A Child’s Play
January 28, 2011 3 Comments
I ride mostly by autos (three-wheelers). On these occasions I chat up with the drivers quite easily. The topics cover a wide range from politics, their family and home in the village, their kuldevatha, the profession, vehicle financing by banks and brokers who arrange loans, their unions, the traffic policemen and whatever is headlined in the day’s newspapers. And they love to talk – after all how often, in the middle of the daily grind, one gets a patient listener who is keen to hear out one’s views and doesn’t argue back?
Presently I was returning from my cousin’s place in Powai by an auto, with my six-year old daughter in tow. Coming down the hill, we drove on the L B S Marg for a while and then turned left on the Vikhroli link road heading for the Eastern Express. That’s when I popped up the question at the driver:
‘Why is your hair orange in color? Did you use a wrong dye or a poor quality one? It’s not Holi yet.’ I said in a tone that put him at ease.
‘Arre Saheb, what to tell you, it’s a long story.’
‘Tell me if you feel like. We have another twenty minutes at least to go.’
He had this habit of saying one thing at a time and waiting for me to nudge him forward. It went something like this:
‘Saheb, I used to suffer from spells of intense headaches. So bad that I couldn’t step out of my house for two to three days at a stretch.’
‘Did you see a doctor?’
‘I did. He gave me medicines. That didn’t help.’
‘I went to another doctor. At considerable expense, got several tests, X-rays done.’
‘Well at the end of it, he said there was no problem that he could find. So he sent me off.’
‘I went to more doctors, no one could say anything definite. Only my purse drained.’
‘Someone referred to me this doctor Mirani. He has a dispensary on the Vikhroli link road.’
‘What happened with him?’
‘He gave me some medicines again. That didn’t work.’
‘Arre, I thought he fixed you up.’
‘Saheb, I’m coming to that part. Finally he gave me a bottle of some oil. And I had to apply on my scalp fresh henna leaves plucked from a healthy plant, ground to a fine paste and this oil, and soak up for about fifteen minutes before the morning bath.’
‘And you did?’
‘Yes, for a fortnight or so. The headaches are gone for good, I think. It has been four months now and I haven’t had any more spells.’
‘That’s excellent. I must take his address from you. Who knows when I’ll need it?’
‘Saheb, we crossed his dispensary five minutes ago. It was at the beginning of this link road. You ask around. Anyone will help you find him. He is quite well known in that area.’
‘So the henna turned your hair into flaming orange?’
‘Yes, Saheb. The doctor told me it will take a few months to go. It’s the oil that fixed the color.’
‘What do they say at home?’
‘My wife and children had fun at this. And, the neighbors too. Even the dogs barked…But they’re happy that my bouts are gone.’
‘Have you tried shampooing off?’
‘I’ve tried shampoos, soaps, etc., some of them quite expensive. No dice. I’ll have to simply wait out. No use getting impatient.’
‘You’re right. In life you gain some and lose some. You lost your headaches and gained an orange tint,’ I said in a lighter vein.
‘Yes, Saheb. I’m thankful to the doctor – he cured me when so many other doctors could not.’
‘You could wear a cap though.’
‘Won’t work, they have already seen me like this. It’ll only give them another reason to have fun.’
By this time, we had reached the market on east side of Chembur. I directed him to drop us off near the Sai temple for me to pick up some vegetables and groceries for the following day. We closed our conversation agreeably and I paid him off.
As we turned towards the vegetable stalls, my daughter broke her silence for the first time: ‘Appa, I’ve a question.’
‘What is it?’ Fielding her questions was like standing up for a dart board.
‘Why doesn’t the driver uncle – for these kids everyone is an uncle or an aunty – shave off his hair? He would grow his hair black again, simple, no?’
It was too late to call out to the driver.