A Pothole: A depression or a hole in the surface of a road caused by excessive use.
In the life of an Indian, a pothole isn’t just a hole in the road – it is a traditional concept that dreams are woven around.
Pothole, Pothole, who ate all the money?
Right from childhood, we Indians learn to appreciate potholes.
As children when we were piled up inside my dad’s or my uncle’s car, we’d play games around potholes, but Dad would always curse and say, “it’s all corruption. Paise kha-kha ke road banai hai!” (Literally: “It’s all due to corruption. Those who constructed this road ate money!”) Though I couldn’t imagine anyone eating money, but I believed every words that Dad uttered, so the first time I had heard Dad say those words, I went around asking every uncle and aunty I knew, whether they ate money. This might’ve resulted in some ignominy for Mom and Dad, because a few days later Dad came back frothing from the mouth and fuming from his ears, removed his belt and took some skin off my back.
But Dad’s energetic act of skinning me didn’t deter me from joining my cousins in our pothole fun. We’d count the potholes on the road…56, 57, 58! We’d enjoy being tossed up whenever Dad couldn’t avoid a pothole because otherwise he’d have gone over or possibly inside a bigger one; we’d shout with glee, like we were on a roller coaster, never realizing how our happy shrieks must be lighting a fire under Dad.
Pothole, pothole, who’d ride behind me?
Then we grow up and our childhood friend, the pothole, steps into the role of cupid. I am of the opinion that bike-manufacturers should choose the Pothole as their preferred deity and pray to it every morning, because one of the reasons why the Indian youth dreams of bikes is our dear Indian pothole. Without potholes, most Indian boys would probably never get an opportunity to…oh, well, come in any sort of physical contact with a girl. If you can’t visualize it, let me help.
In our time, getting a new bike was a huge thing. When we were in college, we rode bicycles, and watched the rich-kids flaunt their motorbikes and win the hearts of the prettiest dames around. Then we’d gather around and listen to their pothole tales, and wonder what it would be like to drive the bike right over the pothole and experience…that fleeting but oh-so-exciting contact on our backs.
The studious ones, like yours truly, would then let out a long sigh and return to our books, while the others – the future success-stories like the ones who end-up head banks and stuff, would spend their time on finding out a way to squeeze out a few pothole-successes by borrowing a bike from one of the college style-icons.
Pothole, pothole, why do you have to be?
And then we get a job.
Suddenly, potholes stop looking funny or even romantic.
Monsoons, the season of rain, now makes us think of the dangers of potholes and not of random possibilities of making delicious contact.
Now, when Dad and I sit in the front seats and Mom and Wifey sit in the rear, and we have to go over an invisible pothole monster that’s submerged under water a foot or two feet deep, and when Dad crabs, “Sab saale chor hain! Paise khate hain!” (Every-bloody-body is a thief. They eat money!”) I understand and nod.
Just yesterday, when a biker zoomed past our car with his girlfriend holding him from behind, Mom let out a sigh. Wifey looked out dreamily. Dad watched them wistfully. And then the bike went over a pothole. As the pillion rider made contact with the back of the biker, a tsunami of muddy water struck my hatchback’s window. Mom who was sitting behind me had her window-glass rolled down, took the full impact of the splash.
“DRIVE FAST AND TAKE THEM OVER! I WANT TO TALK TO THAT IDIOT. WHAT KIND OF SON HAS HIS MOTHER RAISED?!” roared Mom.
Dad tapped my knee and urged me not to listen to her. He didn’t have to. I had no intention of letting Mom drain them of their pothole happiness – so I slowed down.
Now Mom hates me for not becoming her avenging angel.
She hasn’t spoken to me for eight straight hours.
Pothole, pothole, thank you for saving me!