Now my mother is always of the opinion, that when I have an impending time crunching situation before me, a bus to catch, a road to cross, a deadline to miss, I have a tendency to pretend that I am in one of those badly made, over-dramatic movies, where everything is in slow motion right before the terrifying car crash, the one that I am unfortunately in, and thus scheduled for a reduction into a Heinz tomato ketchup induced molten metal.
I would of course disagree with her, vehemently, and perhaps start a well-timed argument regarding her interference in my life choices, well timed because my mom would be stressed about my impending situation to vehemently argue back that she actually saved me from marrying that no good tattoo artist, who probably is dying of post traumatic drug overdose, or one of those fancy sexually transmitted diseases.
But she had a point. I could never relax on a beach or spend an entire Sunday afternoon sleeping and ‘wasting’ my time, cos then I would be stressed at all the time I wasted. Anyway, to cut the rambling, it was in one of these relaxed situations, that I found myself chasing a bus to an important interview, with a barely tucked in shirt, and one leg in a pant, and the rest of the wardrobe streaming out of my bag, and a bagel stuffed into my mouth, when I realized that this time, I was not going to make it. The cab driver, the one that I had recruited post my enlightenment about my need to seek out stressful situations for the purpose of relaxation, decided to turn on the music, a soft Fur Elise piano rendition.
Now I don’t know if you guys agree on this, but think of a stressful situation, say you were supposed to book movie tickets for ten of your friends, and then you actually just forget to do it, but still remembered to turn up at the right time for the movie, unwittingly of course, and you panic (like for real) and start searching your mobile for the tickets you did not book, but don’t remember anyway, and a poor friend of yours, helpfully says “Calm down” and you want to beat the crap out of him, cos you now know that you aren’t calm and also remember that you didn’t book the tickets after all. Fur Elise, is that friend, but with a heavy dose of condescension. Its like, you want things to speed up and suddenly everything is dead slow.
Needless to say, I was agitating the driver enough, to get him to suggest that the only way I was going to make it to that interview was if I scale down the fire escape of the flyover that we were stuck on because of a predictable traffic jam at rush hour that I happened to not consider in my time calculations, and run to my interview, which was conveniently placed under the traffic.
“But just one thing”, said the cab driver, “After that, your life will never be the same.”
I searched the man’s face momentarily for further signs of weirdness and decided that he must be one of those TV gurus who were cab-driving on the side, practicing their divining skills on unsuspecting passengers until they made it.
“May your prayers be with me then”, I declared in what i assumed was the right spiritual response, as i set forth my perilous path down the fire escape.
Fifteen minutes later, I sat in the interview, with a bitter looking 50 year old woman who looked like she believed that the end of her three year childless marriage was the best career decision of her life. After a round of half-hearted technical questions, we got down to the real half of the interview.
“So, do you have any children?” she asked, looking above her glasses. I knew this line of questioning. She was probably a hardened workaholic, who didn’t want any of her staff getting pregnant in the middle of fifteen parallel releases and leaving her to handle the after math.
“Yes madam. Three.” I started at my own reply. What the hell? I didn’t have any children. Was this me being creative? If so, I wasn’t helping. Mothers took to sick leaves like five year olds took classroom bathroom breaks. And I didn’t know if there was a facility to rent kids for ‘bring your kids your work day’.
“Oh…so we don’t have a crèche or a daycare over here. Do you have any young ones?” she said.
“Yes, a two year old. But my in laws are with me. Nothing to worry.“ I was on a roll. I made a note to self to search justdial for in-law rentals.
My personal answers were obviously striking a much better chord with her than my technical ones, and within an hour and a half, I got a printed offer letter with a salary 50% hiked over my current one. I sat in the cab, wondering what the hell had happened, and if the mushrooms in the omelette that I had eaten that morning had had a weird aftertaste that I should have taken more notice off. I stared at my hand and noted that they were oddly shivering. Then I put out my tongue, and looked for any odd discolorations in my reflection, and decided to put an end to it when the girl in the next car stuck her tongue back at me.
“Madam, we have reached your destination. Shall I end the trip?” said the cab driver.
“What? This is not my destination. Where the hell have you brought me?” Ok, my voice was quite a few trebles higher. But I had obviously day dreamed through out the ride, but this was definitely not my fault. I looked furtively at my mobile. I had entered my saved location for HOME as the final destination.
“Madam, the destination is accurate. Its 1398, sector IV, Wilson Garden”
“My home is in Koramangala. What the hell?”
“If you put in the wrong destination, I can’t do anything. “
“Your app is screwed up. How is this my fault?”
Fifteen minutes of arguing ended with me cursing the driver, and he ending the trip, and me stranded in a neighborhood I had no clue about. Grudgingly, I decided that this was a good neighborhood to be stuck in when the sun was on its way down.
“Jisha, you reached. How as the interview?”
I looked up. It was the warmest smile I had ever seen, on this caterpillar of a woman’s face, with this sky blue scarf and a sunset yellow churidhar, on someone old enough to be my mother, but just sunnier, looking across the wall of this beautiful mansion, well maintained garden et al, smiling at me wanly.
“Well, don’t stand there. Come inside. I have made your favorite samosas and some lemonade. ”
I know right. Who can say no to samosas. I could be forgiven for not logically questioning how she knew so much about me. But the word creepy doesn’t strike you in the background of a mansion that large. I mean, isn’t that the premise of Hansel and Gretel?
I was soon munching into the samosas with so much passion that I began to develop this idea that they were somehow magically spiked and that I would be eating them to the end of time, trapped forever in this Narnia mansion.
“That’s enough,” said the samosa fairy, “We don’t want to ruin our appetite for dinner now, do we? I am in the middle of a biriyani you know. Mutton. You want to help me cut the pineapple for the raita?” She had this twinkle in her eyes as she deftly flicked the samosas away, as if she knew all along that I was crazy for pineapple raita. But I was an atheist, and could believe in coincidences, especially when they work in my dietary favour.
I was soon washing the dishes and deciding that the biriyani needed a bit more salt, when we heard a car drive through the gate.
“Oh. Abba is in” she said, “Be a dear, and put on your scarf.”
I looked visibly confused. Scarf?
“Come on. I’m sure you have one in your bag.” She said handing my bag to me. “Hurry. We don’t want another fight like yesterday.”
I opened the bag as she ran to open the door for Abba, whoever he was, and just as I contemplated whether things were weird enough to skip the mutton biriyani, I found a scarf in my bag.
At this point, let it be noted that I am foodie, and will go to hell and back for a damn good biriyani. And she had really splurged on the roasted cashews and raisins.
‘Abba’ walked in just as I wrapped the scarf perfectly on my head. My hands still seemed to know the motions even after all my years of anti-religious sentiment.
“Ahh..Jisha. How was the interview?” said Abba.
The samosa fairy handed me a glass of chilled guava juice, and I found myself saying, “I cleared it. With a great package too.”
“Well, that’s good”, replied the man who was called Abba. “Ma keeps complaining how tired you are traveling so much everyday. This is just ten minutes from here. So it should be easy for you from now on.”
I wondered where I had brought those mushrooms from. Was this man inviting me to stay at his palace because he took pity on my travel arrangements. Maybe this was a senile old couple who had mistaken me for their long lost daughter. Whatever it was, I could be an opportunist…I lived in a stinky 1 BHK in Koramangala and had a cook that fell sick every Monday like clockwork, and had frequently dying relatives.
“The kids are here” said the samosa fairy.
The school bus honking outside was succeeded by the bawl of a six year old girl, who flung open the door, rushed into my surprisingly open arms, with tears jerking out in manner that somehow seemed to me endearing.
“Mi…..Suhail is a jerk“ she declared.
“What happened?” I said, less to the child’s declaration that Suhail was a jerk than that I was her mother.
Suhail, the adamannt ten year old that stomped in a second later, quickly struck down all allegations against him, and quickly brought down a new set of allegations against Suhaina, the girl who had temporarily adopted me as her mother.
“Suhaina should stop calling me Suhail, Mi. I am her elder brother” he declared, even as I mentally declared that everyone should stop calling me their mom. But the pompousness that was so quickly swelling within this little boy’s chest set me laughing, as it weirdly reminded me of a bonsai plant that had been forcibly stumped and now grew in odd directions. The boy clearly believed he was beyond his age.
“Jisha. How was your interview”, said a familiar voice.
I looked up, and felt my knees wobble, and my head slowly began spinning with the gravity of the situation I was suddenly in. It wasn’t possible. What was happening? Where was that alarm clock when you needed one.
For staring right at me were those blue eyes, that I had so grudgingly dumped in my teens, along with god, religion, and conformation.
I stripped off the scarf and stomped out of the mansion and swore never to eat mushrooms ever again.