be stupid and reduce myself to a pauper on something that is quite so unnecessary. I walked to the car today evening when the auto sales office was closed for the day and no one was watching. It may be selling incredibly cheap, but there is nothing ugly about it. It's regal curves with the glow of all the yellow leather inside drove me crazy as I circled all around it time and again. Oh God! Please help me save my $1500! Please, please, please... 

Thursday, October 2, 2008

There is no other

Maybe the British did leave India only because their economic backbone was broken in World War 2. Maybe the mass movement of millions of non-violent protesters and the sensational aspects of such a movement being possible were really of no consequence to our exploiters and to the fawning media from around the world. I don't really care and neither do I care to investigate because whatever may be the historical facts, there are some things on which there can be no argument.

We did not violate our oppressor's women as a way of payback, dance around their decapitated bodies celebrating our victory and laugh about how many lives were taken by each of our 'heroes' singlehandedly. We did not succumb to the madness of the blood-lust and rapacious destruction that is inevitable at the end of every other form of revolution, nor did we under the guise of patriotism engage in every kind of activity that satisfied our baser instincts. The world stood agape at the strength of our hearts and our unwavering faith in the humanity that is present in us all. There were other great men from India who took up the fight in a more conventional way, gouging eye-for-an-eye. They too could've brought the Brits to their knees. But the way their end came shall be remembered in the halls of history forever and it put India up on a pedestal it was always worthy of. All thanks to a wiry, little man who managed to charm the heart of an entire nation into doing the impossible.

I can only laugh at the ignorance of those who call him a coward and an impractical man. He showed us the path to evolution, the inevitable next step for all of us humans. There is nothing more practical than truth (it simplifies everything to an unimaginable extent) and nothing more courageous than pro-active non-violence (two wrongs do not a right make).  It's a very very unfair world out there so only the bravest can proceed on this path, but success is assured for those who make the journey. And it is the only kind of victory that brings true peace of mind and happiness to both the warring parties.

I disagree with a lot of Gandhiji's views especially on abstention and industrialization (Not to say that I am anyone special and my opinion on either of those topics is of any consequence. NO, NOT AT ALL). But even with the quaintness of some of his views and the inherent difficulties in living out his ideals, I can say this without any hesitation. Greatest man to have ever walked this earth? Yes, for sure. Greatest man who will ever walk this earth? Very likely!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

From Bharuch to Boston

Tuesday morning, 8:00 AM, 2nd September

I was back from my momentous trip and creatively fulfilling trip to San Fran and north California, back at the Logan airport in Boston. I had flown through the night and wasn't feeling the greatest on a Tuesday morning. But office was what was paying for all my footloose tendencies and so it was a homage I had to pay. I took the Silver Line bus out from the airport to South Station only to find that the next train out to Middleboro (The closest commuter rail stop to Taunton) was 2 hours later. So cursing my bad luck and the hang-over like drowsiness that hammered inside my head, I decided to foot the 94 dollar taxi fare that awaited me for a cab to Taunton from the airport.

As I lined up again for the Silver Line bus back to Logan, who should I see of all the people in the world but Dibyendu Da. Here was one of my elder bro's best college buddies, whose last memory I had until that day was of my 13th birthday celebration back in Bharuch. I remembered him asking me time and again on September 26th, 1997 "You are a teenager now. Do you really feel like one?" And with all the awkwardness that is the baggage of that age of life, I couldn't come up with any kind of an answer at all. Yes, I knew that I felt different with all those hormones pumping through my system and the calisthenics of my thoughts as they tried to keep up with them. But was this the 'real' teenage feeling that Dibyendu was talking about or was it some sensational experience that I was totally missing out on? 

The reason that I'd have really loved to answer the question then was that Dibyendu was incidentally also the college rock star with a truly awesome voice and for me and my sister the epitome of college cool. The college rock show that my bro managed to sneak my sister and me into (My bro being 11 years older than me and my sis being only 2 years older than me, it was really the high point of our kiddo lives) is a mainstay of my childhood memories. The thundering vocals of Dibyendu as he sung "We will rock you" in the packed auditorium and as all of the crowd clapped and shouted in unison were indeed difficult to forget. My initiation into the world of rock music had begun just because of this guy!

Considering that he saw me after 11 odd years that day at the Boston South Station, Dibyendu Da was pretty subdued in his reaction. I could recognize him at my first glance, but I could see the moment of doubt in his eyes before he realized that the tall, lanky guy in an Iron Maiden tee was actually the same geeky little kid whom he had last met in that little town in south Gujarat. He too was on the way to Logan to take a flight out to Virginia where he lived and worked now. He asked me about my future plans and we had an honest talk about my still stagnating dreams of becoming a writer. He gave quite a few suggestions which unfortunately being the lazy ass that I am, I haven't been able to follow up yet! He left for his flight while I headed out to Taunton in high spirits on a day which otherwise would've turned out to be a very stressful one.

To accidentally run into the person from my past who was probably my first real inspiration  for really wanting to do something creative in a city halfway across the world was a great sign in itself. I am a selectively superstitious man. I believe only in good omens and find great thrills in the kinder twists of fate. I think that moments like these set our lives rolling inexorably to a destination, a destination whose unsolved mystery drives us and draws us on.