Thursday, 1 May 2014

Driving Miss Hazy

If I lost my phone and someone found it and called the first number under ‘favourites’ they would not be speaking to my husband or my mum in Somerset but to one Mr. Samir Khan from Kolkata – the very man I would want them to call because he would have it back to me in no time.

I have become so reliant on this man that I sometimes relinquish sections of my brain and become ineffectual and floppy when it comes to tasks such as paying my Vodaphone bill because I know he will sort it out for me. If the AC is leaking I call him up, point to the problem and shuffle off.   

Samir is employed to drive the car. His job description does not include getting stuff fixed, babysitting, sorting out the Wi-Fi, paying bills or putting Sir to bed that time when I was out of town and he’d had a few. But still he does it. And what’s more, he tells me he is happy to do it. I doubt I’d be so amenable if my old boss at the local newspaper had asked me to fix his television, mow his lawn, walk his dog or whatever. 

Over the Easter holidays I was back in the UK in my role as mummy-the-servant. I woke the kids up with a cup of tea, picked up the dirty laundry, made the breakfast, washed up, drove them to wherever they wanted to be, acquired whatever they needed, entertained and fed them and paid their bills. Much as I love ‘em, I was glad the day I dropped them back to school and headed to Heathrow where I flopped on a plane, watched three films back to back and necked a few miniatures. Nine hours airtime is all it takes for me to transmogrify into, well I suppose, a dependent child myself. 

Standing, slightly worse for wear, outside Arrivals at 12.45 AM I realized I hadn’t called Samir to tell him what time I was landing. But there he was, waiting to take the trolley from me and lead me to the car. I don’t know whether he’s psychic or he rang the office to find my ETA but somehow, he always knows where I am and he always finds me.

He asks me what films I saw on the plane, whether I slept and what food I ate and it’s all I can do not to call him ‘Dad’ as I drift off in the back. The kids and their demands are a distant memory. Out of sight is out of mind (though not if you’re reading this my angels which I know you most definitely will not be)

There was a dark and very terrible time a few weeks ago when Dad, I mean Samir, and I became separated in a very busy area and I got lost.

We had been to the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) a most frightening and labyrinthine place where there be monsters. I had switched my phone to silent, so as not to incur the wrath of the giant (you know, that massive bloke who walks around shouting at people). Miraculously (and with the help of a little palm greasing) my Resident’s Permit was handed to me within the hour so I decided to go to The Contemporary Arts Centre to celebrate. However, this did not end happily.

For the first time in the history of his career, Samir was not exactly sure where CAC was. I casually asked him to drop me near where I thought it was, telling him I would find somewhere for breakfast, visit CAC, drop in at nearby Chimanlals paper craft store and call him in a few hours when I would require him to drive me to my friend’s house in Colaba where I was expected for afternoon tea. I knew he would be happy to park somewhere shady and have a kip so off I went. 

Five minutes later I realized I had no idea where CAC was. The hot sun was melting my face and I recalled that scene in ‘Ice Cold in Alex’ where they fried an egg on the bonnet of a jeep. I reached into my bag for my phone and my world came crashing down when I realized I had left it on the seat in the car – ON SILENT. The horror of the situation unfolded in slow motion. The last time I felt like this was 39 years ago when I got lost in the sand dunes on a beach holiday. By nightfall I lay down and covered my legs in sand, accepting my fate and preparing to die when the coastguard found me. 

I took on the expression of a lost child but at 48-years-old, no one seemed to notice or care. I trudged up and down the road like a lost soul until, as if by magic, CAC appeared before my very eyes. I put my predicament neatly to one side while I had a snoop around, enjoying the AC and nick knacks but all too soon I had to face reality again and head out into the unknown. 

Actually Chimanlals is just around the corner from CAC so I suspended reality briefly once more to check out the lovely paper crafts. As soon as I made my non-essential paper craft purchase ‘The Fear’ returned. How will I let my friend know I can’t come ‘cos I don’t know where she lives or where I am? I don’t know anybody’s phone number. Woe is me etc. I asked the shop worker if I could use her phone to call my phone in the car but to no avail. I imagined Samir snoozing indefinitely in a shady side street with my phone silently trembling on the back seat. All the numbers are on my phone, I don’t know Samir’s number, my husband’s number or even my mum in Somerset’s number. My life is effectively over (unless of course I get a cab back to Andheri, God forbid!)

Just then, outside Chimanlals, an angel appeared in the form of a lady who I vaguely recognized from an MC coffee morning. “Are you the lady who does the magazine?” She enquired, “You look a bit worried, can I help?” 
The poor woman had to listen to the whole sorry tale before lending me her phone. 
“Call your driver” 
“I don’t know his number”
“Call your husband and ask him to call your driver”
“I don’t know his number either”
“Call the office”
“Your home, ask your maid for your driver’s number”
“Don't know it”

I emptied the contents of my bag onto the pavement and pulled out the recently acquired Resident’s Permit. There was a number on it which I thought might be the number of the office but turned out to be that of a former employee on maternity leave who had once acted as a referee. Fortunately, despite (or perhaps because of?) my jumbled blathering she recognized who I was even though I had no idea who she was and called Mick (out of a meeting) who in turn called Samir who in turn turned up within the minute.

Once in the car and safely on my way to my friend’s house for tea, I got a right telling off: “Write my number on a piece of paper and keep it in your purse! If it wasn’t for that nice lady I might never have found you!”

Hmm. Lesson learned.

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