Tuesday, October 23, 2012

PARTIPAN KANAVU ( PARTIPAN’S DREAM)


 I am not Kalki  and I am not embarking on  something historical. The title is a bit deceptive.  So read this at your own risk!
We had planned to start out from Pondicherry very early that morning. Our driver  Partipan was not exactly happy with that huge cup of cappuccino coffee I insisted he share with us at Le café. “What is this madam? You are only paying for the foam. Not good for anyone” he grumbled.   And then he disappeared while we were completing the check out formalities at the hotel.  I guess he was worried we might drag him to have breakfast with us. He preferred his own spots for meals- places where the food was more to his liking than what Hotel Surguru  offered. But wherever or whatever it was that he ate that day was obviously not something that his stomach relished. 

We had just crossed Marakanam when this careful driver suddenly started behaving like a formula one contestant.  We held on to our seats as I shouted at A who was riding “shotgun” with him to buckle up her seat belt.  Poor girl, she was obviously not used to seat belts( the streets of Kolkata , her home town have so much of traffic that one can usually walk alongside a vehicle).  She fumbled around for the strap while I tried to instruct her from the back seat dancing dangerously in my semi erect position …!
“ Don’t distract him A. He needs to focus”  I told her as I finally helped her strap herself in.  “ But ma’m  I was not talking to him today”  she protested.  True.. the previous evening she had been  playing    “ English Vinglish”  with him with not so pleasant consequences as he kept losing focus.

But today it was strange. He appeared to be completely focused – actually too focused! He was not participating in any conversation or enlightening me with details of the Tamil movie songs that he was playing .  He had a serious look on his face as he drove on.  When I told him to take the turning from Sholinganallur into the Old Mahabalipuram Road ( OMR), he did not seem  happy. I pointed to our consultant telling him that we needed to drop her there.  
As we drove on in OMR I suddenly decided that I would go to my daughter’s school for a few minutes for her “open day” – a day when the children present projects on various topics to parents.  The school was only a stone’s throw away from the consultant’s house. So, I could easily get down, run in, mark my presence while he dropped her at her house two streets away. 
I don’t know if it was my imagination but he seemed flabbergasted at the idea.  “Madam, it looks like it will pour” he said.  He seemed to have a far off look in his eyes when I insisted, saying it would not take that much longer. 

I usually go to the daughter’s school from the other end of OMR.  Driving from this end was a little confusing as I made Partipan stop  every now and then, starting from Navalur to see if this was the correct turning. This genial man, almost lost his cool with me when I did that for the third time. I wondered what was the matter.  
Finally when we reached the school, my two colleagues said that they would not be coming with me as they were not “ dressed appropriately to enter a school” .  Partipan seemed clearly unhappy when they continued sitting in the vehicle and riding on to the consultant’s   house.  But he seemed relieved when I told him he need not drive through the bad approach road to the school to pick me up after dropping her. I would walk up to the highway and meet him there.

Just as I had expected ,it did not take me more than twenty minutes at the school. As I reached the highway,  I found there was no sign of the vehicle. When I called Partipan, he told me that both the other madams had gone into the consultant’s home at her invitation. He asked me to call and request them to come downstairs. When I did call one of them our consultant grabbed the   phone and  insisted that I come over to her house “ just for five minutes “.  So I called  Partipan asking him to come over and take me there. 
The five minute ride to her house was through extremely bumpy roads. But my charioteer seemed to be in a much better mood and more like himself.  He spoke about the corruption that the town panchayat indulged in when it came to road laying and followed it up with his usual litany of complaints with all elected representatives of the government.  I was happy to see the change.  Obviously, it was the consultant’s presence in the vehicle that was annoying him.

After the initial hospitality our consultant, a typical Indian lady given to making a news out of mere ordinary occurrences told me “ You know what happened when you were away?  Partipan wanted to go doubles and I had to ask our watch man to give him the keys”   For a moment I was puzzled. I wondered if our driver had suddenly decided to switch from driving a Bolero to a BSA ? Otherwise how does one explain the “doubles” ? But when I saw both the girls giggling the tube light in my head came on and a lot of things fell into place.
As we got ready to leave, I looked at him closely. Partipan sitting behind the steering wheel seemed to me  like a man who had achieved his dream. But the moment he saw our consultant he  got into a flurry wanting to leave. He mentioned the weather again- though  not so vehemently this time. He almost did not wait for the door to close when he changed gears and pressed his accelerator. But Ms. N our consultant was something else. She came up to the window and asked him to roll it down. When it was no longer possible to ignore her, he had to do just that . She  in turn peered in asking loudly “ Did you find the key and use the toilet”?  Poor guy, I think he was the most embarrassed person in the world at that moment!

My two colleagues began giggling again. S said “ Ma’m we did not want to go upstairs to  N mam’s house but Partipan was absolutely insistent that we go”  I realized why…!
Yes, it seems like a joke when it happens to someone else, but think about a time when it had happened to you..There is even a Tenali Rama story along these lines where the court jester is supposed to have told King Krishnadevaraya that  finding a toilet when desperately in need is like a dream come true. The King had thought it was sheer cheekiness to answer like that  until he was in a similar situation!

So Partipan found his dream in an apartment complex off OMR..! It  was another thing that it became common knowledge among his passengers. I wish I could tell him to stop feeling embarrassed about it. But I think if I broach this topic he would dig a hole and bury himself there. So, the best thing would be to ignore his dash towards his dreams.  After all, aren’t dreams just fleeting experiences ?

 

 

 

 

8 comments:

SG said...

My pet peeve for many years is Indian cities do not have decent toilet facilities except a few “malls” in big cities. In Chennai, even a few modern malls have “out of order” sign in 50% of their toilet rooms. I don’t know what people would do if they have these nature’s calls while they are out of their homes. For men it is ok that there are walls. That too it is good for numero uno only. How about women?

When they want to copy everything from USA, why not they copy this also. In USA, every gas station (petrol bunk) must have toilet facilities for men and women. Why don’t the government enact a law similar to that so that the public have some outlet?

KParthasarathi said...

An amusing read told humourously

anilkurup said...

We could laugh over the miserable fellows plight.
Happens to all at some point.

Jack said...

Meera,

Only the wearer of shoe knows where it pinches. May no one be in such a situation.

Take care

Meera Sundararajan said...

Yes, SG you are right about the toilets. The entire ECR stretch is devoid of any petrol pumps or toilets. Women face more problems - I wrote a post on it long ago.

Anil, Jack both of you are right. One needs to be in the shoes of the person undergoing the agony!

@ KP glad you found it humorous

Cloud Nine said...

Hahaha...i loved the title and the plot too:P Good one, Meera!

Priya Baskaran said...

Hi Meera, I really felt sorry for Parthiban after reading this. The poor fellow.
this also reminded me of the time when one of our senior colleagues wanted to use the toilet in a housing complex that was being constructed post tsunami, and asked another senior colleague where the toilet was, for which the watsan expert proudly started explaining the plan of the house to be built and where the toilet would come up, much to the embarassment of the first colleague :P

rudraprayaga said...

Poor Parthiban's plight.It may happen with others also.

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