Two weeks back my Dad surprised us with the news that he had booked a holiday for us in Goa after our visit to Kerala for the Diwali hols. This was an unexpected windfall as I really needed a break after last months hectic work schedule due to the IT.In. My jaded mind was too numb to even manage a smile when my Dad made the announcement. Proof enough that I badly needed a holiday. I was too tired to even pack till Friday night just before departure. I left work around 5 pm and headed straight for home to finish my packing. Now, my family is a seasoned bunch of travelers and long years of traveling with the pack has wised me up to certain eventualities that happen before/during/after the travels.
Packing for the journey is a mutlipronged activity with each family member unique in his or her packing habits. My Dad packs the fastest. Two bottles of scotch and a couple of bottles of Vodka thrown carelessly into his suitcase and he is ready to leave. My mom will then, patiently fill the suitcase with not-so-essential material like underclothes, toiletries, clothes etc. My Dad doesn’t waste too much time on the mundane.
My eldest brother ‘G’ is more organized. He starts packing at least a week in advance. He is the person we will most likely turn to in the middle of nowhere for an Antacid or an earbud. Mom and me are a close second to “G” in packing efficiency.
This leaves out a very interesting packer in my household. My second elder brother 'M’ who everyone says is a classic example of a Bohemian born into a mallu family. He is even more prudent than my Dad in packing. Dark sunglasses and a tube of hair gel thrown into the suitcase is all that he needs to hit the road. For the past several years I have done the not so enviable job of packing his bag, to avoid the inevitable confusion when my eldest brother realizes that his shaving kit is missing in the morning or when my Dad realizes that his Bermudas and Tees have somehow migrated to his second son’s room. M also wears and discards clothes at the rate of three pairs a day. Which means I have to mentally calculate the number of days we will be out with the number of clothes he will wear. After some complicated mathematics, I simply empty his cupboard into the suitcase/s.
My Dad goes into hibernation the moment we leave Bangalore and leaves all decision making to ‘G’. This leads to lot of snide comments from ‘M’ (for my ears only of course, for he has a healthy respect for Chetan) about favoritism and nepotism and all other isms that he can think of which may be totally unconnected to the situation like ‘communism’. The fact that he cannot even decide whether he should shave or not before leaving is ignored in the feeling of righteous indignation.
Both the brothers share driving duty. Prior to departure ‘G’ would have stored all his favorite numbers into his MP3 for his stint at the wheel. He is also a very safe and able driver and the first half of the journey will go uneventfully. It is when ‘M’ takes over the wheels that the atmosphere inside the SUV changes dramatically. My Mom removes her rosary beads and talks wistfully about seeing her grandchildren before she dies. My Dad looks like he has just been told that he has only a few hours to live. I usually say a silent prayer and adjust my hair and makeup incase I have to enter the Pearly Gates in a hurry. (I better look good to cover up for my vast multitude of sins).
Past experience has taught me that a sober collection of music will make “M” drive at a steady speed of 60 mph or so. Heavy metal makes him do crazy things like trying to take hairpin bends at 90 kmph. To avoid total decimation of the family I have to perform the vital task of loading his MP3 player with a collection of music that will ensure that we live another day to see yet another sunrise.
Friday night, just before we left I sat down and carefully chose some not so raucous numbers for M’s MP3 player. While waiting for them to transfer I decided to finish my packing, dinner etc. Finally we left after my Mom had made us say the mandatory prayers and we had handed over the house and dogs to my aunt. We reached Coimbatore by midnight and spent the night at my Uncles place. Next day after breakfast M took over the vehicle for the next lap to Cochin. ‘G’ as is the practice switched places with me and migrated to the back, so that he could better control the itch to snatch the wheel from M every time he swung the vehicle like a madman on a suicide mission... which he usually does once every half an hour.
M, after adjusting his sunglasses and smoothening an invisible lock of hair into place, drove out like a pilot taxing to the take off point. We left Coimbatore and cruised on the Highway. The speedometer showed a comfortable speed level and I sat back to read the newspaper. After 100 kilometers or so the vehicle screeched to a sudden violent halt. M looked like he had seen a ghost. The entire family ( except Dad who was sleeping like a lamb) looked around to see the cause of this sudden stoppage in the middle of the road. M then slowly removed the headphone and turned around and glared at me with black murder in his eyes. He pointed to the headphones and said “ there is a cat wailing in here !!!!!”
Perplexed I took the headphones from him and listened. The mellifluous voice of M S Subbulaksmi (MS)wafted into my ears. She was hitting a particularly high note of some carnatic raga. But how the hell did she get in here ?!?!
Now... a mixture of MS Subbulakshmi and M is a more volatile combination than candle and gunpowder. They have a particularly violent history since the days my Dad would insist on putting on an MS tape in mornings. After several unsuccessful attempts by Dad to get the family to appreciate MS, M finally got fed up and threw the tapes over the fence. M has developed a virulent hatred for anything to do with Carnatic music because of the force fed diet of such music in his earlier years. I realized that my Dad must have loaded some of his favorite MS numbers onto the MP3 not realizing it was M’s.
The culprit was fast asleep. M was fuming because he felt that his ‘rhythm’ was disrupted. My mom was giggling hysterically when she realized what had happened. I was holding my stomach trying not to laugh my guts out, while G’s face was contorted as he unsuccessfully tried to stop the paroxysms of laughter.
M watched us in disgust for some time and grouchily went back to the wheel when he realized that it would take some time for the laughter to subside. He drove in a black mood till Ernakulam and then to his utter delight and our utter dismay found a heavy metal CD in the glove compartment. A collective groan arose from us as we realized that we would have to endure some heavy duty noise for the rest of the journey.
However the look on M’s face when he switched on the music is something I will remember to my dying day. Instead of heavy metal music, Daler Mehendi bellowed lustily “hogayi thi balle balle, hojayegi balle balle”.
The culprit was fast asleep.
(The less said about M and his relationship with Daler Mehendi the better! Suffice it to say that they don’t share a very cordial relationship.)