Thursday, January 21, 2010

That foggy, foggy bottom


If there's anything worse than flying into, or out of Delhi these days, it's crossing one of the three bridges that link "Jamnapaar" with the rest of civilisation. I now know this for a fact because I made the mistake of doing exactly that last evening.

Now, time is a treacherous thing -- almost as treacherous as the view of the outside world is from a window that hasn't seen a washcloth (much less a decent wash) in decades. So, while looking out, around the time I only know as 'early evening', at the deceptive view from the window next to my workstation (and being far, far away from, and hence blissfully unaware of, the mist that had started to gather on and around three bridges a few miles away), I promised a friend that I'll drop in for dinner. Alas! If, only I could have been 'dropped' in, literally, this from one of the scores of airplanes waiting for clearance to land at IGI/Palam that are per force circling the badlands of UP as a consequence at any given time, the evening might have turned out differently.

It was 8:26 pm when I finally steered my way towards the DND "flyway". Only to realise that, leave alone the unique pleasure of hitting the speed limit on my favourite toll road, even the slightest inattention of the tiniest second that it takes to change the track on my iPod, may really lead me to fly away into the Yamuna or into the backside of my fellow travellers. So I joined the slow crawl of bumper-to-bumper vehicles, a strangely subdued convoy of NCRwallahs inching their way forward in the face of something straight out of a John Carpenter movie. Or the "Aaaaaaaaaa Aa" version of the Zee Horror Show, if you please. I could almost hear a voice from the backseat whisper into my ear... "Montyyyyyyyyiiiiiiiiii..........."

Shhhhhhudder!

So after almost bumping into the toll barrier and shelling out 20 bucks with semi-frozen fingers, my heart started beating even faster at the prospect of finding the second exit, while I nervously switched from my distress lights to the indicator, as confused as a man with Alzheimer's who can't remember whether he's put on his pants and diapers, and the order in which they're worn. And just when I thought I might have found the blessed road to my part of Noida, the track on my Pod threw everything but the memory of a lonely, rainy drive somewhere on an American motorway out the window... remember "Total eclipse of the heart"? More importantly, remember Bonnie Tyler whispering "turn around...." in Urban Legend? 

Sheer horror resulting in total eclipse of the heartbeat. Or maybe that had something to do with me being a pawn in the battle between the heat of the windshield de-fogger inside and the cold, evil, swirling fog trying to get in through the partially open window outside, the latter open in a desperate bid to navigate and judge approximate distance from nearest driving neighbour.

So, at the next complete jam, also known as invisible-to-the-fogged-eye traffic signal, I made a desperate call to friend for an alternate route that would help me avoid traversing the totally dodgy part of Mayaland in near-darkness and eerie special effects. And she, oh-so-very-helpfully, told me to ignore the next roundabout (Where? What's that round shape? Oh, it's just the sari-clad bum of a lady blindly trying to cross the road while totally giving my bonnet the shove.) and continue till I reached the fourth red light, uh...the major one not the sidey ones along the way. Ah ha...now, I think THAT distinction should be a piece of cake in frosted, unfamiliar Noida, especially while I try my best not to run into the stolid, grey Metro pillars along the way.

Uh oh. Another thought hits me. It's past 9 already on a Grey's Anatomy day. Again. Hrrrmph! Delhi roads are not Anatomy-friendly. So after carefully rolling my windows up and down to check out the stature of the traffic lights AND keeping count at the same time, I manage to finally navigate my way into my friend's freshly-mowed lawn, narrowly missing one of the dogs. Paneer-something-or-the-other awaits my temporarily vegetarian self, as do freshly-scrubbed children watching Roadies on the couch. Are they allowed to watch that crap, I ask? Ah yes, it's better than Splitsvilla. Duh uh! (Who are all these weird people, anyway?)

So, after deciding that I am NOT driving back home post-dinner but borrowing a tooth brush, we finally draw the curtains against that monster lurking on three bridges (and then some more), and bury ourselves in the warmth of downy quilts to talk of sunnier times; battening down the hatches, knowing we'll have to fight the foggy fiend yet another day.

Well, maybe... next time I think I'll just hang out at the airport.

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