There used to be a time in life when I didn't know what I was up to. Things haven't changed very radically since then, besides giving me many more things to laugh about. So let me take you back safely to the beginning... of this piece.
I didn't know where my life was headed till advertising happened. And boy, did I feel at home once I got there. Not because it was full of almost-writers and almost-artists. Not even because there were some almost-film makers or almost-musicians. And certainly not because I was enamoured by a Don Draperesque work-life balance which involved having Martini lunches with clients, and doing hot secretaries in the office cabin.(The truth being, we neither have secretaries nor cabins. Hell, we don't even have lunch at the worst of times.) It was only because it was full of people who almost got there by chance, owing to having no inkling of where they were headed before they got there.
You may have already realised that I still have no sense of direction. And since there has never been a 'no looking back' situation in my life, I'll take you back to my first foot in the door. An Agency in Delhi found me a worthy candidate, or at least they said as much. Thinking of it as my first launchpad, I flew! That too, after promising to repay a borrowed sum once I got my first 'copywriter's paycheck'(kindly note that neither the lender nor the borrower caught that oxymoron). And what an eye opener that was. Err... I'm still talking about Delhi here.
Greeting me at the Airport was a queue at the prepaid Taxi stand. After asking my friend for his whereabouts, I hop onto a taxi. 'CR Park' I say with childlike excitement. 'Aji Kyun Nahi?' he says, in his Punjabi-Hindi, like that's were all of Delhi resides. After the taxi gets on to the main road, and I stick my head out like any country goon would at the sights of the city, 'Toh ji, kahan jana hai aapko?', he asks. Now here's where I felt I'd be taken for a ride.
'CR Park. Ek hi toh hai.' I tell him, defiantly. 'Bolne ka matlab hai, ki kahan sey jana padta hai?' Interesting!! I should have guessed. CR Park is probably not such a great landmark, after all. My good friend, the blue-eyed boy of a boisterous Bangla background, could have possibly given in to a patronising notion of CR Park being the capital of India. After all, he does polish off a plate of Macher Jhol before I can even break it down into coherent syllables. Surely he should deal with this driver. And introduce them I did, over phone. After speaking to the driver and explaining all that he possibly could, my friend tells me,"Ah! Don't worry. He's just playing mental games with you. Be firm. Be brave. And you have nothing to worry about."
If this was meant to be an assurance, it sure made me feel like I was on my way to spend a honeymoon in Siachen. 'Toh sir, hum ab Ring Road se chale?', 'CR Park wahi se jana hota hai na?', 'Ring Road se jana theek hoga?', 'Hauz Khas se Aage jana hai?', 'GK sey right lein?'. The migraine just got heavier with every question. On sensing this, the goon muttered, 'Kahan jana hai, pata bhi nahi hai. Bas, taxi mein chad jaate hain.'. That did it. Mental disintegration like I'd never experienced before. 'Kya bole aap?', I ask, not even awaiting an answer. ' Bolne ka....' he stuttered. 'Bolne ka kya matlab hai aapka', I beat him to it. 'Sir, aap to burah maan gaye?'.
'Toh aap samajte nahi ki mujhe CR Park pe utarna hai?', I try and put an end to his bluff. ' Aur aap kaisey bhi chalo, meine toh Rs. 200 dey di hai. Ab ussey aap mujhe Dilli ghumana chahte hain, to theek hai. Bas aur koi savaal naa karen.' Ah, that just had to be the Kayo. Try and better that, bugger! 'Lekin mein to yahi puchna chahta tha ki CR Park mein kahan niklengey aap.' Hell, these guys know how to make you feel like an idiot. And there's no reasoning with them. ' CR Park mein Police Station toh hoga?'I ask him, bordering on intimidation. 'Vahin se directions puchenge.'
Having had enough of this fellow, I decide to get off at the police station. There is only so much idiocy that I could take from one man. And as it turns out, he did have the last laugh anyway. He'd promised to drop me at CR Park, but only took me as close as two miles away from the final destination. I'm tempted to think this is but a metaphor for the ways of Delhi, to the uninitiated. After all, one Mr. Suresh Kalmadi promised to take the entire Commonwealth to the 'Best Games' ever. But after making so much of noise all through the decade long ride, we know a day before the event that what he presents tomorrow will be very far from what he'd first promised.