The gas man had said ‘come at 9.30 a.m. ‘ After dealing with a couple of inopportune phone calls in the course of a rushed morning routine, I managed to leave the house in a dash at 9.40. I was rushing as much as one can on a hilly road decorated with holes. The road had been dug up about 6 months prior, to lay some pipe lines and never got leveled properly which left us about half the road. When one met with a vehicle coming up in the opposite direction, one prayed, snarled, made rude gestures and finally moved grudgingly to the side barely missing scraping sides. Today, I moved aside and couldn’t move back to the road after the vehicle had passed. The car was stuck at an angle. I tried reverse, forward with lots of smoke and noise. A vehicle came up behind me. A few young men got down and gave lots of directions. Finally they lifted the car back on to the road! And I sped on smiling.
The smile got wiped when I reached the gas agency and found a huge crowd of milling men all waving their gas books probably with their wives voices in their head saying ‘ no deepavali without gas’. It took an hour to get the bill made. Meanwhile we all had to move our vehicles a few time to let traffic pass on the narrow road. As each man emerged from the melee, waving his book and bill, his face was filled with a triumphant glow like he had just passed his exam.
Then all of us filed up to the top of another hill where the truck filled with cylinders waited on a remote road. Again a queue, again a we created a traffic jam with autos, bikes and cars parked on all sides. I had left behind my cell phone and so I could really connect with the scene. I thought – these are the people one reads about in all the magazines; the real India waiting patiently for a gas cylinder, spending half a day for a basic need. Some people were talking about ration queues. Others about the auto charges they would have to pay with all this waiting. No wonder , people drift away to foreign countries where basic needs are met so simply.
Next stop was a school to request permission to take some of the children for a radio program the next day. Some unexpected insight led me to take a box of sweets for the headmistress ; after all, its the season of sweets. And she was pretty sweet about it all 🙂
This year I have had to step off my self raised pedestal of I-am-one-of- the -few -people- who make-sweets-at home-for deepavali. Reasons could range from death in the family so no celebrations to no maid for a couple of weeks but truly it is little time and less inclination.
So the second half of the day was spent in buying packets of sweets at a local shop and distributing them to several people who render us service through the year including the laundry man and friendly bank assistant. I skipped my friends this year although I hope they won’t pass over me! Everywhere people seem to be in a benign happy mood, wishing each other . And I think, this is maybe why we choose to stay in India.
Wishing you a wonderful Deepavali!