“Do you remember what used to be the first thing on your mind when we’d get into the car?”, asked my father. I could tell, from his sprightly and amused yet nostalgic tone, that he was referring to my childhood days.
I grew up in Kanpur, in a huge house with a sprawling lawn and a bounty of trees- eucalyptus, palms, jackfruit, guava and more. Most spectacular was the long driveway starting at the garage and stretching till the main gate. It looked like a private runway to me, except that it was made of criss-cross bricks.
Whenever we were about to go for a drive, like any excited kid, I would hop and run to the garage and be the first one to get inside the car. In hindsight, I realise it was a thriller of a garage/car shed, the ultimate alternative space to be in. It had one tube light outside but was dingy inside. It was a store for things that didn’t stand a chance in the actual store and some spare parts too, also a haven for cobwebs and lizards. However, the most remarkable feature of the garage was right in the centre of the floor where five or six planks of wood loosely rested on top of deep dungeon-like pit. The kids had learnt to somewhat balance our weight on these planks. If not balanced, a foot could get caught between the wobbly planks. We’d have to bear with a throbbing heart, fearing a great fall into the unknown dungeon till some one adjusted the planks and got the foot out, which actually just took thirty seconds. I guess, I now understand why it felt so adventurous to be in the garage, but only for a for a few minutes.
So, what could have been the first thing on my mind when I’d get into the car more than two decades ago? Going by my the foodie that I am, it should have been food on my mind, but that wasn’t it. I gave up recalling because I couldn’t.
My father said, as if answering an amusing riddle, “From the time you were three or four, you would get inside quickly and bend from the rear seat towards the driver’s seat stretching your tiny head as much as you could and ask very concernedly, Papa papa, petrol kitna hai? Car kitni door ja sakti hai?”
“Impressive! But where has my childhood prudence been hiding in adulthood?”, I thought to myself. In the last couple of years I have often forgotten to check on fuel before hitting the city roads and have led myself into trouble with the fuel indicator saying hello in the middle of a traffic jam. Thanks to Papa for introducing me to myself; it’s been six months since and I’ve not failed to check each time- Petrol kitna hai?