lalita larking

An obsession with cryptic crosswords. Everything else falls in place.

Location: Kolkata, India

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Small delights

There are a lot of things I hate doing, but have to do. Accounts and taxes (non sequitur: is death better than taxes as it turns up only once?) come to mind.

Going out in rain is a thing I hate. Rain is nice only when you stand in the balcony and watch it. Rivulets running down the grill, trees swaying, road glistening, an occasional car whooshing by, streaks of lightning followed by rolling thunder - all very nice when you don't have to get wet.

It is more than getting wet. I dislike going out in rain because the city gets drownded, as Huck Finn says. It's that water logging means I have to wade in slush and filth, because sewers are invariably choked with plastic and garbage, and I absolutely hate that.

Friday was bad. The night before had incessant rain, and the streets would be more like rivers than roads. The overnight flooding wouldn't have receded yet, and it was raining thin drizzly rain still. The sky seemed low, the clouds sitting on treetops almost. There was a misty look to the city.

Our area had had intensive drainage work done over the last three years and a pumping station installed, so we were spared, but I had to go out, in the rain. It couldn't be put off. There were few cabs plying. But the cabbies in my area know me, and anything for Missus Em, is their motto.

Is there a lot of water logging at the Great Eastern, I asked anxiously before setting out. That area won't be so bad, I was reassured. As soon as the cab turned into S P Mukherjee Road, I knew it was going to be bad. Traffic was slow, the streets were awash and inconsiderate drivers splashed the pedestrians and sheets of water rolled and heaved in waves. It got steadily worse.

Under the fly-over and near the Victoria Memorial it was nightmare time but, as promised, Great Eastern wasn't awash. But the side street I had to go into was. Not knee-deep as it was in some parts of the city, but this was water I'd have to wade through. One-way street and too much of a detour to enter it. No help for it so I rolled up my jeans and stepped out.

Did I mention I hate wading in the slush? I did?

Work done, I set off for the next destination, Theatre Road. It was flooded, but of course. I was under the mistaken impression that my destination was near Kalamandir, and the cabby and I realised we'd have to go back. Theatre Road is a one-way street. Turn left into Camac Street. And it got worse. The cab felt like a metal coffin being buffeted by the water that was churned up by the traffic. Turn in to Park Street, more water logging. Laboriously crawl along the street and reenter Theatre Road. There was garbage floating. There was muck and more. And the building I had to go into had water sloshing against the steps. Again I had to wade.

Did I tell you I dislike having to get intimately acquainted with sewage and garbage and overflowing drain water? I think I did.

Mission accomplished, I climbed back into the cab. Loudon Street. It was the worst yet. Traffic was at stand still at Minto Park. Each time a car moved the water thumped the cab. When a large SUV moved alongside, water entered the interior.

Try spending an hour in a cab tucking your knees to your chest because water, rain excess and sewage all mixed up, is lifting the car, rocking it, and threatening to come in and making good on the threat.

I was miserable. The driver was miserable. The traffic crawled, we moved a few meters ahead.

I was doing what I usually do at such times to alleviate boredom. Looking at number plates and thinking about numbers. There, ahead of the cab was a car. It had the number 4567. To it's right was another, and it had the number 7654.

Despite the discomfort, despite the hated water logging, sodden footwear, cold and clammy feet and drenched day, I smiled.



Anonymous Ash said...

Here is hoping for a brighter and dry days for you, Lali. You made those numbers up, yes?

10:28 pm  
Blogger Rimi said...

No! Are you serious about those numbers? :O

I shall have to dig my chin into my chest and blush most guiltily at your ordeal. Cosily tucked at home I was, you see, and a little ill too (bout of fever and the old runny nose) and I saw stills of the Maidan turned into a lake and the VM looking like a huge swan adrift, and I wanted to run out and splash about.

I completely forgot about the garbage and sewage, see?

1:08 am  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Ash- I resent that.

Rimi- Ditto. That was the only moment of pleasure in the whole ordeal, dammit!

7:22 am  
Blogger Priya said...

Why do you work so hard, dahlin'? Whatsittheysay? Take a chill pill ;)

12:01 pm  
Anonymous badari narayanan said...

Only time I enjoyed getting drenched was in Ooty.

4:28 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Priya- *salutes* yes ma'am.

Badari- Yeah, I loved getting drenched in Chitwan, Nepal. But not on the streets of Calcutta, no way.

4:32 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The surest way of bringing on the rain is to leave all your windows open (after a heated discussion with your spouse on the probability of it actually coming down) and going to a movie or concert. The better the entertainment the more the damage when you come back and find the house flooded.

6:53 pm  
Anonymous Non Sequitur Man said...

Did you also see a taxi with the number-plate 1729 during this Hardy- Ramanujan moment?

8:14 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Aha, Anon. This sounds just like K's strategy when waiting. Light a cigarette and your name will be called, the bus arrives, or something.

NSM- Sheesh! 1729 indeed. I don't aspire to higher mathematics, sir. Just looking at numbers.

8:38 pm  
Blogger abhorigine said...

Lovely blog. No, I am not aspiring to membership in a mutual admiration society. I love your preoccupation with getting the words, the punctuation, the grammar right, just as much as I do your style and content. Good on you!

8:44 am  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Abhorigine- Thank you. Do visit again.

9:29 am  
Anonymous Cowey said...

Hey Lalita..nice write up..I am becoming your fan...

Checkout my blog when you have time...need your feedback

11:14 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Cowey- Thanks but I wish I could figure what it was all about, really. Angst needs more clear expression before I can comment on it, truly. Sorry, um, er and all that.

11:24 pm  
Anonymous None said...

The thing that caught my attention was about the cabbies and their motto....whats with some people? It took me down memory lane. The rickshaw pullers (it was before the days of the cabs and autos) in our area would rush over whenever my father left home to go somewhere. And it was not like that he paid extra for the services rendered. Like I said, some people are the chosen ones!

12:51 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

None- I know, we exude so much niceness they bend over backwards to do things for us. More power to your Dad. :D

4:14 pm  
Anonymous Prophet of Doom said...

@ Lalita

Wading in slush .. I used to hate that .. now I miss it

10:54 am  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Ram- Welcome back. Nostalgia for wading in slush, forsooth!

12:46 pm  
Anonymous Versa Kay said...

You have spoiled my mood. I was just listening to Jagjit singh's Baarish ka pani, when I came to this post. But I agree with you. Incessant downpour can be a pain.
By the way I came to your blog by another coincidence.I wrote a post on my blog about Polygamy some days ago and was googling on the subject today when I landed on your post The Other woman. Surprisingly, I found your older post has also contained reference not just to the Monkhouse lyric but Lo! ( no pun intended), to Rangajamma also.
I am also intrigued that one north of Vindhyas knows quite a lot of Telugu.

10:46 am  

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