Has it ever happened to you that one fine morning you get up from a loadshedding induced sleep only to discover that you have just a hundred rupees left in your wallet? Now why you need money so early in the morning is another story altogether, but has it ever happened to you that there is no electricity in the house and consequently there is no water in the house either, so you have no choice but to leave the house with an unwashed face and rush to the nearest ATM looking like the Incredible Hulk in pink flip flops on a bad hair day?
So has it ever happened to you that as you fumble for your keys, mumble inanities to whoever cares to listen, and rush out the door; you hit your toe against a snoring something and realise instantly that you have probably re activated the fracture in your little toe. A condition you often acquire doing similar activities on some other loadshedding induced days.
But this present loadshedding induced day is a special day, and that too for a number of reasons. For starters, it’s your birthday; a day that always comes on one of the hottest days in the year. Secondly, it’s the day of the budget speech 2011, which as you would later discover, would make this day literally the hottest day of the year; and thirdly, because come to think of it, how many times in your life time have you headed for an ATM on your birthday looking like the Incredible Hulk in pink flip flops on a bad hair day?
So there is a lot to do on this special day. A birthday cake is to be bought because your children want to surprise you with it in the evening, and a birthday present is to be purchased because there is a spouse-like person who has promised to pay you later for the present you would buy and then hand over to him so that he can hand it back over to you.
And then you want to finish all your chores early so that you can listen to the budget speech and write a column about it that makes your editors think you are the cleverest person they can ever have on their pay roll.
So fracture or no fracture, you sit in your car and head for the nearest ATM. So has it ever happened to you that as you sit in your car on your birthday, singing a patriotic song to your fractured toe and giving the silent treatment to your very upright hair, you suddenly look at the fuel gauge and discover to your utter horror that your car has no gas?
Has it ever happened to you that you rush past endless queues at CNG stations and head to the nearest ATM, your toe swelling by the minute, and your fuel gauge nose-diving by the second, only to discover that the nearest ATM is temporarily out of order?
This is a race against time ladies and gentlemen, a race against gas vapours, and a race against the dwindling capital in your wallet. And I say dwindling because has it ever happened to you that you shuttle from one out of order ATM to another, paying Rs30 every time to a new parking mafia guy who is convinced that two minutes are actually an hour?
Has it ever happened to you that you want to make a call but you cannot do so because you left your phone charging at home, which in fact is not charging at all, because there has been no electricity in the house since the night before?
So ladies and gentlemen, when you encounter the fourth out of order ATM and a fourth parking mafia guy, and you have Rs10 left in your pocket, then that is what you call a classic case of ‘time for desperate measures’. And when it’s time for desperate measures then one of the things that you can do is to roll down your car window, look at the parking mafia guy number four straight in the eye, and try your level best to hide the desperation in yours.
“Jee, excuse me. What is your name?” you begin.
“Ashfaq, and it would be Rs30,” comes the reply.
“Ashfaq beta, do you live in Pakistan?” you ask.
Ok, now if there’s one thing that the 60-year-old Ashfaq beta is not expecting, it is to be addressed as ‘son’ by a person clearly half his age.
See, that’s tip number one for dealing with desperate situations. Confuse your audience!
The second thing Ashfaq beta is not expecting is to be to be asked a very unnecessary question about his nationality.
“Pakistan?” you repeat.
Ashfaq beta looks at the sky.
“Mehngai ka pata hai na?” You admonish.
Ashfaq beta looks at your upright hairdo, and then he looks back at the sky, he contemplates the situation for a minute and then motions with his hand for you to go.
Just go, he seems to say. Go; take your dwindling capital and the gas-less vehicle. Go; sit in front of an out of order ATM looking like the Incredible Hulk on a bad hair day, and listen to a finance minister trying to make himself heard over the din of all that is left of a coalition. Go and write your column on a laptop with a dead battery about a topic that would be redundant tomorrow because of an even bigger event happening somewhere else.
Go and enjoy your birthday, and while you are at it, wash that face of yours, and charge that cell phone, then cut that cake and nurse that toe...
So has it ever happened to you that you charged your face and washed your phone, and nursed your cake, and cut your toe?