- 19 Aug 2006
My most hair-raising day in Bombay occurred in approximately 1981. I was assigned to find transportation & host a village visit to Chikhale HDP for a couple of dignitaries -- the Managing Director of Metal Box, Calcutta, who was a close friend of Sir James, and Lady Jeejeebhoy, who was the mother of Ratan Tata, head of the Tata conglomerate of companies.
Both guests had physical limitations, so we hoped to make their visit brief & meaningful, & as comfortable as humanly possible. When the driver arrived at the Bombay office with the car, it was a very wide
& comfortable Buick Electra. When we arrived at Chikhale village, we realized we had to cross a little bridge that was built for the width of a bullock cart. This may not have been such a big challenge if there hadn't been two huge holes completely through the bridge in the place where a cart's wheels would normally touch the floor of the bridge. There was no other way into the village. The bridge spanned a low gully.
The driver & I got out of the car to weigh the options, & considered going through the gully, but we were afraid of getting stuck down there. So instead I stood in front of the car & guided him inch by inch across that bridge. We missed the two enormous holes and had a great village visit. On the way back out, of course, we had to face the same obstacle. And again I guided the driver carefully over. It was a miracle of major proportions that we didn't get a wheel stuck in that bridge or off the side of the bridge.
Breathing a huge sigh of relief to get out of there without harming the guests or the borrowed vehicle, we headed back to Bombay. In Bombay, my suitcase was packed so I could catch a plane to Calcutta. I didn't want to miss that flight & screw up the ticketing. So I was in a great hurry to say a hospitable goodbye to our guests & head out. By the time I reached the Bombay office, I didn't have a minute to lose.
I parted the curtains to my room & grabbed the suitcase -- but what was that on my bed? Aarti (Shilpi) Bhattacharya, our resident toddler, had taken eggs from the refrigerator & broken about 6 of them on my bed! I really didn't have time to deal with the soupy mess, so I asked a friend to deal with the eggs, and I headed out to my next assignment. By the time the plane was in the air, I was one wilted human being. Interesting thing about full & single-minded engagement in the task -- I was at the same time exhilarated. It's great to be alive!