07 August 2013

The unlucky duo..

(In the period 1987-95, I used to work as an engineer at Durgapur Steel Plant at West Bengal. I used to maintain a dairy and update it infrequently. Recently I came across the same and thought that I will move to the blog all the entries in the dairy. This is one of the articles that I wrote after a particularly disastrous day)

At 6.00 AM in the morning, I had no inkling of the disaster that was to follow that day

Every person in this world is sometimes unlucky. When they reach the market, they realize that it is market closing day. When the reach the theatre, they find that the tickets are sold out or the movie started trifle earlier. People don't usually have a spate of these unfortunate occurrences. But of course, there has to be an exception to the rule...

And that's us.

It is a Sunday. Me and my friend Gopal decide to go shopping. I have to buy a shoe and certain miscellaneous stuff and Gopal to buy detergent and stuff...

One problem in going out with Gopal is that it is difficult to identify who is unluckier. Who is the master of misfortune, the harbinger of hard luck, the purveyor of pileup , the dealer of distress, the source of setback...

Enough RS, enough...

Is it Gopal or is it me? Gopal keeps mumbling about expecting this and more when starting on a saunter with me, while I point out that this never happens to me when I am alone.

Before proceeding further, let me give you our plans for the day. First, have a breakfast at Prantika (a restaurant in the market), then go down the market street collecting my shoe, Gopal's detergents etc.... Then we plan to go to Public Call Office (PCO, from where you can make STD and ISD calls, this was long before the availability of ubiquitous mobile phones) to make a call to Delhi, then come back at 11.00 and reach the theatre at 11.30 or so, see the movie, come back and sleep.

As far as plans go, this was a great one. But problem with plans is that they have other (plans). At least ours had.

Going to restaurant for breakfast is a big deal. You don't want to do a half hearted job. So we had very early dinner the previous day (in some parts of the world they call it 'Lunch') and were rapacious in the morning. In the place we stay, there is only one hotel, which is about two miles from the place we stay. We were intent on building our hunger and hence decided to walk the whole hog. By the time we reached the restaurant, we were ravenous, only to find....

The restaurant closed !

What to do? Gopal remembered one shop which sells delicious poories (fried pancakes). The shop was about half a mile from the restaurant. Having walked this distance, there was no point in taking an automobile for just half a mile, said Gopal. So we trudged to the shop, weary and almost worn out.

The shop owner politely and courteously informed us that he did not open the shop today. "Power cut", ses he. We should have guessed.

Any other hotel nearby which sells vegetarian food? No, but up there (he points to somewhere far, far away), there is a restaurant that serves both veg and non-veg, you could try there, he says helpfully.

So off we walk to the restaurant 'up there'. "Anything veg available for breakfast?", we enquire. No sir, we don't prepare veg food for breakfast. Can you prepare some for us?. Sorry, no vegetables.

What kind of answer is that? No Vegetables !!! Grrrr....

By now, it looks to me that the stars are not in favour of us this day. At this point we should've shelved the project and pushed off for home. But we are made of sterner stuff. We persevere.

The semblance of pride and amour-propre prevented us from raiding the 'Dhaba' till now. Dhaba is the place where hoi-polloi comes for tucking into their daily ration. We are above hoi-polloi and hence Dhaba was out of our plan. But these were tough times which called for tough response. We decided to throw caution to the winds and try the Dhaba. We hoped that none of our acquaintances acquaint themselves with us at the Dhaba.

Luckily this Dhaba is open and the food he served is delicious. 

Next is Bata for my shoes. Fortunately, the shop is nearby and hence we walk to Bata and you guessed it, the shop is closed !!.

"Blast it", I say, "The bloody shop should have opened at 9.30 in the morn. It is now 10 and the shop is closed mean that it is not going to open today"

Now I am as angry as a cat with a twisted nail. Add to that is Gopal's mumblings and his criticizing stare, as if it is all somehow my fault.

You know what is the problem with this world today? No self-evaluation, no introspection. Here was Gopal giving me the look that a dying aunt will give her nephew of ill repute, all the while ignoring the fact that the misfortune that we seemed to have been struck with may very well be his share. 

Unfortunately for me, he gets his detergents at the first shop that we go. The 'stares' have become unbearable.

Unreasonable, don't you think? After all there is only one Shoe Shop, while you can pick and choose your detergent shop. They are dime a dozen.

That is life.

As per our plan we should have been at PCO by now. However, we are about half a mile FROM the PCO. By now it doesn't even strike us that we could take a Public Transport if we wanted to. Half a mile is a kind of 'Trishanku' distance. It is either far enough to take a PT nor close enough to walk. We decide to walk to PCO. 

We reach PCO by 10.40, Gopal places a call to Delhi at 10.45 and finishes his call at 10.50. I place a call to Kerala at 10.55 and I get connected at 11.15.

Due to the disastrous telephone network that took 20 minutes to connect me to my destination, I have been held entirely responsible for all the ill luck that we have been having so far and that we will be having the entire day. 

We get out of PCO at 11.23. We can still make to the movie theatre if we try. But no rikshawwallas are on the road. We suddenly remember that today being Sunday there are a few popular TV Serials going on at this time of the day. To top it, there is also a Cricket Match between India and some god-forsaken African Country. "Blast all those cricket crazy rikshawwallas", Gopal's valve goes phut, "Who do they think they are? Donald Bradman? Gavaskar? Idiots, nincompoops. Someone should kick their butts with a 'Power' Shoe" ('Power' was the sponsor of the Indian Team)

Little unkind to the poor chaps, I think

Suddenly we espy a Rikshaw in the horizon, both of us sprint towards it. Just as we reach the Rick, another chap, who was hiding behind the bushes, jumps in and the rick takes off..

Gopal gives me one of those long, critical, meaningful stares. I stare back.

We find another Rick and we latch on to it for dear life. It is one of those ricks that has seen better days. The past was its prime. We goad the Rick driver to go at breakneck speed, which for the rick is the speed of a particularly slow somnambulist. To give you a measure of the speed of the Rick, let me just say that we managed to cover in 60 seconds, a distance that we would have walked in a minute. 

We managed to reach the theatre at 12.15. The guard tells us that the movie started at 11.45. 

No point in watching 2.5 hours of a 3 hour movie. Gopal, the ever prudent financier tells me that we would be losing 1/6th, almost 12% of the movie. It doesn't make sense.

Gopal mumbles something about 'Cost-Benefit'. I let it go.

We decide that we will see the movie that day, come what may.

To get a strategic advantage for the next show, we decide to go and have lunch in a very nearby restaurant. The objective is to get a jump-start on ticket procurement for the next show. We order parathas.

Just as I am about to tuck into some of the most delicious parathas that I have ever smelled, Gopal ruins it for me by asking whether I think the butter is rancid.

It wasn't. But it spoiled it for me.

Somehow we manage to finish the lunch (in total silence, if I may. I am mad at Gopal for that 'Rancid' question). By the time we come out of the restaurant and goes to the theatre, line for the next show is about half a mile long.

Fortunately (that was the only fortunate thing the whole day), we espy a friend with his wife waiting for the tickets. The ladies line is very short. The lady stands in line and procures tickets for us.

The movie turned out to be utter flop !!

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