Today, I have Rickie Khosla over at my space. Our “Amrikan” desi whose ghosla is in Gurgaon currently; Rickie blogs at reekycoleslaw.com. I have been hooked on to his blog ever since I began reading it a few months back. Well, he has been blogging for less than a year :). And, the guy has loads of talent. His forte is humor and drama, and he does it splendidly in all its forms — parody, satire and dark humor: from the crass to the classy! Of late, he has been dabbling in serious writing. And, he is doing that beautifully too. Personally, I enjoy all that he writes and the subtlety with which he conveys what he has to convey without going over-the-board preachy. The hallmarks of his writing are sharp wit, humor, impeccable language, and incisive thinking. If you still do not follow him, it will be time well spent in doing so. Not only will you have a good time, but you can also learn a thing or two about writing as well. Take it away Rickie…

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Bharat’s Day : A Slice-of-Life Of The Urban Indian

“Daaaaaad!” yelled the eleven year old Dhruv from his duodenum as if he had just witnessed the end of the world.

It was 6.20 am. For the unversed, this was a typical initiation to the raucous Joshi household.

Dad, as in, Bharat, had been awake for twenty minutes but had continued to tumble inside his sheets trying to sop up the last pitiful ounces of rest before the long day ahead. His wife Neena had leaped out of bed at first beep, with enough kinetic force to smash his sound sleep to smithereens, but he was determined not to give in that easily. Sadly, despite all his obstinate tossing and turning, it was going to be a lost cause this morning.

“Dad! Wake up!” screeched Dhruv, this time only inches from his father’s ear.

“What is it, bachchey? What is wrong?” said the father, his mental pendulum halfway between sleepy and groggy.

“All the Spring Festival tickets are still left unsold! What am I going to take to school? Today is the last day!” the boy said.

Hein? What do you mean – unsold? Didn’t you have two weeks to sell them?” said the father, suddenly quite awake.

“Yes, Dad. But I couldn’t. And today Ma’am wants all the sale proceeds to be deposited.”

“Neeeenaaaah!” This time it was Dad who yelled with ferocity that matched his son’s.

“Not my problem,” came the pithy response from the kitchen.

She was right, of course. This exercise had been confined by Bharat to be a fun activity between father and son. He had taken on the responsibility to train, guide and assist Dhruv to sell a hundred tickets (at Rs.50 apiece) assigned to him by the school for the ‘2013 School Basant Extravaganza!’. At the time, it had seemed like the easiest thing to do.

“I call it ‘BBB’. Baap-Beta-Bonding! We’ll show your school how it’s done, won’t we, Dhruv? In fact, once we sell this whole booklet, you should ask your school for a second booklet of another 100 tickets!” the proud father had declared at the time.

Of course, in hindsight, more asinine than proud. The only other time the question of selling tickets had been raised since that grand pontification two weeks ago was this morning.

“What am I going to do?” demanded the boy of his hapless father.

“Sorry, bachchey, I was so busy that I forgot. But so did you! Why didn’t you remind me or your mother about this earlier?”

“But, Dad, you promised you’d help. And you didn’t!” And with that, the clever boy started to faux-cry. He was quite a pro at emotional atyachaar.

“Ok, Mr. Drama, here is what we will do. We will just pretend that we sold all the tickets, ok? I am going to give you a cheque. Give that to Mrs. Suri.”

“But, Dad, give me the money in notes na! Otherwise Mrs. Suri will find out that I didn’t sell these tickets going door-to-door. She is not an idiot!” reasoned the boy, just as his mother entered the bedroom with a cup of coffee.

“Yes, Dad, Ma’am is not an idiot!” mocked Neena. Bharat looked at her and made a face. She monkeyed his expression back at him.

Arrey, just tell her that as you kept selling the tickets, you deposited the money with your Dad for safe-keeping. And now that you’ve sold all the tickets, your Dad just decided to cut a cheque for the full amount. Say because it is safer to carry a cheque than cash to school. She’ll understand. She is not an idiot!”

“But, Dad…!”

“Enough, baba!” shouted the mother this time. “Mrs. Suri won’t find out. She just wants the money. Now scoot! Go get ready in 15 minutes. Dad can’t drop you off to school if you miss your school bus today!”

The chagrined boy left the room. Though, with the realization that it could have been worse. Mrs. Suri shouldn’t be that hard to manage, he mulled, as he went into the bathroom and started his rain dance under the shower.

“I tell you, all that these schools know is how to trouble parents when they should be teaching kids how to be responsible!” said Bharat, while Neena nodded in complete agreement.

 

By 7.30 am, Bharat and Neena were ready for their other daily ritual – a ‘brisk’ walk in their neighbourhood park. You see, keeping fit was the new mantra in the Joshi household. Plus, as was typical, they were going to catch up with their good friends, the Varmas, there.

“Did you grab your towel?” enquired Neena as she locked the door. Bharat confirmed that he had.

The Varmas accosted the Joshis at the park entrance. Pleasantries were exchanged, followed by the retelling of the early morning Joshi household crisis. The Varmas had their own story to narrate. Charu, the wife, said that someone had broken one of the flower pots parked outside the front door of their flat. Plus, a couple of brand new roses that had started to emerge after months of slogging had been plucked right off – roses stolen from right under their noses, so to speak!

Haaw!” exclaimed Neena. “Who did that?”

“Who else? I am sure it must have been Mrs Khurana,” she said, referring to the wicked witch of their lane.

The men looked at each other and shook their heads at the triviality of genuine feminine angst.

“So what are you going to do about that?” asked Bharat bearing just a mild smattering of curiosity.

“Do nahi did! I broke one of her flower pots, that’s all,” declared Charu triumphantly. “And I poured hot water on their money plant, too!”

“Good for you!” the Joshis said almost in unison, acknowledging the fair trade of neighbourhood evil. “That should teach her!” added Neena for good measure.

About thirty minutes later, with a couple of park rounds done, the politely plump foursome regrouped at the gates again. The towels were out doing their job of frantically wiping off the wishful deluge of sweat and toil.

“That was good – I feel so light already! But someone must do something about the smell!” exclaimed Charu between puffs of deep breaths. All four made a face.

“Imagine, it has been a week and no one has collected the garbage!” said Bharat, repeating the facts that all four were already familiar with.

“Without the towel over my nose, I think I would have died!” added Neena. “I always make sure that we are carrying them.”

“Hopefully, someone has complained about this to someone. This government is so nikammi that it boggles my mind!” Bharat added in disdain.

“Are you all set for the evening?” asked Vikram, the other Varma.

“Yes, we can’t miss this for sure. 7 o’clock pakka!” confirmed Bharat.

The foursome split.

 

Other than the frenetic activities reported so far, the morning was slow. The languid breakfast continued well past 9 am. Neena was a great omelette cook, and for Bharat, eggs and The Times of India made a remarkable combination.

“What is one to do with all this?” he clucked as he jumped from headline to headline between scoopfuls of food.

“You just worry about getting out of office on time today. 7 o’clock means 7 o’clock, ok?” warned Neena.

“Yes baba, wouldn’t miss it for anything!” her husband re-confirmed.

“Shouldn’t you be heading out early today? Or did you forget about the car?” alerted Neena.

The car! Bharat had indeed totally forgotten about the car. On his way back home from work last night, his 3-year-old car had plunged into a particularly large pothole near the house, causing a strange and disturbing new sound to perpetuate from the front left wheel. He had meant to take the car to the nearby garage this morning, depositing it there if needed, and then head to work in an autorickshaw.

But there was no time for all that now.

“Shit!” he mumbled as he dropped his fork and grabbed the glass of orange juice for a quick gulp down.

“Should I take it?” Neena offered to do the needful with the car.

“No, don’t bother. I will do it tomorrow now. But I really did forget about the car. I should rush now – it takes much longer to reach office in an auto!”

Sorting his remaining affairs within the next five minutes, Bharat was soon out of the door and walking towards the end of the lane. He turned once to wave back at his wife from that distance. She waved back and made a double handed sign which read 7. Bharat nodded with a thumbs up.

 

There were 4 autorickshaws at the assigned parking spot, as he approached it. But just as Lady Luck often titillates the man who is running late, three of the four autos found customers and vanished like magic as soon as he arrived. Thankfully, the fourth was still there, its owner sullen faced.

Bhaiyya, Connaught Place.”

“I can only go to Trans Yamuna,” said the angry looking middle-aged man.

“So early in the morning and you have already chosen your manzil?” joked Bharat.

“I started very early today,” came the gruff response.

“Ok, how much do you want?” the bargaining started, with Bharat firing the first salvo.

The sullen faced man threw a number causing Bharat to laugh.

Bhaiyya, I just want a ride in your auto. I didn’t ask for the price to buy it!” Bharat chuckled.

With that friendly exchange, and the ice decidedly broken, the highrollers finally settled on a more realistic monetary figure. Bharat was finally on his way to work.

 

“You are late. Deshmukh Sir was looking for you!” said Sheetal as soon as Bharat entered his office. She wore her usual countenance – of apathetic boredom – consistent with most youngsters in the office.

“Sorry! What did you tell him?”

“That you are attending to your mother-in-law. He knows that she is sick,” Sheetal added.

Yes, that part was true. Mummy-ji was sick and Neena was off work because of her mother’s illness. Though the illness itself was nothing to get alarmed about, Bharat thought it best to maintain a cloak of vagueness about it at work. Who knows when I might need to milk it, he thought.

“Yes, poor woman. She was in pain this morning.”

“Plus, even my car broke down last night. God knows when I will get it back!” he threw in a few more dark hues to complete the picture of the utter misery of his life.

 

Most of the work day swirled around calls, calculations, cigarettes and coffee. At 3.30 pm, Neena called.

“Problem ho gaya. Dr. Saxena says that it is best if we get mamma operated at AIIMS. He said we shouldn’t trust a nursing home, given her age and all…”, she said.

Offo!”

“I know. Now what? Don’t you know someone there?”

“At AIIMS? Yeah, Deshmukh’s distant cousin is a surgeon there. Ortho. I think we will just have to use his source to jump the line. Otherwise this could take months. Even a year!”

“I mean, there is no rush, obviously. Mamma is usually okay with her medication…”

“I know, but best to get this over and done with quickly. I will talk to Deshmukh now. Give him some sob story. His rishtedaar may charge something to push our case, but, hopefully, AIIMS will still come out cheaper than the nursing home!”

“Haan, that is true. Ok, find out and let me know. Bye.”

 

It was 6.50 pm.

“What! You still haven’t left office yet?” was how Neena started the call.

Yaar, what to do. Because of that whole AIIMS ka chakkar, I was not able to finish the report to the CEO. Deshmukh will be hauled over the coals if we don’t submit it today. I am just trying to be nice to him!”

“The AIIMS thing got done then?”

“Yeah, that fellow is asking for twenty thousand. Had to bargain a little. It’s ok, he will get the surgery scheduled within this month. I just got off the phone with him half an hour ago.”

“Ok good! But I wish you could come. Dhruv will be so disappointed…”

“I know, I was looking forward to it too! We haven’t gone for a picnic-type outing for so long! But, work beckons…”

“Charu is already there. She called ten minutes ago. She says it is like a carnival! Live music – some Punjabi singer. She says even a few film stars have shown up! Plus, all the snacks are free!”

“So take Dhruv and go. Have some fun. You can come back with Charu. If I am able to come, I will, otherwise, I will see you at home. Just pack some chaat-paapri for me!”

“I don’t know…” murmured Neena.

Arrey, don’t be such a wet blanket! Just go!” Bharat reasoned.

 

“Dhruv bachchey, wear your sneakers and let’s go. Dad will try to join us there” the mother called out loudly. She could hear her boy run towards her room almost immediately.

“Is Shagun already there?” Dhruv asked, asking about Charu and Vikram’s daughter.

“Yes, she and her mom are already having paav bhaji! Charu aunty says it is delicious! So let’s go…quick!” the mother spoke in hurried tones.

“What else is there to be done at Jantar Mantar, mom?”

“Well, there is live music, lots of people! Film stars! Food!”

“So, is it like a Spring Festival then?”

The mother laughed. So innocent, her son!

“No, bachchey, it’s a fast, actually. You have heard about Anna Hazarey, na? He is keeping a fast to bring back morality and root out corruption from our country!”

“Cool” the son said, half listening as he tied his shoelaces.

“Ok, come on quick now – I don’t want to miss out on the paav bhaji! And we have to look for an auto first!”

Pic courtesy: Freedigitalphotos.net

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66 Thoughts on “Bharat’s Day : A Slice-of-Life Of The Urban Indian

  1. Gurgaon buddy first.
    The short snippets provide enough food for thought. The style of writing is different and interesting. Makes one think without lecturing. Intelligent writing.

  2. The reflection in the mirror is ugly. But that’s us, expecting problems to take of themselves, cribbing about the state of the country but won’t do anything about it.

  3. I have always believed that you can tell how corrupt a person is by looking at the way he drives. 🙂
    All of us have the germ in us and we are somehow capable of neglecting our own corruption. There is a decay that has settled on us and it is so malovalently sublime that we are in awe of it.

    • Obviously there is a giant metaphor there – about the corrupt driving the car, also called the country by some, into a ditch!
      You are so right about sorting the decay at home first.But talk is cheap, as they say.
      Thanks for reading!

  4. What a neat round up of the goings on in any “normal” family! We’ve all been through one/all/few of these things at various times.

    Rickie, always a pleasure to read your writing. Now I am just dying to know, in spite of the great punchline (Anna Hazare’s fast) what happened next. Did Neena’s MIL have the operation at AIIMS? What did Mrs.Suri have to say about the cheque? But is that for another post?

    Thank you, Rachna!

    • I am dying to have some paav bhaaji myself!
      Hahaha…didn’t realize I had so many cliffhanger moments in the post! You are right, I will have to tie all loose ends in another piece – else it will look like a TV serial that ended abruptly due to falling TRPs!
      Thanks for your kind words, Vidya!

  5. Hi Rachna .I enjoyed reading every word of the story .It is simple but so meaningful.The issues that Delhiwallas face every day have been highlighted so intelligently..

  6. Pingback: Bharat’s Day (My Guest Post For Rachna Srivastava Parmar) | Who Cares What I Think?

  7. Excellent-Rickie never disappoints.I was wondering all along where this was leading to;till i came to Anna.
    Such is life-we have become crass hypocrites.

  8. That made for a very interesting read! A slice of life which most of us will identify with!

  9. To be faced with an open, extended palm in some form or another at every turn, day in and day out – it cannot be easy. Nicely conveyed, Rickie.

    As for creating time for our kids guess we’re all guilty – life gets busy. On the other hand, sooner than we realise they don’t need that help from us anymore.

  10. Thats a different kind of post from you, Rickie. It moved on like some typical description of day to day life of a normal middle class Indian and the punch came in on the last line. Really cool. Everything then falls in place.

    • For one thing, I didn’t want this to look like a short story. It just needed to be a languid, simple and unbiased narration of what happened in a normal household one normal day. I hope it came that way.
      To make this a short story, I would have added some dramatic prose but I consciously stayed away from that.
      Hope some of what I was attempting came through! I am still learning.
      Thanks for reading!

  11. Just like TF above, I felt the punch in the end made everything fall right in place. I used to always wonder why things function the way they are supposed to abroad but not in India. It is not because we are poor. It is not because the poor are corrupt. But it is because our mindsets, our bodies and souls are soaked in corruption. It is like a disease that has percolated down to every cell in our body. And, no movement, no initiative can work till we look within ourselves and recognize that we all are at fault. Till that happens, there is no hope for our nation ‘coz we have since long brushed the uncomfortable facts that stare back at us and have learned to move on and enjoy. On many levels, your post echoed with my own thoughts and feelings. Thank you for this Guest Post, Rickie. It is a deviation from your usual style yet equally effective. And, like I’ve said many times to you, you must continue to do serious writing because you do it really well.

  12. Rickie, I didn’t see it coming. I am drooling for Pav Bhaji now. As for the fast, hmmm…it will take care of itself. Brilliant!

  13. Arrey baba…this is the world of ‘Aam aadmi’ in India– full of grit, tensions, temptations and privileges! Very interestingly written!
    Thanks Rachna for this treat 🙂

  14. That was a fun read and climaxed beautifully!

  15. mamta khanna on February 8, 2013 at 4:46 pm said:

    well rickie ,again u were able to touch d right chord- d daily routine as well as d things going around. if we’ll read this-somewhere we feel like it is our life.hats off.

  16. very interesting! it’s you and me, actually a bit of everybody that make our society. Excuses, procrastination, passing on the buck, and then showing fake solidarity with social issues, we do everything with utmost sincerity. That is indeed, Bharat.

    • I couldn’t have put it any better, Meenakshi!
      And you are right – we are all Bharat! So who am I to sermonize. So I just stand ashamed. But not too much to do much about it! 🙁

  17. I am happy I got a chance to read such well written article by a fellow GURGAONITE

  18. This sure was interesting and reflection of the times we are living in!

  19. ddeepa on February 8, 2013 at 6:55 pm said:

    Hmm. A very different way of showing us the mirror but effective nonetheless. For some reason, reading this makes me sad because it reminds me of how true it is. Nice post Rickie. Thanks Rachna.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Deepa.
      But really, don’t be sad….it is just a matter of time before we hit the tipping point…and become more aware and responsible of our own morality. It will happen sooner rather than later.

  20. Very well written. The country is being driven by us and we are all lousy drivers.

  21. Clever, clever including the choice of the name! Such a reflection on what we are – and told so well.

  22. very well written .. random ramblings of daily life !

  23. The end was clever! It’s actually a day, out of the lives of so many people. The morning walks with complains about the garbage. Ofcourse we won’t be doing anything about it, other than complain! And the cheque for the teacher. Everything. I loved the simplicity of the post, with the hidden thought provoking moments. Simply put but hard hitting!

  24. Liked the style of writeing as well as presentation. But then Rachna knows I don’t like fancy stuff 🙂 I was thinking that it was some party that they were about to attend.
    It shook me.
    So many things happen arround us and we do not take any stance. Like is the garbage has not been cleared, do we really call up and ifnd out why?.

    • We have tuned out small things like garbage, potholed roads or small liberties taken with our wallets by the schoolwalas to the autowalas. Why? Every small thing adds up and the ramifications of this is a collective degradation of our social morality.
      Thanks for reading and your kind feedback!

  25. Corruption has almost become a way of life and we don’t even realize it. The story was a mirror reflecting what we have become. Sad but true. Enjoyed the narrative. 🙂

  26. Aren’t most of us urban Indians that way? The last couple of lines says it all….middle class, upper middle class urban Indians…we all do it. Why? Why are we so laid back? I loved the subtle humor, sarcasm, wit of the story. thank you, Rachna for introducing Rickie. Was a pleasure to read.

  27. blogwatig on February 11, 2013 at 8:06 pm said:

    Rickie, ab tum politics main chale hi jao. Bollywood is not your true calling! Loved this ‘regular’ take on ‘aam junta’.

  28. Our problems and our desi solutions happily co-exist. I am glad we still manage to live with all this, from broken pots to broken cars, we manage it all in our own ways. An interesting and meaningful read.

    • The problems and solutions do coexist, yes. But our solutions seem like bandaid. I wish we got serious about effective solutions to underlying problems rather than glossing over them in the simplistic manner that we do.
      Thanks for stopping by, Saru!

  29. Ah, life in the fast lane (or is it slow?!) I can see myself loving life in Gurgaon….not!!!

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