Josna Rege

277. Waiting for Some Time

In 2010s, Family, health, India, Inter/Transnational, Stories, travel, writing on June 26, 2014 at 10:48 pm


Mumbai, June 2014: It’s early morning in the tree-lined Western suburb of Vile Parle. The only sounds are birdcalls, the clanking of a metal bucket handle, and the swish-swishing of the ceiling fan. Soon the bell of the little temple on the corner will start clanging insistently, accompanied by chants, but now it is blessedly cool and quiet. (I spoke too soon: here it comes now.) To date the rains have been sparse  in Mumbai, so much so that they can hardly be said to have begun, and the monsoon forecasters predict that they will fall short this year. Very soon the rising heat will force me to get up and start my day: cleaning teeth, preparing tea, making phone calls, and running errands; for these are my last few precious days in India, and there is more to do than I can possibly fit into them.

My last post was on Day 5 of my visit, and it is now Day 29: my longest time ever without writing a TMA story. Perhaps it is because living in the moment has taken up all my energy this past month and I haven’t had the time to sit and reflect; or when I have had time, I have called home or simply fallen gratefully into bed. Even now I’m only writing because I have fallen sick with a summer flu and have had to spend most of the last two days in bed, under strict orders—enforced by the family—not to stir out of doors.

I’ve always been an impatient person, but in India one will continually tear one’s hair out in frustration if one is not prepared to “wait for some time.” How many times have I been given that infuriating advice, delivered in equally infuriatingly mild tones! I remember paying a visit to the post office with Andrew in Pune years ago with the intention of buying some stamps and mailing some books back to the States. Sending the package was a production in itself, a saga for another day, but when it was all packed and sealed and we finally approached the counter to purchase the stamps, it was closed. When would it reopen? After some time. How long? Why not sit, have a cup of tea, and wait for some time?

Once, on the road from Aurangabad to Pune on a blisteringly hot March day, the so-called luxury bus Nikhil and I were in overheated. Nikhil had fallen ill with worryingly high fever and Andrew put us on an air-conditioned businessmen’s coach back to our family in Pune while I insisted that he stay and see the Ajanta caves, since at least one member of the family ought to do so. But everything proceeded to go wrong. The coach was not air-conditioned, and just as the sun was mounting into the sky, the breakdown happened. We all bundled out of the vehicle, two businessmen with uncomfortably hot-looking suits helping to carry Nikhil, since he was too weak to walk, and depositing him on the side of the road in what looked lie the middle of nowhere. While the driver and his assistant looked under the hood (bonnet), the rest of us just waited, and I tried to quell feelings of panic. There was one American woman on the bus, who strode over the group and demanded to know what was wrong.

The engine appears to have overheated.

           So what is being done?

They have called the headquarters for help.

            So what do we do now?

Wait for some time.

What else could we do? Eventually word came from HQ that we would not be getting a replacement coach and so would have to flag down a passing State Transport bus and ask to be taken on board. Which eventually we did, and the kind passengers of that hot and crowded vehicle made room for Nikhil when they saw how ill he was.

Some of the waiting one is made to do in India is completely unnecessary, the result of bureaucratic or corporate sloth, ineptitude, or corruption; this does not call for patient acceptance but rather, decisive action. Much of the time, though, waiting is all that can be done. Take my current bout of flu, for example: naturally I am anxious to get back to normal before my upcoming international flight, and to have the energy for all the shopping, packing, and farewells. My cousin, who is a doctor, naturally prescribed what she could: a short course of antibiotics; something to bring down the fever; antihistamines to cope with the cold symptoms. But as she said in rueful humor last night: “With treatment it runs its course in seven days; and without treatment it runs its course in one week.” I may feel as if all that I’m doing is hastening my recovery but in fact, resting, taking plenty of fluids (my atya has prepared rice water, which I am drinking with black salt and ghee), and just waiting is the best course of action.

Time heals all wounds, they say, and when tragedy strikes, as it has dear friends of ours this month, we can only offer our love and hope that, with time, their pain and grief will subside, or at least, recede. I am acutely aware of the passage of time as I visit India after six long years and witness all the changes that they have wrought. Although I have visited with dozens of family members, time has not permitted me to meet everyone. But for now, in these last three days, I must somehow make myself slow down, take everything in—including that temple bell, which is clanging yet again—and simply trust that whatever I have not managed to do can wait for some time.

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  1. Wonderful post, Josna. You really captured perfectly how time is just different in India and how waiting is part of it. I chuckled out loud in the beginning and felt your love for India too. Have a safe and of course, happy journey back.

    • Thank you, Nina. I’m glad you felt that the post captured something you recognized and that you realized that despite the frustration, I was speaking only out of love.

  2. Nice to have you back on line and know that you are comfortable enough with your readers ,fans and friends to let of a necessary elegant rant that builds up over time dealing with the unpredictability of daily life travelling through India. Hope you feel better before you get on the plane back.Cheers.

    • Thank you, Asghar–and sorry for the belated reply. Back home now and almost completely better. Despite the inevitable frustrations, the unpredictability also brings with it all sorts of surprises and unexpected pleasures. Now it’s time to get re-orientated to the strangeness of the United States, as I return in the wake of these disturbing Supreme Court decisions. Certainly not the work of a secular nation!

  3. Wonderfully evocative, Josna, as always. Thanks, and get better soon. At least your wit and your wits haven’t been affected…

    • Thank you for the appreciative comment and the good wishes. I am back, much better, and already missing India. Not having written regularly this past month, I’m feeling reassured that you think my wits are still more-or-less intact!

  4. Being sick on holiday always feels worse and seems to last longer than if you were at home … I hope you feel better before your flight Josna … Lovely post. It reminded me of a time I spent in Dubai in the early 80s – I had a lot of friends from India and everything seemed to happen in its own time. We’re a bit like that in Ireland too … but the Arabs have the best expression for it “bukra, inshallah” – tomorrow, God willing!

    • Thank you, Fil, for your sweet and reflective reply. Yes, every country and culture has its own time. I know that when my parents went to Ireland years ago, they seemed to shed a decade of their lives. All the photos of them from that holiday show them looking happy, serene, and much younger! And yes, we never do know about tomorrow, do we? It all happens—or doesn’t—Insha’Allah.

  5. Very nice Jojo, I like your article a lot! I can feel your impatience and the philosophical ruminations are good!

    • Thanks Peta! You know plenty about all of this, O World Traveller. I’m too impatient for my own good, so I’m sure I need to slow down and appreciate things as and when they happen. Hugs, J xxx

  6. The Indian equivalent of “manana” (can’t find a tilde!). And, as the Spanish would say, “Sana, sana, culito de rana…” xxxooo

    • Thank you, Nancy, that’s lovely. I looked it up, “Heal, heal, little tail of the frog.” I feel a bit better already! xxx J

  7. I’m always glad to read your ruminations. Surprisingly poignant ending, with your friends’ losses. Anyway, I hope you’re feeling well enough when you have to board your flight.

    • Thank you, Sarah. The husband of one of our good friends and neighbors died suddenly a couple of weeks ago and yesterday was his memorial service. My flight is the day after tomorrow, so I’m hoping to be better by then. Love, J

  8. Dear Josna, get well soon. You are a wonderful loving person, feeding us so much of your intelectual output. I am glad to read your experiences well written. We missed you and Nikhil in Bangalore. Better luck next time. Giridhar Kamat uncle

    • Dear Giridhar-kaka, my biggest regret is that we missed the chance to come down to Bangalore and meet you all. Next time it will be a must–and I hope to return much sooner next time. The trip was too short, and having been away from India for six years I had so many family members to meet–still wasn’t able to meet them all. But Nikhil and I both had a lovely time. Much love, J

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