The Road More or Less Travelled

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The engine roars, the heart pumps and the tyres screech, throwing mud and gravel smack into the face of anyone dumb enough to put his face right behind the wheels of the Ford Fiesta, doing 140 km/h on the highway. The red Mahindra Scorpio is about five kilometers in front, racing at an incredible speed, thinking that it has finally seen the last of the Fiesta. After all, it is but a speck in traffic, and there are already a dozen cars and trucks between them.

But as far as the Fiesta was concerned, the cars and trucks between them were merely parked on the highway; momentary obstacles to whizz past. Inevitably, the inevitable happens. The Fiesta cuts ahead, leaving the Scorpio baffled, troubled, and lost in traffic.

No. This isn’t a snippet from a new Hollywood release. This is a personal episode from my life I like to call “The Fast and the Curious”. Maybe it would be better if I started at the beginning. This November, I had got an uncharacteristically long vacation from work, and I had intended to spend it exclusively getting tanned by TV rays. However, dad and mom, being dad and mom, felt this may not be the ideal way to spend my time. They felt this was a great opportunity for me to catch up with our relatives down south in Trivandrum (This was cool).They wanted to start our journey at 5:30 a.m. (This… was not). Apparently they went and forgot that the average Hamish starts his day at 7:00 a.m. At the earliest.

This, of course, meant that our trip got delayed. We started on our five hour journey at 7:30, two hours off mark, like any decent airliner. But it wasn’t too bad. A leisurely road trip was not to be scoffed at. It’s one of those rare opportunities to enjoy a calm serene ride; to watch the drifting landscapes recite poetry in motion; to wonder over the other vehicles, as to how their infinitely disparate existences have aligned paths for however small a journey… A philosophically intriguing trip, unless, of course, you get carsick, in which case you’d be too busy throwing up on the upholstery.

Things were calm enough in the beginning. I was half asleep in the backseat, working my way to a complete snore orchestra, when… enter Scorpio, stage right. It sped right past us. As we observed it skidding ahead and startling the other travelers, it was obvious that this Scorpio was the brattish variety, with the i-own-the-world complex typically attributed to cats. It was quite used to taunting its saner comrades out on the highway, possibly singing “Born to be Wild” for the whole trip… In fact, if it could have, it would have taken time out to boo at the other cars.

You know the type. It’s not uncommon. You find this character on every highway these days. ‘The fast’, therefore, is quite routine, not particularly noteworthy… What piqued my interest away from thoughtless slumber was ‘the curious’, a. lovingly k.a. … dad.

My dad is a rare combination of carefulness and talent. He’s probably talented enough to play stuntman in Dhoom 3, but you’d hardly notice, since he normally maintains an upper limit of 60 kmph. And this is not entirely due to the fact that our metallic gold Ford Fiesta is brand new. He’s one of those dads who want to ‘lead by example’. And he knows that if he plans to lead someone like ME by example, he’d better keep the ‘Cautious driver of the century’ award firmly in place. The last time he almost had an accident was in 2003 when an absentminded pillion rider (who happened to be me) pulled at the rear view mirror WHILE he was riding the bike. (Do NOT try this)

However, as the Scorpio sped by and started fading into the horizon, dad suddenly got curious. “That Scorpio”, he said, “seems to be a regular speed demon. Now if I were to whizz past him…. just once… how depressed would he be?”

Quite depressed, as it turns out. My dad stepped on the gas and ON the Scorpio’s ego, which turned out to be more fragile than I had imagined. We could see it huffing and puffing and breathing heavily in disbelief behind us.

This was meant to be a one time deal. Once this was done, the question on depression was answered. We slowed down, letting the fuming Scorpio overtake us. The Scorpio regained its ego. Dad got cautious again. Angels sighed in relief. Normalcy and sanity were restored. Peace reigned.

But it was not meant to last. Half an hour later, the Scorpio was somewhere way up ahead, tearing its way out of our sights, fighting earnestly to convince itself that what just happened did not happen; that a Fiesta overtaking it was a fluke of nature, an aberration. And just as it ALMOST succeeds in this task…. dad wants to do it again.

Like a kid who had just gotten off the ride in Disneyland demanding another trip, dad wants to do it again… The smile he wore was addictive. It was his inner child acting up. And this inner child had a driver’s license. A very eventful cat’n mouse chase ended with the Scorpio disappearing into the horizon; a vanishing speck in our rearview mirror. We don’t know what became of the Scorpio, but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear it sobbed itself to sleep, its arrogance evaporating under the hot sun. All I know is that we covered our 5 hour journey in just a bit over 2.5.

I’ll never forget my dad’s words the trip ended. “If I ever see you driving like that”, he said, “you’re grounded!!!” His predicament was obvious. He had just squandered away his ‘Cautious driver of the century’ award, and his ‘lead by example’ motif was running thin. For the remainder of my vacation, he kept recounting news articles on how rash driving was causing accidents all over the country. The very prospect of me driving pushes dad beyond the call of duty.

Dad: “How come you never read the newspaper, son? Look at this report. ‘Youth smashes car into tree and goes into coma.’

Me: “Ya, ya, ok, dad. I get it. Rash driving – bad. I get it. How come you get to do 140 on the…”

Dad: “I’m not done! ‘…smashes car into tree and goes into a coma. 26 year old Arun Hegde was doing 140 on the freeway trying to imitate his father, who had once… and ONLY once, sped on the highway, and has since regretted the act. Arun has now lost his arms and legs… and is scarred for life… and is blinded… and has lost all his hair… and…’

Me: “Wh..?? Let me see that…”

Dad: (folding the newspaper) “Now that isn’t important. What is important is that you should KNOW that safety is something that should always be top of mind. If you speed more than you ought to, you may save a few minutes, but at what risk? Are those minutes worth the blah blah yada yada blah blah…and so on…”

I have this sinking feeling that I’ll never get to drive a car without paying for this incident… And note… I wasn’t driving here. My only involvement was being in the back seat when this happened. That, and being awake.

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2 Responses

  1. Arun Jose says:

    That was a really good one, buddy! I could not stop laughing! Way to go, Hammy!!! 🙂

  2. TeleRaviRays says:

    wow! this was darn hilarious! Don’t count the readers Hammy, keep writing. If you can ever save the world, this is the only way :p

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