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A Diwali in Delhi and Murphy's Law...
Different people when confronted with Murphy's Law would react differently. Today was the ultimate test of my accumulated calm, composure.

If any festival in India has come to acquire any significance whatsoever for me, that would be Diwali - the festival of lights. Holi the festival of colors ceased to be exciting long long ago (getting drenched in colored water fails to amuse or excite me any longer). Dusherra lost it charm a few years ago too. Watching effigies loaded with crackers burn with a colossal din no longer seems to signify victory of good over evil. This leaves me with just one festival to keenly look forward to - Diwali. This year it were to have an even special meaning as I were to come to Delhi and celebrate it with my family. Fate it seems had other ideas. I was summoned to attend a big developer conference in US - not that I wouldn't want to attend it's just that sacrificing Diwali seems like a slightly steep price to pay (over next week or so I would know if it was worth it).

I had my flight on 24 Oct, 00:50 AM - which more or less means that I am actually flying on the Diwali day! Since I was in Delhi on important work, I was spending far lesser time with my family than I would have liked to. So I decided to take 23rd off. The realization that good old Murphy is conspiring, struck me first when I had to drag myself to office to close some burning issues on the appointed day. To salvage whatever little I could, I promised myself to call it a day sharp at 4:00 in the evening. Since 4:00 is not really rush hour, I would have been back home within 45 minutes. I had grossly miscalculated things. When you are commuting on a day before Diwali, every hour is a rush hour. My commute lasted little over 2 hours. In Delhi, winters have begun to set in. There is a pleasant chill in the air in the morning. The days are a tad warm but things cool down exponentially after sunset and can sometime catch you unprepared (especially if you happen to be in one of those Bangalore acclimatized skimpy t-shirts). I was however kept cozy throughout by thick, warm smoke spewed by buses (trucks, cars) that kept me close company on drive home. (How very nice of them). People in Delhi are anything but warm, come winters and weather mimics their temperament. Being in a traffic jam is bad enough - perpetual honking from all directions makes it worse. (Your auto-wallah's insistence on playing his loud, noisy radio doesn't help matters either). And now that we were under auspicious aegis of Murphy, almost all the traffic lights on my way home had become non-operational. The wonderful civic-sense most Delhiites are bestowed with, makes it exceptionally difficult for them to stick to functional traffic lights to start with. And when traffic lights go out, whatever little traffic sense or discipline there is, is banished too. After a miserable ride I reached home and started packing. I was supposed to get a car to drop me to the airport from office at 8:00 PM When it didn't come till 8:15, the alarm bells started ringing for me (having seen the chaos outside earlier, I needed to pad a few more hours to my travel than I usually do).

Couple of phone calls later it became obvious that no car had been booked for me. Panic began tightening its stifling grip on me. Fortunately for me, dad was quickly able to summon the taxi we use often. No the best cab money can buy (somewhat sordid, and had a tawdry arrow-pierced-heart motif stuck to the steering wheel, the contraption powered by the cab's battery, let out a bright, distracting flash of light after seemingly random intervals) but functional and would get me to my destination within acceptable time. The sikh gentleman driving our cab began the arduous drive to the airport in right earnest. There is a lot of construction going around the airport. As we got closer to the airport, the drive became dustier. Puddles of sandy clouds stirred by vehicles hung suspended in mid air. (Just a day before I had had an argument with colleagues at office about how much cleaner Delhi air was after the switch to CNG, someone has to remind them about SPM being a potent pollutant too). Suddenly our cab slowed down and came to an abrupt halt. My inquiring glance was answered by another glance from driver pointing to the flat tire outside. (Couldn't help noticing the fact that the cab had stopped right outside "Lucky Punjabi Dhaba - Jalandhar Wale"). Our driver was a young, strong man in his early twenties. Within 5-6 minutes the new tire had been put in place and we were cruising smoothly again.

My journey ended outside Departure Gate No. 1 of Indira Gandhi International Airport. Or so I thought. Murphy wasn't done with me yet. Suddenly two Delhi Police cops materialized from nowhere and started questioning the driver (while I was dislodging my suitcase). The sight of cops - even if you haven't done anything wrong can be slightly daunting (if you've ever run into sober, gentle, mild-natured Delhi Police cops, you would know how intimidating things can get). Anyways, fortunately the issue was left to be settled amiably between my Dad, the drivers and the cops. I never quite understood what it was all about, but at that point in time I wasn't exactly buzzing with curiosity either. (Nervousness has the power of overriding all your faculties).

The rest was easy. I now wait for my plane's boarding announcement. Very tired and numbed by day's happening. The incessant Happy Diwali SMSes I have been receiving every 20 minute or so being the only reminder that its Diwali tomorrow. The festival it seems will never be same again.

I have a queer sensation that there is a bigger purpose to this trip than what is apparent. Well, I would know soon :-).
posted: 25.10.03

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