If you have a problem, fix it. But train yourself not to worry, worry fixes nothing. - Ernest Hemingway

Friday, 13 August 2010

Meeting Mrs. M.

When dim-witted people try to act smart, disasters happen. When lazy fellows suddenly turn active, ditto. This afternoon, I’d just had a splendid lunch at a friend’s house. The dark sky foretold an imminent deluge. I was to meet Mrs. M. at a college that is ten minutes walk from my friend’s place. I hadn’t met her earlier, all the interactions having taken place over emails and phone calls.

Normally, in similar situations, I would sit back and relax. But this afternoon, I didn’t listen to my friend and his wife and left, foolishly hoping to beat the rain by walking briskly.

As I stood under the projected balcony of an old building, it felt good. After how many years did I stand by the roadside in pouring rain? Shabby buildings were getting smudged with the grey sky … waves of rain hit the road like whiplashes … rivulets of water swirled down the gutter into a grating in front of me. Looking up, I also saw the joists holding the balcony over my head were rusted and withered. I didn’t want to find myself underneath a pile of rubble or in tomorrow’s newspapers. I moved under the awning of a shop.

Splashes of rain soaked me as I stood in the deserted North-Kolkata lane. Two boys in dripping school uniform walked past, talking and laughing, as if that is how they returned from school every day. They were evidently "loving it"! When I was their age, I too loved to wade through water-logged streets through heavy showers. Perhaps every child loves it. But today, as the gutter filled quickly and water rose with much flotsam, my skin twitched at the thought of walking through the fetid green water. It continued to pour; it was time to worry about how I’d reach home at the other end of the city. I decided to give the meeting a miss; it wouldn’t be a great idea to meet Mrs. M. and her principal looking like a mop just out of a bucket. There were no taxis … no vehicles at all.

Suddenly, an angel flew in from the sky in an auto rickshaw and offered to drop me at Girish Park metro station for a small consideration.

When I stood before a pedestal fan on the platform and phoned Mrs. M., there was a touch of desperation in her voice, ‘Please don’t leave. It’s important that I hand you over a letter and take the one you are carrying. Please wait, I’ll take a colleague’s car and reach the metro station in five minutes.’

Fifteen minutes later, she called. More desperation: ‘Where are you?’

‘On the platform, in front of the escalator.’

‘I too am in front of the escalator. What’s gone wrong? Please look out! I have a brown envelope in my hand. In fact I’ve been waving it at every gentleman on the platform.’

‘And I have a white book in my hand. But are we on the same page? I mean, are we at the same station?’

A brief pause was followed by, ‘I am extremely sorry. I’m at Mahatma Gandhi Road station.’

She covered the distance between the father of the nation and the father of Bengali theatre in five minutes. We exchanged pleasantries, apologies, and letters, but the story didn’t end. She was sorry to trouble me, but could I please meet her principal to conclude a few details? Ah! If all our teachers were as stubbornly committed, our education system would score ten on ten. Mr. Sibbal would have little to do.

We took another train to MG Road, because the car was there, which incidentally was not there. Mrs. M asked me to look for a green Maruti Zen. It would have been embarrassing to declare that I am colour-blind and can’t distinguish between green and red. So I took a chance. I saw a red Zen, and hoping it would look green to the rest of the world, pointed at it with a winning smile. She gaped at me in utter incomprehension.

We found the car, but the driver was not to be found. He materialised ten minutes later, a bit pale, and panting. He had been looking for Mrs. M. in the station. His intentions were peaceful: he just wanted to tell her she had been brought to a wrong station. But the alert policemen guarding the station thought he was "moving about in a suspicious manner". He was released only after being frisked and grilled.

I wonder what else could go wrong this afternoon.

Kolkata, 12 August 2010


  1. Oh, so many of them, don’t crib about that, dear Santanu da!

    First, the sky could’ve opened up a little more and you needed to play the ropewalker’s trick, balancing your body and the umbrella and the packet, with thick swirls of muddy green water lapping up your shoes, trousers, making valiant attempts for your purse, belt, defying the gravitational pull of mother earth… the auto could have revved and ranted and given up midway…in the mad rush to beat time in order to make your tryst with Mrs M, you could’ve left your packet in the Metro ticket counter (soiled and/or torn whatever your take)… rainwater could have seeped into your cell making it go blank suddenly or leaving it to entertain you with all sorts of garbled, ancient art messages… or it could’ve worked one way, you listening to Madam M's voice, but she, the soft hisses and the gusty roars you would’ve always enjoyed in the marshlands or the seasides…the metro could’ve developed a snag at the nick of time when Madam M decides to zip back to your station…no, about the last bit of locating the driver, it defies fancy and I’ve nothing too quirky in mind to permute or combine, honestly…

    A warm hug and a heart-felt welcome to the blogging world, dear dada! Was missing you so much!!!

  2. oh one of those days when lots of things happen, and most of them wrong things!
    indecision, then the plunge and then getting caught in the rain - could relate so well to it, coming from kerala.

  3. I never knew someone else would stake a claim to my credo 'cribito, ergo sum'!

  4. The place you have mentioned here is the place in which I spent my childhood.so it brought back some sweet memories of my childhood.The incidents are nothing unusual during the rainy season in our beloved city, but what makes a difference is the way you have pictured it and that believe me sir, makes you writer of a different class.
    Nice to see you back in form ,as usual, a smart & beautiful piece of writing, by the way,err, how old was the lady????


  5. Hello Sir,

    The post is a pleasure to read, as usual..

    I drop by here after a long time and now am blogrolling you so that I don't miss out on the updates in future.

    Warm regards,


  6. Thanks, everyone who dropped by and to those who commented. Thanks especially to Kochutheresiamma, for what I think was her first remarks on my blog, and to Gauri for coming back and for including Reinventing ... in her blog list.

    Bimochan, there can only be a diplomatic silence in response to your question.

    KTR has translated the remark for my benefit: "I crib, therefore I am." And Kaushik thinks I could have had more reasons to crib about. Fortunately, the lady under reference didn't complain. She telephoned after reading the story in the Statesman and both she and her husband said they had loved it. Good to have such sporting people around.

  7. Dear Sir,

    This post really made me laugh. It is good to read such things now and then when you are in need of a little pick-me-up. Thanks a lot Sir! I hope you are doing fine! I have been utterly absent from the blogging world because my mom has been sick for a while now...hopefully she is on the mend...it feels great to get back to writing and reading all my regular blogs!


  8. Thanks a lot, Vaishnavi. I do hope your mom is much better now. My best wishes to her for a speedy and complete recovery.

  9. Nice blog Santanuji. Keep writing.

    Best wishes

  10. Thanks, Abhinandan. Please do come back.


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