Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Noise of Music

Its half past midnight. Finally, after 9(nearly 10) gruelling hours of work, I want to go home. To sleep, perchance to dream as the saying goes. I climb into the company cab, lucky enough to get a front seat, which means I might be able to doze in peace and not fall over and crush a fellow passanger. Secure the seat belt, lock the door and in as meek and polite a voice as possible, communicate to the driver that since it's ten to one and the cab was supposed to leave at 12:30, maybe we should get going. Again, polite to the point of grovelling. The last person I want to fuck with right now is the guy who will be taking me home. So I carefully interject a lot of politeness in my voice. After a final goodbye to his friends and countrymen (Romans, sadly, were not available) the man saunters in, plops in his seat and reaches for the dashboard. I lean back and close my eyes.
The first indication that things won't go as well as I had hoped are my eardrums shattering. A sound like the last trump bellows in my ear that all is not right with the world. Peace and quiet, the twin maidens I had been dreaming about turn tail and run. I jerk spasmodically and try to sit bolt upright, an unfortunate and miscalculated move as the seat belt slams me back . Considerable chest pain notwithstanding, I look on in horror as the driver turns the volume knob on his stereo like there's no tomorrow. And no decibal limits either. He looks at me, pride shining in his eyes. I hear the unsaid words "Dude, it goes up to ellleven...."
The music, if I may play as fast and loose with a word, is some sort of Bhojpuri song about the pleasures of drink. Or maybe the evils of drink. Or maybe it's something devotional. I don't know. Don't care. All I know is that in order to go home safely, I will have to listen on. Maybe even smile and nod during the good bits. What are supposed to be the good bits ? Are there good bits? It's clear from the driver's expression that he feels audience participation, or at least appreciation is essential. I start panicking.
The car has a speaker, one of seemingly fifteen million, built right on the passanger side door. I press against it with my foot, hoping to mute the volume by a fraction of a decibal. The driver frowns a little, obviously wanting to wring as much entertainment out of his job as permissable by the laws of physics. He twiddles the knob once more some more (does the thing never stop turning ? What is it's breaking point exactly ?) and what I previously thought was the loudest noise in the world gets louder.
By now I am praying for a miracle, and I get one. A sweet voice, the sweetest sound I ever heard in my life, pipes in from somewhere among the recesses of the back seat "Bhaiya, sound zara kam kar dijiye please" The master of the chariot is obviously displeased, and I see four letter words, or at least their country cousins hovering near his lips. But he holds his tounge and lowers the volume by a fraction of an inch. Ahhh, peace and quiet. Also, the fact that I have gone partially (and perhaps permanently) deaf helps matters a great deal.
By now we have started dropping people off. My knowledge of Delhi roads being limited to 'Roads MCD has dug up' and 'Roads MCD are about to dig up', I have of course no way of knowing exactly how close I am to home sweet home. But it should be close, and with the volume somewhere at about only double the legally permissable, I may even get there with some of my sanity still intact. It is at this point that the sweet girl, my saviour, light of my life decides to fet off. The bitch. There is a flash of fingers and a dirty sleeve, and one twist later, we are back to rock 'n' rolling all night.

Next time, I'm walking home.

Friday, November 7, 2008

A President of Hope

Dear U.S.A.
Congratulations. You finally made it. It took eight years, billions of Dollars, thousands of bodies and God knows how much in goodwill, but you finally have an elected representative in the big white building. You came out, hardly unscathed, but make it out you did. You finally woke up to realise that wars on nouns don't really turn out too well.
See what I just did there? A cynical sarcastic comment. But we all seem to be so cynical these days. Cynicism, negetivity are the new black. You know, cool. But then I saw something. I saw a woman cry. I saw her face go from anxious hope, through a whole gamut of emotions, and finally break into tears of unrestrained joy (and maybe even a little bit of relief?). I saw her mouthing the words "We did it" over and over again. Of course it was on television. But it was more real than anything I have seen recently.
Display of emotions like these are reserved for sporting contests. But politics ? Really ? Who cares if one incompetent fools replace another on the seat of power? That's the way most of us see politics these days. It's an excuse to badmouth some people and go back to our daily lives. But U.S.A., you finally made the world proud. You picked a man from nowhere and took him to the top. Because you realised you COULD do it. And only you could. It wasn't enough to hope for change, you'd actually have to get it yourself.
I envy you, you know. I really do. I don't say this because you have a great president, someone who will wave his little magic wand and make your problems go away. Whether he can get you out of the hole you have dug yourself into remains to be seen. Some say he is the right man. I say, let's wait and watch. Maybe he is. but that's not because why I envy you.
I envy you because finally, FINALLY you have a leader, not just a politician, as your President. Someone who you can cry for, someone who inspires you, someone who makes you feel like he could change the world and for a pinch, so can you. For too long we have had leaders who elicit emotions restricted to anger, bigotry or hate. Leaders who inflame passions of all the wrong kinds. That does not mean we don't have good leaders. Our own Prime Minister is a good man, a smart man. A humble, intelligent, compassionate man. I truly believe he is. But he does not make me FEEL. He does not make me wan't to go out there in the rain just to hear him speak. You have such a man.
President Barack Obama has a tough job ahead of him. But he has you, his countrymen by his side. He is a black man who got elected to the highest office of the Unites States of America. A country where only eighteen percent of the population share his skin colour. This goes beyond race. He could do this because he could drag you out of the culture of cynicism you had settled into. Lets hope he can do all that you hope he can. The world will be watching.
Thank you.