Friday, January 27, 2006

The time I almost died - Part 1

I have already posted about one of my car incidents. The time has now come to recall another one of my incident on cars. This was way back in engineering college when I was 19 yrs old.

But before the actual incident, let me write a bit about the scenic beauty around Vizag. Like the Western Ghats along the west cost of India, there are also the Eastern Ghats which are older, more discontinuous & of lesser height than the Western Ghats along the eastern coast. As they are of lesser height, they don’t attract as much attention as their western counterpart. Now Vizag is a city nestled between these Eastern Ghats on one side & the Bay of Bengal on the other. The city however has now expanded beyond the ghats.

Araku Valley is a scenic spot deep inside these hills. It is about 115 km from Vizag. Along the road to Araku, about 85 km from Vizag, there is a diversion leading to an ancient cave formation, the Borra Caves that are 1,400 m above sea level.

I was just learning how to drive cars back then. We had a white Ambassador (Mark 3). The steering wheel was tight, the pedals were heavy, the steering gears were especially difficult to handle. That was the time when driving our car was invariably associated with excessive mental tension. At that time I didn’t realise that driving any other car would be any better. This misconception soon disappeared after I drove a few other cars. Now that I look back, I think I could have easily driven any badly maintained truck too. We now have a Fiat Palio – no worries whatsoever. Nevetheless, an Ambassador is Ambassador – it was spacious, it was big, it was heavy, and most of all, my nostalgic childhood memories are associated with it.

So back then in engineering college, we were hanging out in the hostel (though I was not a hosteller, that was still the hangout place). An elder cousin of a friend ‘S’ had come to Vizag in his Maruti 800 car. Now this person had left the car with S, incidentally for safekeeping, while he attended an important work over the weekend. Little did he know of the kind of experiments we would be doing with the poor puny machine.

We took stock of the situation then. We had a car at our disposal. We had me – the only person who could drive the car through traffic and had a valid licence (yeah I got a licence made when I was 18 without paying a single extra rupee. I am really proud of it). We had six (including me) enthusiastic boys raring to go somewhere. And we had just two days to do whatever we wanted to do. A plan of Borra Caves + Araku Valley was hurriedly finalised. I told my parents about the plan. I just missed one crucial bit – the bit about six of us going by car and most of all “me” driving the car. I convinced them that we were going by bus. And then it began.

We packed the six of us (4 in the back & 2 in front) in the Maruti. The first leg of the journey was getting out the city. Not much adventure here. The traffic kept us subdued.

The next leg was an almost straight road between the city and the hills. We got a bit adventurous here. The traffic was less, the music system was blaring hard and we were moving at around 70 km/h. Somehow we felt the crazy need to touch 100 km/h. Now doing that is fine when you have a bigger car or a jeep and when you are travelling on a highway. But this was the smallest car in India with small wheels on an Indian 20' wide road which had some minor potholes too. We selected a stretch of road which appeared traffic-less and pothole-less and floored the pedal.

The speedometer reading slowly started moving. We reached 80 km/h. The car started vibrating. The speedometer lazily inched beyond 90km/h. The vibrations became more & more violent. We didn’t know who would give up first us (out of fear) or the car (out of sheer exhaustion). Just when we thought the speed would increase no more, somehow, the car managed to cross the 100 km/h mark. Victory at last!

The time I almost died - Part 2

Monday, January 23, 2006


Of late I have noticed a change in myself. Earlier I used to have dreams, but would soon forget them within seconds of waking up. But nowadays I vividly remember all the details even hours & days later. Another change I feel is that earlier the dreams were mostly happy or at least positive. Now the dreams are in all shades, & have a mix of all emotions. I don’t know if this is a sign of something ominous or just a result of my changing sleep patterns.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


My relationship with my dad has been a very turbulent one. As a kid I had a sort of stoic relationship with him. Most of all, I used to fear him. During adolescence that fear changed to anger & rebellion. I used to hate Dad for every small thing he used to do. “Why cannot we spend extravagantly? Why does he always have to right? Who is he to decide what I should be doing?” But there was still some fear & I would generally comply with him. As I started maturing further, I started crystallising my own thoughts. I started realising why Dad did what he did, why he said what he said. There is no fear now. But there is respect. Why this respect? Because Dad has taught me…

....that you conquer your fears by facing them head on
Whenever we kids showed any signs of fear, he would immediately make us do the thing we feared as many times as it took to get rid of the fear. He always used to give example of Tantrics, & how they conquer their fears. He recounted how they lived in graveyards, how they drank from human skulls & how they lived a life that was unimaginable. He maintained that the so called power that they had was not of divine nature but the consequence of them living in those surroundings & just being too used to them to be afraid.

....that a broom has to be given as much importance as a pen
....why a mochi (cobbler) has to be treated with respect

A broom cleans your house. It removes the dirt in other places by dirtying itself. It serves a very important part in your life. Do not disrespect it. A cobbler makes your shoes that protect your feet. He charges money for something that you need. Treat him with respect. Some beliefs or practices of our past look down upon dirty things/people. People who used to be referred to as “Bhangi” or “Chamaar” were the ones who used to do all those essential but messy jobs that we wouldn’t dare do. Yet there was a general aversion to them. Dad taught me why it was important to respect them. I have & I always will respect all the cleaning women, dhobi’s (washer man), mochi’s, waiter’s with as much respect as I would any other person. I refer to them as “aap”. The only people I refer to as “tum” are my friends, my peers & my family who’ll know that the “tum” is the sign of closeness than disrespect.

....if you promised to be there at 8 pm, reach the place at 8 pm
I understand that there is a concept called “Indian Time” according to which it is customary to go from a half an hour to 1 hr late. Dad was always against this thing. This little issue was reason to many a war’s between my parents. He would be up & ready to reach the party in time, while she would start getting ready at the allotted time. I used to side with mother then, but now I realise why reaching when you are called is important. In fact being intentionally late is a form of hypocrisy - the one thing I absolutely detest.

....and many more…

My mother was the one who used to give support in times of distress, who used to give love, who used to be the one I liked. But it was my father who gave me one of the most important aspects of my personality – my value system. He followed his own ideals & was always the one with answers of life when there was indecision. Today I can safely say with no hesitance that I am proud of my father.

Monday, January 02, 2006

A New Year - Some New Hope

The first post of the Year!

I wish myself and anybody reading this an eventful year ahead. Its time to reboot & start with new energy. This is more important to me as in the end of last year I had some misfortunes.

Avoid the rest of the post if you do not want any of my gloominess to rub off on you.

I lost my mobile phone. It was mostly my fault. In a drowsy mood, with lots of thoughts in my mind I easily forgot to take the mobile phone with me when I was alighting a bus. Now somebody else will be enjoying it. 10,000 down the drain. As I am thinking about this, I realise that it is not the money that I lost. The money I lost was anyway gone the day I bought the phone. It was the experience of owning, enjoying its MP3 player, camera and other features that I lost. I’ve spent 5,000 more and bought another phone. Now this one has brought in its own set of experiences. Lets see which experience turns out to be better.

I was down with throat infection from last Sunday. The symptoms are that your throat seems to become very constricted; you get fever & body pains. These are annoying but what is most annoying is the huge amount of phlegm after the infection. My nose, my throat & my lungs are filled with this thick, sticky unnecessary residue which reduces only with time. All I can do about it is clear my nose every hour or so. I still am recovering & hope this thing gets over fast. This bad health also made sure I did not celebrate the New Year as planned. No party, no excessive drinking, no dancing. Just a quite night with some friends & I was home before midnight, watching TV reports of celebrations around India & desperately trying to call up home at a time when networks are invariably busy.

But the New Year should (& I hope I have the conviction to make it) bring better fortune. Let me see what new things I try out from now.