Terrace

A seemingly never-ending column of cars, arranged four abreast, moved at a measured, forced pace like some marching army. The mindlessness of it was comforting. A mechanical activity, which didn’t require her to come up with bullet point responses to why she should be driving that car, at this hour, in that direction.

“Why do they call this a freeway?” she wondered to herself, as traffic queued up in the toll-tag only lanes. She fidgeted in her seat, fussing with the seat belt, the rear-view mirror. If this were Delhi, she’d be changing gears, and feeling a little proud if the car didn’t stall. But this was Dallas, where one had dispensed with the old rush-hour routines. This time of the year, MG Road would be filled with drunken baarathis, leading another spooked bride-groom on another nonchalant nag to some farm house. She did not miss the traffic, though she did remember the horses with fondness. Inured to the drunken dancing and the cacophony of horns and Bhangra music, they were so unlike the grooms who twitched (too afraid to give a real jerk) at every honk.

A Hummer honked her back to Dallas. She did what the man wanted her to do, getting them both ten inches closer to their respective homes. She smiled to herself, relieved that Ravi wasn’t with her. He would have felt embarrassed to be honked at. She was still a Delhi-ite, and retained her faith that a little honking was good for everyone’s soul.

She switched on the radio. A voice sang of love, of twilight. At 6:15 in the evening, it would be twilight back home. Here, the sun blazed on. Like the insolent teenager who live in the apartment upstairs, it insulted first by not going to bed when it is supposed to, and made things worse by refusing to so much as acknowledge the end of a long day. She cooled herself by turning up the AC and returned to thoughts of twilight in Delhi.

Twilight was best enjoyed from the terrace. A few years ago, the view had stretched all the way to the DU Campus. Between the trees, you could see the tops of other houses. Her favorite was the one with the coconut trees – looking slightly out of place in South Delhi. It always reminded her of her grand-parents’ home in Madras. Another terrace with another great view. Mentally, she ranked her top five favorite terraces: 1. Her parents’ terrace in Delhi 2. The terrace at her friend’s home in Bangalore (with a view of Lal Bagh and the dishy neighbor out on his own terrace) 3. The terrace at her grandparents’ house in Madras, from where you could hear the ocean, even though you couldn’t see it 4. The terrace at that house in Pondicherry, with its view of the backyard of a church, and the Pastor’s very interesting underwear drying on his clotheslines. 5. The terrace in their old Rajouri Garden house, which overlooked a potters’ colony.

It was funny that she remembered every single terrace she’d ever been on. She realized that she had made practically every major decision when pacing some mottai-madi, from ranking the Asterix books she had to have (mom limited purchases to two per year) to picking a college major (Microbiology over Zoology – microorganisms were less icky than rats). She’d also decided that she loved Ravi after he’d told her he loved her (one of them had to say it first, he’d said) and later that she was going to ask him if he’d like to marry her (one of them had to ask first, she’d said).

As she passed the Belt Line exit, the traffic finally speeded up. She moved to right most lane, letting the Hummer overtake her. She drove on, thinking to herself that life had been so much simpler on those terraces. Had it been easier to make those decisions because she’d been younger? Or was there something about a terrace, the extra forty odd feet of elevation mysteriously bringing perspective to life on the ground?

She wanted nothing more than to be on a terrace at that moment. Even before she could complete that thought, she suddenly felt her car flying through the air. By the time she registered the thought that she’d been hit from behind, she and her car had already broken through the barrier on the elevated freeway. She stepped on the brakes, then stopped, because the car was still flying.

People stared at her car somersaulting through the air, flying straight across the service lane, towards the terrace of a Walgreens pharmacy. As the gravel on the terrace approached, she thought to herself, “Life doesn’t flash by in nanoseconds. You get a whole traffic jam. And you get your last wish.”

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3 comments so far

  1. sudha on

    neat and nice, is it just my ignorance or terraces really unheard of in this part of the world?

  2. DoZ on

    Thank you, Sudha! And which part of the world would that be?

  3. sudha on

    sorry, i think i meant the “mottai maadi” culture. there are terraces elsewehre, just noone spends enuf time there to get nostalgic about it.


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