By Mitali Saran
I’m convinced we’re getting through February just by the skin of our teeth.
First, my mother almost opened her third eye when she was woken up in the middle of the night by some drunken people whom I intend to defriend soon. You have no idea what a close shave that was. Then my niece Tara had an eighth birthday party with a temperature of Fourteen kids, feels like forty’. It featured something called feely goop, which is a doughy white substance that, when mixed with water and children, turns your house into a construction site at the plaster of paris stage.
My takeaway from this party, by the way, was a reaffirmation that Tara is a genius way ahead of her time. I announced to her, in my smarmy aunty way, that I was going to take her shopping for a birthday present. She held my gaze neutrally. I ventured that perhaps she would prefer to be surprised? Yes, she said firmly. Okay, I said, can you tell me what category of present you would like—books, music, clothing? Without missing a beat she replied, “I want a category of present that makes me go like this.”
And she opened her mouth and waggled her tongue twice from left to right. It was worth five hours of feely goop just for that, and serves me right for not coming with a present.
Then there was that meteor over the Urals that singed the eyebrows off a bunch of Russians. Need I say more about that?
And finally, I’m having this Groundhog Day scene with a cop.
Last week, on Valentine’s Day, I got pulled over for being on my phone while driving. Eleven hundred rupees, growled the policeman, leaning through my window, cash or court? I said I wasn’t carrying enough cash, so court. He looked deeply into my eyes. Shall I cut a challan for talking on the phone, he said, or for something else with a smaller fine? I was talking on the phone, I said, so fine me for talking on the phone.
He looked uncertain. Okay, give me three hundred, he said. No, I said. Okay, two hundred, he said. No, I said, I’ll pay Rs 1,100 in court. Just give me two hundred, he said, it’s good for you and good for me. Just write my challan, I said. He looked upset. Finally he said, Okay, never mind, just go, and don’t talk on your phone. I offered him a rose that happened to be in my car (none of your business) in clownish thanks. He declined.
This week, same day, same place, same time, I got pulled over for being on my phone while driving. Same cop. I have lousy habits, I told him, and lousy kismet, but today I’m carrying cash, so today I’ll take a cash challan. Give me two hundred, he said. No, I said, gimme my challan. I let you off last time, he said petulantly, can’t you at least recognise that with a couple hundred? I recognise the law, I said haughtily, so cut me a cash challan. But I don’t want to challan you! He wailed. But why? I asked. See, the last time you let me off, and here I am talking on my phone again, and if you don’t fine me, if I don’t feel the pinch, I’ll just keep doing it! (It was, at some level, a cry for help.) You did this the last time, he said venomously. I did, I agreed. He stood there for a beat, radiating frustration. Please just go away, he said finally, and stomped off.
The skin of my teeth, I tell you.
Mitali Saran is a Delhi-based writer firstname.lastname@example.org