It was a typical 1970-1980 setup of India, where landline telephones were a rarity. Telephone penetration was minuscule, as most telephone numbers were 3 digits long and most telephone exchanges were manually operated.
Life had a leisurely charm associated with it. There was no tearing hurry, no “Need for Speed”.Development too moved at its own governmental pace, and stability was considered paramount in various aspects of life. Tortoises won the race more often compared to hares, or rather it was a race between tortoises.
In such times, lived a simple couple called the Sahay’s. They were a couple who led a simple, stable and rather isolated Life… Simple as the Sahay’s were content with the government provided residence and some savings in the pipeline. Stable, for it was Mr Sahay’s last year before retirement with Indian posts, in a career spanning nearly 3 decades. Isolated as the nearest city was some distance away!!
Personal responsibilities were all done with, as they had gotten their daughter married a few months ago, and their daughter’s newly formed relations were perceived normal, through the sporadic letters they received…delivered by the sporadically punctual and occasionally efficient postal delivery system. Mr Sahay himself knew this all too well!!
One fine day, they received a telegram from their daughter who happened to reside in the city… Telegrams were an expensive affair in those days in India, but were delivered with the highest priority. All the telegram read is “Urgent. Please come over soon”. They were charged by the number of alphabets the message contained… Economics demanded that they be brief!!
Predictably enough, they were distraught on receiving this telegram. In a turn around time, clocking less than an hour… within which the ever-resourceful Mrs Sahai had packed in a few varieties of pickles and some sweets, they immediately set off on their Lambretta scooter to check on their daughter’s welfare. She could have as well packed in some freshly prepared dishes, hadn’t the normally composed Mr Sahai uttered some choicest expletives!!
Riding the Lambretta wasn’t easy, as the pregnant dark grey monsoon clouds were just about holding themselves back… as if showing some concern on the plight of this couple!! The long winding asphalt roads were quite allergic to the monsoon rains and often accommodated the water sent across from the rain gods by birthing potholes of various sizes!! Adding to the rides complexity… was the weight of Mrs Sahai seated pillion, and a considerably sized snack bag and a suitcase. The lean Lambretta was anything but lean, in its present state!!
The dark grey clouds lent an eerie vibe to what should have just been another normal day otherwise!! The groan of the scooter perhaps matched the turmoil the old Mr Sahay was experiencing within…Something was making him feel restless… he just never knew what!!
Suddenly as if struck by a bolt of lightning, Mr Sahay suddenly remembered that they had to cross an old bridge to make it to the city… This apparently shook him so much… that even Mrs Sahay queried if there was a problem with the scooter!!
Perspiring he stopped the scooter and told his wife…
You know that bridge, just before the city is really old and creaky. It is indeed very unsafe, especially with the monsoon season in progress. It may be closed as the river is most likely to have overflowed well above the danger limits by now!! What if it gets washed away when we are crossing it. I have not yet seen my grandson. What about our daughter. If we get washed away, she may not even find our bodies… I am not getting a good feeling about crossing this bridge!!
Now, it was the turn of Mrs Sahay, to don a different hue, more appropriate to a Goddess angered by listening to the unsayable…She seemed to be the amalgamation of thunder and lightning personified, to the already petrified Mr Sahay…
She bluntly retorted we don’t know what fate may have befallen our daughter, and you are worried about our bodies being found. Just ride and we will deal with the bridge as and when it comes. Mr Sahay was well aware of this tone emanating from his normally docile wife,and whenever he heard this, it only meant that the order is to be implicitly obeyed.
He had no other choice… With another sword hanging over his head from the one seated behind him, he decided to trudge forward, with even the Lambrata toning down its groan !!…. When they finally arrived near the bridge, much to their delight, a new bridge had been built. With a sense of relief they merrily crossed the bridge…
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