Autoscopy 2014

Bandipur at Night

When we decided to make the road trip to Masinagudi, little did we realize that things could go this bad. In the time it takes to say the word “honeymoon,” things went from fantastic to horrible. Rani and I didn’t know each other when we got married last week. The first time we saw each other ten days ago at her parents’ place, we thought we were too young, too stupid, too immature – two completely different people thrown into the fray and told to live together and love each other, till death do us apart. And we weren’t brave enough to do anything about it. In whatever little time we spent alone, we tried our best to get to know each other as quickly as we could – I told her my hopes, dreams and ambitions and she was good enough not to laugh in my face. She told me that her passion were wildlife and Maddur vadas.

Well, as fate had it, we would experience both very soon.

The wedding itself was a very forgettable affair for me. She didn’t tell me, but I think she hated it too. There were too many people, too little space and the food was too bland. In the peak of summer, it’s never a good idea to cram too many people in a small space and not feed them well. But, it got done with, and the parents were satisfied that their duties had been completed. They were clear of their obligations and their only job now was to wait with bated breath and annoying interjections for my wife to push out a kid or two or three.

Being a mediocre, middle-class white-collar pencil-pusher, I did not have the means or the luxury to afford a fantastic honeymoon at an exotic location. I could afford no honeymoon and I told Rani this the day before we got married. I could sense the sadness in her voice as she told me that it was all right and that we could go sometime later, after saving up a bit of money. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that with my current income, the concept of ‘savings’ was as alien to me as color to a blind man.

A couple of days later though, a friend of mine told us that he was a member of a time-sharing holiday scheme and that he wanted to gift us a weekend getaway to Masinagudi. As a man whose best friend for long had been thrift, I jumped at this offer, told him how grateful I was (I was. I truly was!), and decided to surprise Rani.

I was still in the initial phases of the relationship – a phase where a lot of time and mental effort is spent in trying to surprise your partner with gifts of love and affection.

I didn’t tell her where we were going until we reached the bus station and boarded a bus to Bandipur. She was ecstatic with joy and hugged me so tightly that I thought I’d implode. I could see that she was happy. Though she’s a tough nut, I did see a few tears.

The bus covered the 250-odd kilometer trip in under six hours and I was thankful when it ended. Our only stop on the way had been at Maddur, where we had stuffed ourselves with the crunchy pieces of heaven known all over the World as Maddur vadas. My legs were cramped and my bladder was full and bursting when I relieved myself by the side of the road at Bandipur, oblivious to the odd stares. I thought to myself how lucky we had been to be given this break. I didn’t realize how badly I needed to get away from it all until I’d gotten away.

We hired a taxi from the station and started the 20-kilometer trip through the jungle to reach our resort. It was an expensive ride but we had no other option, given that the forest department would close down the roads at 6 in the evening.

The drive was breathtaking. The undulating roads and the clear blue skies danced a mesmerizing dance with the trees that lined our way. A herd of spotted deer waved us by and a group of monkeys looked on in curious disbelief as we drove. Soon, we crossed into the Tamil Nadu side of the forest and the jungle became thicker and thicker around us the deeper we went.

We were having a fantastic time. Rani snuggled up to me as the evening progressively grew darker and colder. With about five more kilometers to go, I thought nothing could dampen our spirits. That’s when I heard the dull, sickening thud that signaled disaster.

It’s a misconception that tires burst with a great big bang. They actually give out with a thud, and if the driver is experienced enough, he/she can manage the momentary loss of steering control. Our driver wasn’t and the little taxi lurched menacingly to the left before he over-corrected and sent us flying to the right, where our joyride came to a screeching halt as the car dove into a ditch, nose-first and stayed there. The sudden change in directions and the inertial forces acting on us as we impacted threw us forward, the front seat-back smacking the both of us in our faces with an inhuman amount of energy. Rani’s nose cracked under the impact, sending little bits of cartilage and bone gushing out with blood. My upper lip split and my two front teeth ripped themselves out of their oral prisons and flew into the air, and joined the million shards of glass and stone and metal hurtling about. The driver’s head arrested the momentum of his body against the steering wheel, and I think he didn’t have the time to let his whole life flash before his eyes before he died. The whole thing took less than 3 seconds.

As the sun went down and the night officially threw her cloak of darkness over us, we were too stunned and too much in pain to move or react.

It took me about ten minutes to get my bearings right and to realize that were quite vulnerable out there. I looked around at my wife, who was slumped in her seat. From the faint light of the remains of the dashboard, I could see that she was breathing, which was a relief.

I opened the door of the car, which yielded surprisingly easily, and stumbled out to the forest floor. I could hear the sounds of a million crickets singing around me, the occasional whistle of a bird going to sleep, the rustling of the dry leaves, which I prayed was due to the wind, and the occasional bursts of deafening silence. I was afraid. I was shaking uncontrollably with nervous energy and adrenaline pushed me to my feet. I hobbled over to the road and tried to spot any oncoming headlights. At the back of my mind was the knowledge that the forest gates closed at 6 in the evening but I kept ignoring it. Surely someone would realize that a car that had entered the forest hadn’t exited. Surely someone heard the sickening crash. All I could see was an ocean of deepening darkness on either side, punctuated by the ominous red glow of the car’s taillights.

I stood there for a long time, in the red glow, trying to figure out my next move, while my head reeled and my body cried out in pain in a thousand places. When I heard that agonizing cry of pain, despair and sorrow – a cry that would haunt me for eternity – I turned and ran to the other side, to my wife. I feared the worst. I reached her side and was about to open the door or smash the window if need be when I saw what had made her cry out.

I guess my teeth weren’t the only things that had dislodged when I hit my face. I almost lost my balance.  My legs felt weak and I held back a gag when I saw Rani, my wife of ten days, cradling her husband’s crushed head in her lap.

I really shouldn’t have done this trip.

Image Courtesy: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.in/

Psycho Kid Saves The World!

Kids these days!

I have a friend who’s studying media communications or some such droll in a prominent college in the city. She’s known to be a bit loony. Maybe she was dropped on her head as a child, I don’t know, but she is absolutely nuts. Her parents think she’s a mistake and don’t know how she was born; her friends think she is faking it; her teachers realize that her head is not all that properly wired and accord her the deference reserved for a 102-year-old senile inmate of a mental institution; and I think, and I’m sure I’m right, that she is the only person alive who can prove that the evolution of the human brain stopped a long time ago. 😀

Anyway, I’m sharing an email that she sent me and a million other people a few months back. It’s quite a read. It’s long-winding, but I urge you to take some time to read through it. I promise you that you’ll be laughing uncontrollably by the time you get to the third paragraph. 😀

Hi,

I didn’t think I’d have to tell you so soon. But, lots of things lately have been happening pre-maturely, so I guess I should’ve expected this.

I don’t know how to say this, so let me just come to the point. By the end of this year, the Third World War is going to begin in earnest. This is not some wild fantasy prophesying the end of the world. You may not believe it, but I do. And I KNOW it’s coming. I do not say this to scare you, but it is imperative that you know the truth. The truth is not only is the war imminent, but also that I am going to play a big part in it – trying to establish peace. It may sound like a line out of a movie, but I assure you I’m not playing at being a hero. This is my calling. It is what I have come here to do.

To be able to fulfil my destiny better, it is my decision to stop college altogether. I have learnt all I possibly can from educational institutions; it is now time for me to do what I was born to do.
I have been preparing for this war and its consequences for quite a while now. This war is going to be worse than anything you can ever imagine. Scary as it is, we must face up to it.

I fervently wish that you trust me and believe what I am telling you. I have no reason to lie to you. I gain nothing by stressing the proximity of war, except that I can somehow help you.
You may not think me able to face up to something so big – I know I’m little and thin and look like I can be blown away by a gust of wind. But, never judge a book by its cover.
I know you’re still thinking, “So why do you have to leave college before anything happens.” Well, first of all, there’s no use in continuing with college, because it will not teach me anything that will help me. Secondly, I’m to use the time off to physically train for the upcoming changes. Thirdly, I have prepared a list of items of survival and I will have to find the means of collecting such equipment in bulk. Fourthly, I must prepare various items necessary to survive the war and climatic changes.

I know you feel that I can do all these things while going to college, but here’s my question, “What’s the use of going to college?” You may argue that what I say may not happen, and I confess that I have no means to prove it to you. However, the universe has always been good and communicative with me, and all I can say is that I KNOW.

Do not try to stop me or reason with me. This is the path I choose. This is as far as it concerns me. But, I am concerned about you, too.

It may come as no surprise to you that this war is going to employ nuclear and bio-chemical warfare. It is therefore that I suggest that as you see the signs of impending warfare, Please prepare for it as best you can. Maybe your life plan does not involve you doing anything about it right now. But, that day will come. And I hope you will be at least mentally prepared for what is to come.

You could find some means of buying the requisite commodities you will need to safeguard yourself and your family from the hazards of war. Ample information and materials are available on the internet. And, besides, I’ve been preparing a list of such items and will only be glad to help you.
In my opinion, it would be best if you remained with your family through the war. However, if by some chance, you are stranded and cannot reach your family at any time, remember that you can always depend upon me. I also suggest that you think of a safe and remote area, where you and your family can move to in case of an evacuation.

You will also need to make your peace with death – your own, of family, friends and the people around you. Everyone and everything that is born, eventually dies. I know it is poor consolation, but it is the truth. This war is going to bring out the ugly side of human nature. There is going to be rampant looting, stealing and (unfortunately) raping. My advice is to get yourself a weapon, NOT pepper spray. And so, you will have to make your peace with killing and maiming, too.
I know I’m painting a very gruesome picture, but I want you to be ready for every eventuality. This war is, in all probability, going to make your worst nightmares, real. Be prepared for the worst. After all, it is said that when you are prepared for something, it does not come. Because when it comes, you are ready.
There is going to be a shortage of food, water, shelter. Electricity and water supply will stop. All national resources will be geared towards helping the soldiers at war. Prices are going to rise terribly. The weather will change dramatically. All this while there is the constant dread of being attacked. This is why I’m stressing the need to be prepared.

Above all, be strong. Believe in yourself. When you find yourself asking, “Why is this happening to me?” Know that life is asking you a question. Life is asking you “Are you up to the challenge?” Believe that life will never give you something you something that you cannot handle. Believe in the justice and the love of the universe. The universe will never let you down. All the challenges that will come your way will make you stronger. You will grow to your full potential.

“We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation, when facing a fate that cannot be changed. For what then matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, to turn one’s predicament into a human achievement. When we are no longer able to change our situation… we are challenged to change ourselves.” – Viktor E. Frankl.
If you feel the need for any kind of support, I will always be there for you. Perhaps, in a way it is good that I was forced to tell you earlier than I had planned, this way I will be there beside you to give you fair warning and whatever support I can offer.

All this may not make sense to you, but you must understand that it means the world to me. I do not know many details, so there’s no point in asking. I do not know when or where or how you will be affected. But, one thing is for certain, I will not fail to provide you whatever support you require. After all, what are friends for?

Oh, by the way, she hasn’t quit college yet and she is yet to fulfil her destiny. 😀