Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Story of a car

Once a friend told me a story. In fact it was a dream he had years ago. But he said it had changed his life profoundly. I will cut out the frills, and tell you the basic story.

“I dreamt that I was an old Ambassador car. What a strange dream ! An ambassador car, of all things ! But who can help dreams ? They have a fancy of visiting you when you least expect them. And as if that was not enough, I was in a repair shop. I had no idea who had got me there, and when. I had a feeling I was parked in the repair shop for a fairly long time.

“There were a lot of cars around me, in every stage of repair, both imported, and deshi. They had sad, long faces. Some of them were forever groaning, some coughing, some had skin problems, for they had patches of all kinds of colour. I was wondering, I do not seem to have any problem, why should I come here then ? If the chief Mechanic comes, I would ask him to have a look at me, and discharge me.

“That evening the chief Mechanic came to see the imported car parked near me. He was not very tall, but very handsome, with a winsome smile playing in his lips, and very knowledgeable eyes. Look at him, and you know you can depend on him. When he was examining the other car, I coughed, and said, ‘Mr. Mechanic, I don’t seem to have any serious problem. So if you have a look at me, and discharge me, I could go home. I have a lot of work at home, and have to see a lot of places. So I am rather in a hurry’.

“The mechanic looked at me and said very curtly, ’You are a terribly damaged car. It would take a long time to repair you. Right now I have no time for you’.

“I was going to burst forth in indignation. But I controlled myself. I have to be here till he sees me. So what’s use getting cross with him. But I grumbled and groused for a long time. Look at that mechanic ! He was with the imported car for nearly an hour, all smiles, tightening a screw here, replacing a nut there, giving the gentlest stroke at another place, and within the hour sent it to the paints division to be painted and then released ! What an outrageous idea of priorities ! I started boiling inside.

“The next day a deshi car came there to park, and while doing so banged me from behind. I shrieked, ‘hey bungled knot of battered bug, what do you think of yourself ? Some imported Beauty ? I have been standing here before you were born, and you come and run into me !’ That car was really sorry for this accident, and told me, ’I am very sorry, sir. I am really a battered mass of steel, come for repair. This mechanic is the best in town, so I came here. Please forgive me for your inconvenience’. Well, I felt someone poured a bucket of water on me. I wanted to hide my face somewhere.

“The next day the mechanic came there. He worked on him whole day for two days, and told him, ’Now you are fine. Go home, and drive around the world with self confidence. Any problem, give me a phone call. I will tell you what to do with yourself.’ When he left, the car also left with a big smile, and my smile was lost for ever. This time I did not request the mechanic. I thought, before leaving he would look at me, and say, ‘You have been here for a long time, I will come tomorrow, and fix you.’ But he left without even turning at me. As if there was no one there. I cried the whole night.

“The repair shop was always filled with all kinds of sounds, hacking, cracking, dragging, beating, heating, screeching, welding – all kinds. And I became reconciled to my inconsequentiality. Gradually my tyres deflated fully, exposed to the vagaries of weather, my skin withered and assumed all colours, the windscreen was so much full of dust that no one could have seen anything through it. I forgot where I came from, and if I had anywhere to go. I was a rusted piece of junk.

“One day I discovered that a stray dog had made his home inside me. When long ago the car had jammed into me, the door on one side had been jerked half open, and the dog discovered it. He found a comfortable bed inside, and made it his home. Strangely enough, I did not get angry with it. I felt a sort of sympathy for it, and told myself, ‘Poor fellow, let him sleep in peace’. Another day a motor bike came to the repair shop, and while parking in front of me hit one of my headlights, smashing it to pieces. But the impact smashed his headlight completely. I became really worried, and told him, ‘Aha, what did you do ! It will take a lot of time to repair your front, and money too ! I pitied the bike lying there in a limp. But that night I had a great sleep.

“No, I could not. To be exact, I was not allowed to sleep ! At the dead of the night, I woke up to someone flashing his torchlight on me. He was coming closer. When he started examining my headlight, to my greatest wonder I discovered he was the chief mechanic ! I could not believe my eyes. The chief mechanic here, at such an unearthly hour, near me ! I was so stunned to a wonderful feeling that not a word escaped me. But he continued to examine me, my tyres, my discoloured body, the broken door…and I could no longer keep quiet. I whispered, ‘Mr. Mechanic, how come you suddenly found time to come and examine me after ages ? And at such an hour ?’

“Then what he said would always sing in my ears. He said, ‘Ambassador, it is not that I did not have time for you, but I could not work on you because you were not ready. First, you thought you need not have come here at all. Therefore you were filled with arrogance. Then you had the canker of jealousy, the cancer of anger, and the T.B. of impatience. If I have to repair you I might have to burn you, cut you, hammer you, scrape you… and you couldn’t have tolerated that. So I gave you a lot of time to partially repair yourself. Now you have forgotten your anger, given up your arrogance, changed your jealousy into compassion, and above all, learned patience. You are ready for me. Then why should I delay ? I am starting my work on you from tomorrow.’

Thus ended my dream.”

My friend kept quiet. There was a light in his eyes, and an unheard song in his lips. He smiled at me, and left me rooted there, where I stood, for a long time.

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