From the small window in my kitchen, I can see the wind twisting Mr Mark’s shirt. The dark clouds are moving towards the house. The smell of wet sand is filling the air and I can hear the windows somewhere on upper floors banging against its frame. I look at the clock hanging on the wall. It’s old and the cuckoo no longer does its job. I don’t know what date is it today but it’s time for Mr Mark’s dinner.
The last many generations of my forebears have served their entire life working for Mr Mark’s family; me and my cousins, we all live in the basement with our uncles and aunts. Father tells us that our ancestors were sold to Mr Mark’s family sometime in 1820’s. The family has grown big over the decades within itself and the last new slave from outside was my great grandma. Mr Mark’s family is big and to feed the entire family for dinner, we start our work in the noon. We divide our work, the gals prepare the food with my mother. Aunts, uncles and my big brothers, they go to the plantation to work with Mr Mark’s sons. I was born very weak, mother says my muscles can’t take the load. So I stay back with the gals and do the household chores.
I must run and bring the clothes inside before it is drenched in the rain, but if I leave, the steak might get overcooked by the time I am back. Mr Mark is very particular about his steak and I don’t want to take my chances. Last time, he beat me black and blue; the wounds of the burns from his cigar still sends reminders when I pour water on my back. We may have thick black skin but nothing works when white masters are displeased. No, I don’t want to look like a nightmare at cousin Mary and cousin Theodore’s wedding. Cousin Mary has asked me to be the godfather of her child and I should be looking my best.
I looked around and saw Jenny peeling carrots. Jenny is uncle Watson’s daughter with Aunt Miranda. Mother says I can marry Jenny when we grow older.
“Jenny, stop the peeling woman and go get the clothes from outside. It is going to rain.”
I watched her leave and after few seconds brought my attention back to the steak. When it reached its desired perfection, I carefully placed it onto the plate with potato fries and freshly baked bread. I walked towards the big dining room where Mr Mark was having his soup. I paused and quietly stood behind the half open door to measure my timings. I saw something in Mr.Mark’s hand.
I had seen something similar in a visitor’s hand once; the only visitor I had ever seen in this house. This house is also the only house I have ever seen. We are not allowed to step beyond the plantation. Everything is grown on the farm and my aunts, Elda and Sofie, stitch all our clothes. We have often heard and seen new things in the house but we dare not touch them nor question. There is always strict supervision, except for when we are in the basement.
The thing in Mr.Mark’s hand was a tiny metal with what looked like a glass top. I peeped out further to see more clearly. It seemed like he was watching a film on it. I have seen one film and that was with Mr Mark’s granddaughter, my favourite person in the house. She is my age and is confined to a wheelchair. She had sneaked me inside her room and played the film on a box kept on top of her table. It was called Charlie Chaplin and I had laughed so much watching it.
This here was different. It had colour, I could see what the men and the ladies were wearing. They showed a white big house and two men standing in front. One looked like me, black, almost bald but with slight curls. He is addressing someone and pointing his hands to a red…no orange haired old looking man.
Suddenly the little metal thing makes a shrilling noise and the video stops and my master brings it to his ears.
“Hello. ya, I was just watching it on TV. Trump finally won.”
The whole weight of your destiny and your past.
Will crash down on you and make you feel like an outcast.
Read all the great books and watch all the famous plays.
You will still be left alone fanning your heart’s blaze.
The world is going to be cruel and the people unkind.
If they can’t see the light they will want you to be blind.
But don’t let despair and fear grab you by the throat.
Take one day at a time and learn to stay afloat.
If you decide to be strong and swim to your chosen shore.
Other people will join you and trust me, like you, there are more.
The board games are dusty
The rackets are rusty
And no noise comes from the ground
The skipping rope is tied
There are no more bike rides
And no one’s on the Merry-go-round
The chess pieces are lost
There are no coins tossed
And the marbles are not to be found
The frisbees are binned
There are no kites in the wind
And no musical chair with lots of sound
These childhood games
We shouldn’t forget their names
Otherwise, they won’t always be around
After a brawl with my regular auto driver, I have now started using Ola cabs for my daily conveyance to my office from home.
These cab aggregators are best things since sliced bread,
especially in Bangalore where you cannot rely completely on public transportation or keep your calm with the auto drivers. I normally give a default #4**** ranking to my drivers unless he has proved to have no spark of decency (in which case #1* and a strong email to OLA)or the driver has gone out of his way to save my day.
Like one day, I boarded this cab at 08:20, a minute later than my usual 08:19. Now Bangalore is a city where 1 minute late can make you 5 minutes too late to reach work and 2 minutes early can give you 10 minutes of coffee and grooming before you log in on time at 09:00. Even the GPS lady predicted I will reach office at 09:06 instead of the usual 08:55. I had two options- beg my driver to drive fast or call my boss. I went ahead with the first option; explaining to my driver why it was important to reach before 09:00 was more comfortable than explaining to my boss why I will be late again. It was easily the best decision of the day as my chauffeur vroomed through Bangalore’s pothole filled roads and I reached my office early enough to prepare a cup of filter coffee.
Probably on a less panic situation, I would have cursed anyone driving at that speed. That day, however, his speed helped me reach office on time and he was careful in doing that. He didn’t cross red lights or break any rules and neither was anyone hurt or a scratch made on any vehicle. He just drove fast. Ethically right or not, he got a full #5***** ranking from me.
Next day, I was seated in the cab on time and felt relaxed. I was all beaming with a big smile on my face thinking about the payment confirmation I received early that morning;
only a sales person can understand the glory in getting that news.
I instructed the driver to start the ride, took my earphones out and just when I was about to play Walker Brother’s No Regrets I noticed the song my driver had put on his car radio. I heard a familiar voice of Yesudas- dad’s favorite, but I couldn’t hear it clearly to figure out if it was Tamil or Malayalam. To put an end to my curiosity, I decided to ask my driver what song was it.
“Tamil devotional song Madam”, came the reply.
“Oh. Ok. Nice”
“No. I am from here only. You like listening to Tamil songs?”
Though I do know over 50 Tamil songs and some of them are my favorites, I don’t follow the genre now. I didn’t want to say NO either because I wanted to be polite and frankly, it sounded as if his question had two hidden questions. Do I like Tamil songs and do I often do what I like? I kept my answers crisp so that I could end the conversation and go back to “No Regrets”. Almost five minutes later I regretted asking my driver about the song.Every song he played thereafter, he looked back and asked me to “Madam please listen to this song. Superb it is”. I did for the first time but the request kept pouring in with every other song on his playlist. I put my earphones and 10 seconds later he would want me to listen to another of his songs.
Two things are most important for me during the ride to my office. I should reach on time and I should be allowed to peacefully listen to my playlist on my mobile.Every song on my playlist is in there for a reason. I am very particular about music and my boss is particular about the time I report and hence that becomes important too. Although I know the driver was only doing this out of his love for music or perhaps he was excited that I cared to enquire about the songs he played, I also know he had no malice in his mind, but towards the end of that 30-35 minute drive, I was a mad woman.
I reached on time but I missed out on the joy I derive from closing my mind and getting entranced in the lyrics, melody, and the visuals of the music video appearing in front of me as I rest my head on the seat and stretch my spine to relax. Music lets me forget my worries. I have never been grumpy for missing my breakfast, restless may be but never grumpy. That day, the entire day, I was grumpy and I spent four hours contemplating how to rank that driver.
I understand that people do get rhapsodized on certain topics, but I cannot get over the fact that I missed my daily ritual and hence this particular driver was ranked #2**.
At this stage, you, the one reading this blog, perhaps might laugh, ridicule or get really critical about my judgment. So I ask you. How do you rank your Cab drivers?
P.S: #3*** are for those who insist on reminding me “madame 5star ranking” just when I am focusing on getting myself and my 3 bags out of the vehicle stationed next to a moving traffic.
There’s something inside my cupboard
There’s someone beneath my bed
I tell my parents every night
But they say its all in my head
There are eyes staring from the shadows
And wicked whispering in the winds
I try to sleep by counting
But all the sheep have evil grins
There are claws dragging on the rooftop
Something slithers beneath the floor
I tremble under my blankets
And hope it is not a carnivore.
I hear them come towards me, silently one by one
They crowd around my bedside and then begin to sing:
“There is no need to fight nor is there any reason to scream
Because if we don’t get you in your bed, we’ll get you in your dreams!”