For a long time, she was just a writer I read and admired, identified with, and did not dare irritate or imitate. Little did I know that she has this way of slipping under your skin, subverting your thinking and making herself a part of your life - without you noticing it. I still remember that during my very first exchange with her about two years ago, I ended up chatting with her as if we knew each other for several lifetimes. That was when I realized how powerful her writing is. I began to see her mastery - making writing seem so natural and graceful, that the art is no longer visible to you. She makes you believe what you are reading are your thoughts, just presented cleverly and humorously, no big deal. To my mind, that is the goal of good writing, no big deal.
|Picture of our family (foreground) with Purba Ray (background)|
Must have been the greens in the cheesecake, but one fine evening, I asked her if she would consider writing a piece for Subho's Jejune Diet. A few days later, I found this in the mail. Without any further delay (it has already been sitting in my drafts for too long), here is Purba's take on the only thing that matters - survival.
Horn Sutra: The Orgasmic Frenzy of Indian Traffic
The 21st century saw many emerging traits, relegating the old ones to the dustbins of history. But we still insist on conning our newer generations into believing that the peacock is our national bird, even though all they see is crows and pigeons cawing and cooing and shitting on window ledges. The national animal is the near extinct Bengal Tiger, while mongrels continue to multiply merrily under Maneka Gandhi’s patronage. We now have a national insect – the deadly mosquito, a national pastime – outrage, and a national crime – rape. Our school textbooks, however, continue to focus on kharif and rabi crops and Gandhi’s satyagraha movement.
India has moved on. Her record keepers obviously haven’t.
Political parties choose to have cycles, lotus, hand, elephants as election symbols while our roads choke with 70 million cars and 100 million 2 wheelers. Your friendly neta may keep 12 cars in his garage but he will prefer pedaling his way to your heart to grab your vote.
But you are no neta with a cavalcade of cars and commandos protecting your life. If you have chosen to step out of your home, you must make sure you have recited the Hanuman chalisa half a dozen times. If death frightens you, stay at home. Because in a sea of tractors, trucks rickshaws, autos, cycles, cars and two-wheelers, your faith in God is your best chance to stay alive. In fact most motorists drive on the assumption of immortality. Only a mortal with a recently acquired bag of boons from the Almighty will dare jump red-lights, squeeze his way through mean looking buses (with perhaps a trapped woman passenger crying for help), try to run over a hapless pedestrian and if a lowly vehicle decides to share space with him, he will honk his displeasure loud and clear. So loud that the heart patient in the nearby hospital gets a second heart attack, the baby who took two hours to sleep begins to bawl and the scooterist in front hops off his vehicle and pretends to play dead.
Indian traffic, like our society, is structured on a strict caste system. The bigger you are, the more adventurous you can get. A speeding truck, just by virtue of its size and jalopiness, can magically make all traffic scuttle away in fear. If a car has a blinking lalbatti, it has the right to abuse you and any rules that come it way. SUVs with Haryana registration number with drivers in Ray Bans enjoy special reverence. Handcarts, bicycles dogs and pedestrians are treated like women are in India. If they get hit or die, they were asking for it.
All drivers follow an unwritten code of conduct – to slow is to err, to brake is being an ass and to give way is to accept that you’re a loser. If you are a loser, please brace yourself for the choicest of abuses. Most of them will prefer focusing on your female family members and their coital behavior.
But using a horn is more of a social responsibility and no one shies away from fulfilling it. You will often see trucks signalling their approval in form of “Horn Okay please” signages on their ample behinds and all automobiles behind them, before them, under them ascribe religiously to this mantra by tootling their approval.
In case you’re still scratching your heads, wondering what I’m blabbering about! Let me make it clear, for most drivers it’s not just a horn but an instrument of empowerment – to inform, warn, nudge, express displeasure, signal changes in direction, serving as headlights, brakes, side and rear view mirrors. It’s a driver’s brahmastra. In fact some of them are of the belief that incessant blaring will translate into kinetic energy and accelerate the offending automobiles out of its way. If there’s a jam or a red light they honk louder hoping that the cacophonous symphony will compel the souls to leave for their heavenly abode in their cars and scooters.
The roads alive with poo, pee, pyain are a sure shot way of keep boredom at bay. It is the primal mode of communicating with fellow commuters. Short bursts signal impatience and trying to be the change you want to see. Prolonged bellowing - get out of my way, if you want to stay alive! And a feeble beep is simply an indication that the vehicle needs to get it’s ass into a service station as soon as possible.
Sometimes to make things even livelier, motorists take out their guns and use you for target practise. Little wonder, people driving on lonely stretches tend to drop off to sleep and off the cliff. It’s so quiet!
Little wonder, outsiders to our country find our country so exciting that they refuse to go back!
Perhaps what we are witnessing is the onset of a brand new emerging trend, making a smooth transition from Horn Okay nation to a Horny Okay, one. Both are expressions of machismo and feel the weaker ones have no business being out on their own. So they take it upon themselves to teach them a lesson, again and again.
So, if you are a woman, cyclist, pedestrian, or two-wheeled driver, prepare yourself to bark, claw your way through a sea of wolves. After all, it’s the fittest who survives.