July 17, 2021: The rains came again today

July 17, 2021: The rains came again today. With a ferocity that seemed to be reminiscent of a Biblical flood. One that was, however, localized and while my bondhu and I were partly drenched as we ran to the car after the bulk of the deluge was over. The canopy at the City Center offers protection from the rain, but the noise of the rain falling on the canopy was a terrifying sound as my friend sipped on masala tea and we reminisced about the days gone by. Memories with bondhus, the ones that were and the ones that we are making. New experiences, new feelings, new bonds. Things I had never thought could happen were happening. As I drove to Park Street, yes, I drove myself. I hear this from many of the people whose comfort remains in driving in lane – “do you actually drive in Calcutta?” And as a close bondhu, sitting next to me on one such drive, almost shrieked as I passed the bus with millimeters between the vehicles, I realized I am truly where I belong. Driving in Calcutta is perhaps an experience that teaches mindfulness. My father once said, while he sat next to me on M1 going to somewhere close to London, “This is a boring drive, nothing happens.” He taught me to drive in our infamous Standard Herald. Memories. I learnt to drive in Calcutta, then I learnt again in Chicago, and London. Here the drive is exhilarating, find your way. A metaphor for life in the city. Find a way between the cycle and the lorry. There is an opening. There is always an opening. Just as in life. We just need to find it and grasp it. COVID-19 has sharpened that for me. The openings offered by COVID-19 were many and it just needed the moxi to pass through them. Fear is not an acceptable option in driving in my city. Caution is. Wear the mask and conquer the road. In everything. This is the way I like, where there are different paths to the end you seek. The cliched beliefs that when someone stonewalls you, as I have been stonewalled so many times, by people you thought you could trust, you realize that there are other ways. Always. Maybe that is what keeps me going. There is always another way. This is another lesson from the pandemic. If something does not work, try another way, maybe that will. And vaccines came in record time. In my life I have sought alternatives always. Do I bring chocolates or flowers? What is the right gift for bondhus with whom memories will be built, sustained? How about both, a little bit of chocolate with a bouquet of flowers. Everyone feels happy, and here with the bondhus, I never have to fear, “Would you stand up and walk out on me?” I can sing out of tune here and drive the way I want, and I know there are those who will not walk out on me because we all get by with a little help from each other. COVID-19 taught.

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