A for Agrawals. A for Adventure. A for Antonyms.
My family – The Agrawals, is made up of, what one can only call, a group of hopeful intellectuals. We prefer the power of words, the laws of physics, the myths of the Mahabharata to get our freak on. You won’t find us rappelling down mountains, or jumping off planes, or diving deep into the hidden depths of the ocean. No sirree. That’s not our play. There is no secret life of Yudhishthir Agrawal. We don’t even like dogs. As in, we’re afraid of them. Petrified really. All nine of us combined. Woof woof.
Now, I know this sounds pretty darn traumatic already but, not surprisingly, it only seems to gets worse.
You see, in the end, man (and by man, I mean man or woman of course) is still just a prettier ape in disguise. He (I mean she, umm, just go with it) has a basic need to raid and conquer, to make and destroy, to shriek and give in occasionally to the unflattering Neanderthal inside. And we Agrawals are man do doubt! We might not have the classic bone of adventure (did somebody say bones?) but we have the need for speed nonetheless. Think of us as the chimps that never went on hunt, but recorded it all with a friendly, enthusiastic smirk. The Pirates of the mind I like to believe. Indiana Jones and the armchair. The return of the planet behind the planet that returned the planet of the apes.
See, this is exactly what happens. We get lost in the big bang shebang, and never reach the real point. Adventure, as I was struggling to say, is really not our cuppa tea. And yet, to fulfill our duties as honest law abiding decedents, we feel obliged to tease our edge with some rather, how do I say, unconventional means.
Television, for instance, is our preferred leap of faith. We’re practically living on the remote islands of Lost and in the operation theaters of Grey’s Anatomy and the whatchamacallits of Revenge. Holy LED Samsung! We’ve memorized Star Trek, have sworn to Star Wars, and have dutifully rejected the screen adaption of The Hitchhikers Guide, twice. Even 101 Dalmatians is OK when it’s on TV. Come 10pm and we’re boldly go where no man has gone before. I mean seriously. Sitcom sweats and everything.
Anyhow, the point of this rather elaborate introduction was not to talk about television of course. That was so last year. It was instead to set the context (and soften the bite) of our latest obsession – the fidgeting fuel gauge of our cars.
Now now, really, don’t try.
You see, in the absence of typically traditional interests, my family, The Amazing Agrawals, has had little choice but to infiltrate a seemingly harmless phenomenon to shake its Baniya stirrups. The fuel gauge, as you would well know, serves the rather critical purpose of indicating whether or not your vehicle has enough fuel to get you to your destination. If the gauge is near E, you fill fuel till it goes above E. Simple. And if not, you run the risk of finishing the reserve stash, kept just in case of emergencies. Now, ‘emergency’ is the operative word here. Most sane people don’t touch the reserve stash, as it serves that very purpose of hope in a situation of distress. But alas. Alas, alas, alas. Where the ordinary man sees the grain of logic, the Agrawals smell the sweaty smell of opportunity.
We like to test our reserve capacity. This typically means, not filling petrol even if the gauge goes below the dreaded E. Now, let me be clear. This is not another scheming way of saving money. I mean, sure that’s an added bonus (and why not I say?) but, the key really is the thrill. It’s a bloody thrill. Not stopping for gas even when the gauge flickers and fumbles, the car huffs and puffs, when the engine coughs on its first few hits of air. We don’t stop, but cheer. We wait and see, and guess and bet, testing the outside limit of Honda’s claim of breakthrough fuel efficiency. Will the car ever stop? Or will we once again reach our destination, just in the nick of time? These are the questions that keep us up at night. It’s also probably why we never reach anywhere on time. Or why people don’t call us anymore. Hmm.
Anyway, imagine driving on long highway in Gurgaon at night. Imagine the fuel gauge stammering precariously close to the E sign. You see a damp petrol pump on the other side. Do you stop? The adrenalin is pumping. You drive on. Now imagine that the streetlights go out suddenly. There’s a weird chill in the air. Let’s throw in a few snarling dogs shall we. Grrr. And a police siren. We must have a police siren. You can’t go too fast lest you use up too much fuel. You can’t go to slow, lest you stop and can’t start again. You might get mugged. It’s a battle of nerves and steel. Hand and feet. Gear to gear. Easy on the turns. Very easy on the bumps. Wooh. I’ll jump from any mountain that can offer this quality of fear.
Living on the edge did you say hmm?
But, but, I suppose I should be honest as well. Things are not as rosy as you might have imagined. The new car guys are building engines that run on practically anything, and we hardly get to experience the mortal fear of desertion I described above. And with all this talk about hybrid…I mean things are only going to get from bad to worse. Sure it might save the world, but it’s doing no good for the Agrawal morale. Uh uh. How are we supposed to stick the stakes with these new engines and fuels and complicated technologies around? What do we do when there is no start and stop, no cough and litter, when the car runs as smoothly as a peeled potato skin, even when the gauge is well into reserve? What do we now? And what about five years from now? Good gosh man. (and woman)
The other problem of course is that our extended family has steadily refused to acknowledge our particular point of passion. They often borrow our cars and return it, in good faith I presume, with the tank full of throbbing fuel. This, in turn, means a forced sabbatical from our daily excursions, which I can tell you, has been the subject of much heated debate at the dinner table. I mean it’s sad, really sad, when families fail to understand each other. To each his own I used to think. I don’t make fun of their river rafting picnics do I? Though you’ll never run out of fuel there will you? Just saying.
That said, our odd little fascination has brought in the occasional reward too. Our drivers don’t misuse the cars. How can they? People steal and often return our cars. How far will they take them? We never get fined for speeding. And we never ever ever run over anyone. (It’s common knowledge that you maintain the car at a steady average speed for most efficient consumption of fuel. So)
Its perfect really – this method to the madness. Economical. Treacherous. Educational. I mean where else do you get to learn about your innermost fears and the basics of fluid mechanics and how much money you can actually save in a month? And I know, I know this doesn’t sound ‘typically’ adventurous but I can assure you it is. We might not be the greatest of athletes, sure. We might not have the biggest frames or the bushiest beards or a respectable sense of balance or direction. But, but, but, but, give us a packet of Bhujia and a freshly exhausted car and well, wooh, we’ll show you how to have a good time. It’s wild really. Living on the edge like this. Just shooting the breeze. Dodging the bullet. Milking the cow. Cranking the horn. Riding the wave. Breaking the fast. Spinning the dolphin. Smelling the monkey. Waking the vulture. Braiding the tiger. Lacing the lion. Twerking the turtle…
(Do Note: In the absence of a suitable ending, the author has once again dived into the welcoming depths of indulgence. Also, the preceding stunts have been performed by more than willing practitioners. Please, do not, maybe, necessarily try these at home.)