I take my car out of the drive way with the not too ambitious intention of going to college, or so I think. There are many routes so I pick a street at random; closed, under construction. I go back and try a different one. A barrier’s blocking my way. Two barriers on the third. On the fourth, there are chains, concrete barricades, sand bags and a sniper on top of a guard post. Definitely not that one.
Street number five is open so it’s the obvious choice. Soon, I find myself approaching the main road. I can tell from the way the cars are no longer moving.
I squeeze my vehicle into an impossibly small space, then roll down my window and lean out to assess the situation. There are cars on the horizon as far as the eye can see. Somebody tells me the police are halting the flow of traffic up there. I wonder what it is this time. A minister going by? An accident? A minister going by who’s had an accident?
There’s nothing to do but wait.
I sit there tapping my fingers on the steering wheel. Minutes pass, more and more cars pile up behind me. Somebody at the back starts blaring a horn. What an idiot. A motorcyclist maneuvers past my car, smashing the side-view mirror. I blare my horn. This annoys the wagon driver in front and he steps on the gas, blowing thick, putrid exhaust in through my window. I make a feeble attempt at shouting an insult but the words barely escape my clogged throat and are only audible to the woman in the passenger seat of the next car. She promptly rolls up her window.
Somewhere a pair of bumpers brush lightly. People begin to crawl out of their windows and start fighting. Somebody’s taking bets in one corner. I put a hundred on the big, burly man climbing out of the Pajero but he takes one whiff of the truck driver’s body odour and goes out like a light.
What was I even doing out here? Where was I headed? Why did I leave the safety of my home?
Home is only a kilometer away. That’s at least a day’s drive.
I start twiddling my thumbs. I remind myself to bring a book with me next time, maybe I could learn to play an instrument. I remember my mother telling me that in the olden days it used to take people weeks to travel from city to city. I believe her now.
I try to make conversation with the driver in the car to the left but he’s sitting there, unflinching, mouth agape, a thin line of drool sliding down the side of his jaw. He’s either asleep. Or dead. I start twiddling my thumbs again. I wish I had more thumbs.
There are cobwebs growing on the dashboard. Hunger gnaws at the walls of my stomach. I wonder if it’s alright to resort to cannibalism under the circumstances? I look around at all the starving faces, I can tell they’re wondering the same thing.
People are really losing their grip on sanity. Some have taken to wearing steering wheels around their necks and dancing around flaming vehicles. Others have started reading the evening newspapers. When the axe comes down, the paperboys are the first to go. I guess they’re selling digests now.
They hunt the traffice wardens next, using ten rupee notes as bait.
I’ve eaten all the leather off the seats. At night I can hear the blood curdling screams of the evening’s dinner. I keep the doors bolted at all times.
They’re picking at the locks. They’ll be inside any second, but suddenly there’s a commotion up front. Cars have started moving! Saved in the nick of time!
10 seconds later:
No, no. False alarm. It’s all grinding to a halt again. They’re back to pick at the locks. That’s it, I’m never driving in this city again.