The Autowallah

Time: Wednesday morning.
Place: Near the Civil Lines Metro Station
Purpose: Finding an auto to take us to college so we can write a pathetic exam paper. 
Mood: Exhausted (lack of sleep), woebegone (obvious reasons), impatient (getting late). 

An auto finally trundles up. The auto driver is a relatively old man. We ask him to take us to college. He is willing to oblige for the sum of forty rupees. After (not much) haggling, we agree that he will take us there for thirty. As I climb in, I make the mistake of telling him to take us over The Ridge. The Ridge is a road that kind of looks like a mountain road. It's hilly and it curves and it's surrounded by forests on either end. Real forests. I kid you not. 

The driver realises that I'm evidently not North Indian because my Hindi is less than perfect and as we start. he asks me whether I'm Japanese. This is something I've heard before in Delhi and it reinforces my belief that Delhi people are, on average, complete morons. 

No, I say, I'm not Japanese but I don't elaborate further. I'm too concerned trying to recall what some obscure critic had to say about the use of fantasy in Christina Rossetti's poetry. As is my custom, I light a cigarette. 

The autowallah is evidently fascinated by me and Mawii. He asks us whether we're sisters. I'm about to say no, when Mawii says, we sort of are.

What does that mean, asks the autowallah. 

We have the same mother but two different fathers, Mawii tells him. I look at her carefully- I see no sign of humour anywhere. She sounds completely serious. She's obviously been unhinged by the exam stress. 

TWO fathers! The autowallah exclaims. 

Yes, Mawii says. 

I decide to enter into the conversation and I agree with her, nodding gravely. 

One mother? The auto driver cannot get over the shock. Who's older, he demands. 

She is. Mawii points to me and I instantly sit up a little straighter and try to create an expression of patience and suffering that all responsible older sisters must feel, on my face. 

Your mother must be a very bad woman. The autowallah is sad for us. 

I feel compelled to defend my mother and I inform him that she's a wonderful person who was compelled to find peace and happiness with another man since my father was incapable of giving it to her. 

The autowallah wants to know why my father was incapable of giving my mother the peace and happiness that he (the autowallah) evidently seemed to think she didn't deserve. 

He drank, I say. 

Do you drink? 

I'm about to say yes but I don't want him to abduct me and take me to a bar so I shake my head virtuously. Besides, I have to set a good example for my younger sister Mawii. 

She smokes ganja, my younger sister tells him. 

He gasps but eyeing my cigarette, evidently doesn't find this too surprising. 

Who taught you? 

I blame my father. He introduced me to the intoxicating substance and then abandoned me and went off to Thailand where he made a lot of money. 

The autowallah shakes his head but once again informs us that it's our mother who must be a bad woman. 

I insist she isn't bad and I once again point out what an unsatisfactory character my father is. Mawii agrees- for it is with her father, after all, that both my mother and I found a stable home. 

If she had two men, it means she is bad. The autowallah is unmovable on this point. A good woman has only one man. 

Realising that we won't be able to change his mind, Mawii and I fall silent. We're close to college now and I can hear the exam calling me. 

The autowallah is examining me in the rearview mirror and suddenly, as if he's tried to suppress it but can't any longer, he tells me that I shouldn't smoke. When he sees me smoke, he says, he feels like he would if he saw his daughter smoking. Smoking is bad.  

I throw my cigarette away in a gesture of conciliation. It's practically burned down to the end anyway. The autowallah nods in approval and warns me again I mustn't smoke. It leads to sex. 

This last sentence mortifies me. Talking about my personal family life is amusing but if it's going to lead to a moral lecture on sex, I won't be able to bear it. 

Luckily we've reached college. Mawii hastily pays the autowallah who warns us once more to stay away from bad bad things. It is evident that he feels we are good girls, despite having such a mother. I thank him for his advice. 

Then he drives off, probably to sit with his friends and tell them over a cup of hot steaming tea, about the unfortunate girls he drove to college that morning and the unfortunate girls walk to the room where they're going to give their exam. 

It's nice when strangers come together, even if its for a few moments, to share the story of their lives. As Mawii said, if they want to know your story, you might as well give them a good one. 


11. Intestinal worms.


Reasons Why My Life Sucks Right Now

1. There has been a power-cut for the past two and a half hours and the outside temperature is 42C. I place the inside temperature at 43.

2. A wasp stung me while I was bathing. On the butt.

3. I have to finish reading Hard Times in five hours. I've spent the past seven trying to, but I keep falling asleep by the time I reach Chapter 3.

4. The only person who's called me in the past twenty four hours is my mother.

5. As I type this, there are about five mosquitoes attacking my legs. Despite the fact that I'm covered in Odomos and I sprayed the room with so much Hit that I can't breathe properly right now.

6. I left a couple of text books behind in Calcutta and the delivery costs are coming out of my bank account. I noticed that this term's college fees and Mrs Khera's rent also came out of my bank account: an account I'd been planning on using to fund a trip around the world or something similar.

7. My cousin keeps calling me to tell me about all the boys who are in love with her. Twelve to fifteen boys, give or take. I counted the boys who are in love with me- one. He's a universally acknowledged creeper.

8. My best friend thinks I have a neurotic, twisted and deeply disturbed personality and will never find true love unless I hide the real me from my future beloved or whatever.

9. I definitely failed the Hindi exam and now have to spend my second year of college studying it. If I fail second year (likely), I have to do it in third year. If I fail it in third year (possible), I don't get my degree.

10. The past seems disastrous, the future worse, and the present solely comprises pain thanks to that fucking wasp.

I challenge any FML-er to come up with a more pathetic life than mine. Except perhaps, the woman who ran over her lost dog.


Epic Fail

I had my Hindi exam today. It's not fair that I'm being forced to take Hindi in college but that's D.U. for you. Trying to strip us all of our regional allegiances and turn us all into those J-people everyone warned me about. But D.U. magnanimously allowed me to do Lower Hindi. Doesn't matter. I'm pretty sure I failed anyway.

I couldn't understand what the first question said. I recognised the word "bhasha" and it was for seven marks. So after racking my brains a bit, I wrote: Hindi bhasha bahooth purana bhasha hai.

No clue what question 2 was about, onto question 3 which was grammar. I got some synonyms- not all, but some. For the opposites I just put an "a" before every word. Didn't know what the idioms meant but there was one sentence about pouring ghee on anger so I thought maybe it meant anger cooling down or something. So I wrote a long, incorrect sentence about a father and his truant yet repentant son.

Then was an essay on "Plastic ki duniya". I laughed a lot to myself while writing the answer to that.

Then there was a letter. Actually, two. We had to choose one. I wasn't sure what either of them meant so I just scribbled the format and wrote "Pria Mataji" and then at the bottom, "Apka beti, Mira" (I was too embarrassed to put my own name in). Mawii went one step better and addressed her "Pria Dost", saying she was "theek hoon", was the Pria Dost also "theek hoon?" We later found out that they were both formal letters dealing with rising school fees and the construction of parks in localities.

The last question was 400 words on what I'd do if I was a crorepati. I said I'd travel the world, educate children in India and live in a chota koti by the sagar and take a nauka out to the sagar and never come back.

And I never thought I'd say this but I'd give ANYTHING to do Bengali instead. I kept slipping into it while writing my paper. It's so much more elegant. None of these "yuhs" and "nahis" and "yahas" and "hos" and their tables are all 'its' like tables should be.


Twenty One Things to Do Before I Pass Twenty One

1. Grow hair to elbows (and then cut it off) 

2. Drink white rum in a Portugal bar 

3. Scuba dive off the Great Barrier Reef

4. Write a novel on the Tudors and get it publicly praised by David Starkey 

5. Boil an egg 

6. Get one of my brothers to procreate so I can be an aunt before middle age OR take part in a gay pride parade

7. Have a one night stand with an incredibly attractive and suave Spaniard who can't speak English. 

8. Learn to stand on head

9. Dress in green and shoot an apple with a bow and arrow  

10. Get into an excellent university abroad for post-grad/ decide on a career path

11. Backpack through Eastern Europe 

12. Do something- anything- to make the world just a little bit better than it is now. 

13. Milk a cow

14. Attend Wimbledon 

15. Swim with a dolphin

16. Oktoberfest and the Rio Carnival 

17. Go whale watching 

18. Go to a Bob Dylan (or Rolling Stones) concert. 

19. Spend a night in jail or in the wilderness, alone. 

20. Watch an orchestral performance in Vienna 

21. I can't decide between these two: a) climb an active volcano, b) spend an entire week in the cosiest bed in the world, with lots of chocolate and books and pillows. 

The next two years are going to be busy. 



I have, today, realised that there exist two kinds of feelings that are capable of heartbreak. One of them is when a door that you've never noticed before- despite the fact that it was always there- shuts forever. The other is when you tug at a door, for as hard and as long as possible, knowing all the while it will never open. Despite the fact that you want it to with all your heart.

I don't know which is worse. The one that could have been or the one that will never be.