An Idiot's Tale

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An Idiot's Tale

Cacography of a madcap story teller, JAYEETA GHORAI

I was standing at the door when a loud beeping startled the tranquil morning air. The neighbour shouted “Sorry” as she struggled to calm her car down in the opposite driveway. Her face was clearly apologetic because my guest and I had stopped talking to turn at the source of the sudden noise.

My neighbour across the lane back in Calcutta never alights from his car to open his own door. His loud honking substitutes for doorbell at all hours of the day. Trouble is, his family is either hard of hearing, lazy and slow in their movement or plain reluctant to let him in. Heaven knows, if I had such a boorish specimen for cohabitant, I too would be.

So, he continues to honk till his beck and call is answered.

Even at 2 am.

The octogenarian heart patient in the next house doesn’t matter. Students burning the post-midnight oil don’t either. Early risers deep in repose don’t. Tired souls snatching at the dregs of slumber don’t. If you happen to have got yourself unwell or are having a restless night, you might as well be dead.

For all he cares, he’s charitably arranging for everyone to rest in peace.

In fact, he isn’t the only thoughtful soul around.

One dawn, I was up early – a rare event – enjoying the unusually peaceful start by washing the car in our driveway. A car stopped outside the gate. The driver, another eminent neighbour, kept sitting at the wheels, fingers pressed to the car horn, apparently trying to call out someone living in the house across. This went on for a good half hour. By then, the cats, dogs, mice, sparrows, crows, insects of the lane had been shaken awake, all save the object of the horn’s blaring affection.

And these get called ‘pests’. Oh yeah, right!

Say, when a person can’t identify a car bell from a door bell, should he at all be allowed to sit a driving test?

Much less pass it?

Traffic jams in Calcutta are a nerve-jangling interlude of exhaust fumes and asynchronous orchestration of varied vehicular aerophones. Idiots will honk in mile-long stand still traffic, expecting perhaps to make the car in front jump out of the way? Or get spaced out and start flying, perhaps?

I suspect vehicle purchasers don’t test wheel alignments or engine conditions so much as decibel range of horns.

Only in a land in the Himalayan foothills could you have inherited the insouciance of the sages that it takes to watch idiots manoeuvring to change lanes and getting themselves, and everyone around, in tighter jams. Meditation mats would definitely make popular car accessories in India.

I hadn’t realised in school how endearing a Physics chapter metal malleability was, till I watched drivers try to execute marvellous angles of curvature around other stationary metal bodies on jammed streets – nonplussed over failed experiments that mere common sense could have told them were no go.

And the entire circus is enlivened by car horns of different timbre.

Every idiot thinks he is the only one in tearing hurry to get somewhere else, and that the rest of the crowd had just gathered to watch the clown. Exhausting entertainment, that.




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