Everyday battles

Everyday battles


Everyday battles

I wake up to the sound of my maid bearing down on the doorbell as if it had caused her some serious personal injury in her last birth. “I’m coming, I’m coming,” I shout, jumping out of bed and prodding my husband awake.

By the time I let her in and get back, he has disappeared into the bathroom — his biggest fear being that the maid would someday walk in and catch him in his Winnie-the-Pooh T-shirt. It’s only seven — I think happily — plenty of time to get ready. Rising with the sun has never been our forte.

While I whip up breakfast, he finishes his turn on the cross-trainer, proudly gasps, “15 minutes, 5 kilometers,” and collapses at the dining table and burrows himself into the morning paper. I join him with my coffee and pore over the parts of the paper that he has discarded. Before we know it, its 8.50 am. “I absolutely need to get to work by 10.45. I have a meeting at 11!” I tell him. We panic. Shower and dress hastily. Wolf down breakfast. Check wallets for money and cell phones for charge. “This house has turned into a warehouse!” he exclaims, looking everywhere for his watch. “A warehouse?” I ask, agape. “Yeah, where’s this? Where’s that?” he snaps.

He drops me off at the bus stand. The bus comes into view, full of people packed like sardines in a can. I cannot afford to wait for the next bus today. Somehow I squeeze in and buy my ticket. Next step — to find a seat ASAP. I scan the sitting crowd: one lady of my age with a handbag and a tiffin carrier — most probably headed for Electronic City; a young girl in a pullover and denims carrying a huge tote bag with big hoops — Christ college, I guess; three men dozing off in their seats –— most likely to get off somewhere deep within Electronic City. I position myself strategically near the two girls but not too far away from the eight seats that face each other, thus maximising my likelihood of getting a seat. The conductor squeezes past me saying crossly, “Olagede hogi amma.
(Move inside, amma)” There’s no way I am going to give up my position — so I nod and smile at him, then pretend to look at something on my phone.

I find someone jogging my elbow — it’s the lady with curly hair and a puzzled expression, a regular on this bus, who gets off somewhere after my stop. I have a rival now. She has apparently done the same mental calculations as I have and now there’s a war for territory. The tiffin-carrier lady moves forward in her seat. My senses are on high alert.
Fiddling with bag straps, looking at one’s watch, putting away earphones, urgently trying to get the attention of the conductor to get one’s balance — these are all tell-tale signs of a person ready to exit. We move closer to her seat, look at each other and think — may the best girl win!

However, Ms Tiffin leans back in her seat and closes her eyes. There is an audible hiss of exasperation from us. We focus again on the college girl. The bus lurches towards Dairy Circle. My hunch is right. The girl makes a move to get up. The key here is to move fast and light. In a jiffy, I have reached the seat. With an air of triumph, I sit down. My rival shrugs and turns away. This is normal — you win some, you lose some. The bus starts to move and then slows down again.

An elderly gentleman comes in and takes a ticket to Narayana Hrudayalaya. He looks around hopelessly for a seat. “Uncle,” I call out. He takes my seat and smiles. I smile back feebly. I will probably be standing all the way, I think bitterly. At that moment, one of the dozing jerks wakes up and asks, “Madiwala bantha? (Have we reached Madiwala?)”
“Next stop,” says the conductor.

My rival looks up. Our eyes meet. Here we go again! We both move in for the kill.