Saturday, February 6, 2010

Man Enough

Dad spent the first thirty years of my life driving home the point – again and again – that I, as a significant representative of my entire generation, am too soft and entirely hopeless and can, at best, be compared to the sometimes gooey inclusions in a seafood dish that need to be carefully parked on the corner of the plate and disposed off later. Kept out of contact with the real tasty morsels lest the contact be contagious.

And with good reasons. As an ideal specimen of his subspecies of army officers who faced the challenges and dangers of the unknown, serving during the several wars our country fought, with heroic valor, he emerged a tough and disciplined product. Yes, I was quite a far cry from that stuff. He never missed an opportunity to tell me that I was the jelly in the larder filled with cookies, cakes and croissants. Mom was to blame, of course, and she never seemed too bothered with my lack of country-defending or world-changing characteristics, so in short we were a happy family at peace with internal dynamics.

My profession of choice in the grey world of IT and ITeS basically meant that there were no tangible takeaways from a typical day in office. No bruises to mend, no wounds to sew, no blood transfusion once in a while for good measure. As I shared the news of my promotion at home, Dad inquired hopefully, ‘So what would be your job now?’ ‘Umm… pretty much the same Dad,’ I began unsure of structure or content, but fully confident of the outcome. ‘It’s a more senior position, so more responsibilities and more respect and….,’ I stopped as Mom’s overpowering hug fortunately squeezed out the rest of what I didn’t know to say. ‘My babie, I’m soooo proud of you,’ Mom cooed. ‘Well, then, good for you, I guess,’ Dad smirked and got back to his newspaper. I just felt I’d been crowned Ms. Beautiful Smile in the Mr. Universe contest!

Cut to the present. Life teaches one a lot and I realized all the bravery need not be in the forests of the East or the snow-capped peaks of the North-West. I was now a professional working in the National Capital Region of Delhi – the tricities of Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida and having spent nearly three years at these coordinates, I finally had an answer to my Dad’s quips.

‘Dad, I drive,’ I volunteered, with a tough look on my face. The equivalent of an Arnold Schwarzenegger intense gaze though, of course, at half the height and one fourth the weight. ‘I drive in Delhi, Dad… I drive a car in Delhi!’ For the uninitiated – as was Dad too – driving in NCR was Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle personified… only the velocity or the exact position of any car around you could be determined with any accuracy. And sometimes that too was just a lucky guess.

The army-man needed proof and got some when I picked him up from the railway station to spend his first weekend with me. Weaving through the traffic with a few oh-gosh-that-was-close type brushes, I heard him gasping a bit loud over the FM channel. His eyes glazed over as in a jiffy a dozen cars crossed me from both sides simultaneously and two, I swear to God, hopped right over on top of mine. Clutching hard to his seat cushion, he breathed heavily, probably reliving some of the thorny memories from his adrenalin rushing days. I could almost smell a newfound respect for me as I nonchalantly did the typical Delhi road routine with grace. Just to drive home the point, I simultaneously began SMSing my wife while selecting a new music CD assessing the song listing critically, all at a comfortable speed of around eighty. ‘Careful Son, keep left!’ he suggested helpfully. ‘The enemy can spring from anywhere Colonel! We need to be flexible,’ I rattled back and swung a sharp right cutting across three rows of angry honking cars that evidently wanted to go straight. ‘Use the indicator… USE THE INDICATOR,’ he screamed. ‘No! That confuses the traffic. Plus it’s too much of a commitment – what if I decide I don’t want to turn after all..?’ He looked at me with pleading eyes. ‘The sign over there says that we should drive in our lanes, buddy,’ he tried the buddy approach with me. ‘Yeps Dad, that’s right. In Delhi you have two lanes, one for the traffic going, and one for oncoming. It’s good to keep on your side of the road, but then that’s only guidance.’ He gave up. From the corner of my eyes I saw him close his and (just maybe) mumble the first few lines of Hanuman Chalisa. They teach you well in the army how to recognize a war being fought at a level that’s a whole world different from your own skills, and the complete God-belief-karma routine swings into action mechanically I guess.

We made it home and I helped him hobble up to the elevator. Two shots of a Single Malt got him back his bearings. Another got him talking. ‘So Business Development must be very challenging son….'


  1. Now I know why he recites the Hanuman Chalisa when I am driving... Hail the typical 'Delhi Driver'!!!

  2. You cracked me up....Its the other way around for me. When my dad drives, i am normally holding the parts of my body which can get severely damaged if anything happens.