Subbu was heading out. He had a long checklist and a large bag full of items. He was checking off each item meticulously. ‘Two phones, chargers, pillow, medicine, rope…’
‘Are you going on a long vacation Subbu?’ I asked.
‘No, no, going to work,’ said Subbu.
‘Then why are you packing like you are going on some adventure into the wild?’ I asked. ‘Are you going somewhere for a few days with your office crowd?’
‘No, no, just going to work like normal,’ he said. ‘Back in the evening. Hopefully. There’s some rain predicted today. So, I am gearing up.’
‘What? There are no cyclones or hurricanes. What happens with a little rain?’
‘Looks like you haven’t travelled in Hyderabad in the last few days,’ he said. ‘At the first hint of rain, all traffic stops at standstill for hours. To entertain ourselves and to communicate with our near and dear, it helps to have our mobiles, iPads fully charged. We need fuel tanks at full because the car motor will be running for several hours, though we will be going nowhere. We will be growing old like Rip Van Winkle in the car, so we need anti-ageing creams, so our families can recognise us when we return home. Movies, audio books, light snacks, water for hydration, access to Twitter so we can get in touch with the central ministry or world human rights organizations etc are essential items for daily travel.’
‘You will be stuck for how long?’ I asked naively.
‘Anything between four to six hours or longer,’ he said. ‘But it appears like forever. I have a friend who arrived at home after six hours in the traffic and he looked like he was ten years older. He had a tough time convincing his family that he was the same person who had left for work that morning. They are insisting on a DNA test.’
‘Why are you carrying these meditation tapes and motivation talks?’ I asked, peering into the bag.
‘When we stand still for hours in the rain, we cannot help but notice that the road is disappearing like a magic trick. In a few minutes we realise that we are now in a river, which is slowly rising and in a few moments our car will be required to float. In such situations of extreme stress, we are likely to lose our emotional balance. That’s when these meditation tapes come in handy to calm ourselves and find our inner child. The motivational tapes are helpful when the water rises above our heads and we need to act to save ourselves. We may need some external motivation then.’
‘What about this stick and rope?’ I asked.
‘The stick helps when we get out of the car in the hope of establishing contact with terra firma,’ said Subbu. ‘A gentle probe by the stick ensures that we are stepping on solid earth and not into an inviting open drain that will transport us to the nearest lake. I am also wearing inflatable clothes under my office clothes with small oxygen cylinders fitted in them for any unforeseen underwater adventures. I got waterproof covers for my phones to take selfies while floating around in the river, in my inflatable clothes to post on Insta and Twitter. The rope will be secured at one end to stop me from floating off to some distant land.’
‘That’s all fine but what will you secure your rope to? Everything is floating right?’ I asked.
‘You’re right,’ said Subbu, thinking hard. ‘I think I will secure my rope to the potholes. They are the only things that are not going anywhere.’