For a chap born and sharpened on the streets of Mumbai, there is nothing so asphyxiating as a richly deserved cussword un-uttered. It sort of chokes the epiglottis, which is a big word I have used to display my erudition. (Note: Naren is erudite)
No, I haven't been having a couple, as will become clear when you let me amplify my meaning. In Mumbai, if one is driving in one's lane and another car decides to unexpectedly cross one, leading one to brake sharply and increase one's blood pressure a few notches, one immediately does one or all of the following
a)show the finger
b)tell the driver of the other car that his father was an ass, or pig, or both
c)further inform the said driver of your intention of tearing out his intestines.
This is a legal requirement for citizenship here. The recipient of the abuse, if he is indeed guilty, accepts it gracefully as one would accept a good morning from an old friend, with a smile and a nod if you know what I mean, and pushes off to pursue his livelihood. Not so in Kolkata.
We sat in an Ambassador taxi dating back to Otto or Daimler, as was its driver. The brakes were operated more by faith and God's will than hydraulics. Every time the brakees were pressed, the car would sing a sort of aria and screech to a halt with a demure little skid.
This wasn't alarming when we were moving in slow traffic but presently Old Father Abraham, our driver, hit an open stretch and started clipping nicely. And no sooner had the needle crossed the 60 mark, the devil in the form of another Ambassador taxi zipped across our path.
For one microsecond, I really thought I had bought it and made the squealing pig sound I normally make when I'm dying. Miraculously, the impact did not happen and when I slowly opened an eye, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself still among the living.
And I looked towards the Ancient Mariner, hoping to hear something wonderfully vitriolic, something I could pass on to my progeny and use against offending auto drivers when they crossed me. And what did old Greybeard come up with? You're not going to believe this. His complete response was
"Kaisa chalate hain yeh log".
How these people drive! That was all this superman could come up with. What a guy! He'd make Nelson Mandela look like a football hooligan. But then, that's how most old Kolkatans are, I am told. Gracious, well mannered and mildly spoken. Even when they're burning a tram, as they frequently do, they will remember their p's and q's. Love this place!