If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there, said Lewis Carol. Our family has taken this quote to the next level. Even when we know where we are going, we tend to take the wrong road. Why? That will need half some research costing half of the Modi-Choksi money, so let’s ignore that question.
Several decades ago, my father boarded the train to Jaunpur instead of the one that goes to Lucknow. Well, in his defence, it arrived at the same platform, and all trains, kind of, look the same. An hour into the journey, over pakoras and chai, he asked his co-passengers what business was taking them to Lucknow. I am not sure what happened next. I am just glad they did not put him on the train to Agra, where the mental hospital is.
In the pre-Google Maps era, I have, myself, reached unintended destinations. One was a mundan function, where I hung around sipping juice wondering why no guest, neither parent nor the kid looked familiar. Till I was taken aside for a chit chat. Those were polite people. Else, I would have received a complimentary head tonsuring along with the child.
You see, we fancy ourselves as some kind of modern-day Columbuses, always hopeful of discovering new lands as we wander, mostly with no clue where we are headed. Once, I did discover a new village on the outskirts of Bengaluru. But with my limited knowledge of Kannada, I could not proclaim to them that they had been discovered. ‘Please give me some water’ and ‘How much is the coconut for?’ are the only phrases I know — and those might not have conveyed the glad tiding accurately.
Sometimes, we are not lost. We know where we are headed and how to get there. It’s just bad luck that smacks us in the face like that tropical cyclone that hit Columbus’ ship. It was my daughter’s ICSE board Chemistry paper. Father and daughter set out for the examination centre well in advance. Only to get stuck in a traffic jam (the study of which may be more useful than the study of Chemistry for the current generation). They moved at the speed of the slowest of chemical reactions, like fermentation of sugar. But, this wasn’t the time to teach her more Chemistry. It was time to make sure she deposited all that crammed stuff on a piece of paper to move ahead in our honourable educational system.
Three kilometres from the centre, and still stuck, they decided to ditch the car. And, run. Which they did for five minutes till their time versus distance covered calculations showed they’d make it only for the next day’s paper. Just then, a good, though not that good-smelling Samaritan was spotted. He was riding a bike and his waist-size of 22 inches assured there’d be sufficient pillion space for two more. Father and daughter hopped on and resumed their journey. After taking a selfie. Snaking through the cars, this enzyme of a Samaritan reached them to the gate of the school before one could say tetrachlorocobaltate. She rushed in, huffing and puffing, only to find the invigilator was still stuck where they’d ditched the car.