Well, at the end of the day’s work (night work really), I can’t complain. Life at the office could perhaps not have been more peaceful than what it was today. Not many stories to be rewritten and edited, a few pages to be proofread, and I was through even before midnight. It was while driving down the city roads that I realised how a Sunday can mean different. Or, was it just that everybody was indoors after a weekend of bursting firecrackers and a month-long routine of shopping? I’ll perhaps never know. All that I saw were empty roads, few cars and even fewer two-wheelers – can you believe that in Chennai? Except for some activity at the Ashok Pillar junction, where I didn’t have to stop because the signal was blinking yellow and there was hardly any traffic, it was one hell of a roller-coaster ride.
Tonight, even the liquor shops seemed to have closed early. I did not see the usual groups of people chatting away or entering into inebriated conversations. There is one spot where you usually find a group of men, either standing near motorcycles or astride them. I have never been able to gather what really happens in the building adjacent. Perhaps there is a wine shop. Or may be it is pleasure of the forbidden kind. Quite a lot of that exists in Chennai, as anybody can tell you. For all you know, the portly middle-aged, heavy-breasted woman next door could well be running a brothel. It actually happened once in the colony I stay. And it took quite some time and effort to get her to vacate.
Coming back to the day at the office, as I have said, I hate all these crime and tragedy stories. And while editing some of them churned out by our master crime story writers, I almost feel like a young doctor wielding the scalpel for the first time, hesitant and unsure, wondering what the final outcome will be. Today, there was this rather bizarre story about a woman in the kitchen busy cooking, when suddenly a firecracker ‘rocket’ landed in the vessel full of hot oil. You can well imagine what happened. There must have been some ugly, deafening sound and, sure enough, the hot oil splashed all over the woman’s body. Her burn injuries were severe and, frankly, I do not even remember whether the copy mentioned her as being dead or alive; although I do think it is the latter. So horrific and sudden can death be sometimes.
Thankfully, there were fewer injuries from fire accidents this Diwali than last year, but there were many more fire accidents. Despite all the awareness drives initiated by the police commissioner and the Corporation officials to raise about fire safety and what have you, we are at the end of the day, Indians. And being Indians, we all love to listen to something and forget about it, or be just plain disobedient. I noticed many children yesterday, most of them hardly six years old, lighting up firecrackers and scampering away to ‘safety’ even as elders watch with amusement yards away. One even had a candle burning dangerously close to a Maruti car.
Anyway, Diwali this year is over… well almost. My wife now tells me that a few people in the city will be celebrating the Festival of Lights tomorrow (Monday) as well, as will the people of Karnataka. Beyond that, there’s the monsoon to look forward to. And only after it has come and flooded Chennai in ample measure can we even think of Christmas and the New Year.