Posted in the winter of 2016.
Sometimes I wish I were anything but a writer; a category of folks who need far too many assurances.
It’s a Sunday morning in February. I’m enjoying Mumbai’s brief spell of breezy weather through one of the many open auto rickshaws that glide around the city’s western suburbs. I’m heading home to Yari Road from a yoga studio in nearby Seven Bungalows, feeling very good about life after 90 minutes of power vinyasa flow. I have a small, sticky towel around my neck, and my rolled-up yoga mat resting on the red plastic seat next to me.
At the gate to Raj Mahal, we come to a smooth stop. I pay off the auto driver. Still feeling dazed, light and floaty, I watch the auto turn away from me, spin a smooth 180 degrees, and roll away and down the road. I turn towards the stairs that lead to the elevator of my building. And F-R-E-E-Z-E. My towel is still around my neck. But my mat is not slung around my shoulder as it should be. I have left it in the auto, that prized grey-black Manduka that has seen me through fall-overs in sirshasana, exasperation from attempting the bind in suptakurmasana, and the triumph of dropping back from standing position to urdhva dhanurasana.
I run a few metres from the gate to the road, but obviously the auto and its driver have long taken off, as witnessed, with the speed and obliviousness of an Andheri-to-Churchgate local express. I curse my stupidity – where is your mind, Selina? – then, feeling totally defeated, I exhale, telling myself to calm down, that worse things happen in the world. Just relax, breathe, it’s not like anyone is dying, it’s just a mat. Forget it, let it go, it’s gone anyway, and what’s gone is gone.
So I unlock the door to my fifth floor B wing apartment and settle in. Coffee. A Gold Flake smoked on the little balcony. Everything can be sorted out, I say to myself. I think maybe I can calm down by reading my horoscope, by checking Facebook, by posting (maybe I can borrow or hire a mat from Yoga 101 for the next few days of practice?), by e-mailing, by making OCD-fuelled lists, by cleaning the kitchen shelves, by doing all the things that makes me feel grounded.
I switch on my laptop. It sparks, blitzes and then dies into a blank darkness. Fuck. All my work files are on this laptop, all my notes for my novel, all the concepts and scripts and articles and essays I have ever written, every contract I have ever signed, my schedule, my timeline, my prized personal photographs, my whole life is on it, and in my life it’s too late to start over with anything, so I freak out, I melt down.
Well-meaning people are always like “Think Positive” and “Practice Non-Attachment” – which make for great memes on Instagram but is hopeless advice for me in situations such as these.
Panic mounts. I realize I can’t call Anil who’s shooting on a closed set with no cellular range. So I call Kamal, my friend who services computers. He has the patience of an elephant and is used to dealing with tech-disabled writers like me. He’s all cheerful, like, “Arrey, don’t you have back-up for your files like the rest of the world?” That’s when I really lose it and yell : “Really? Back-up? Thanks for THAT bit of advice, it’s MOST helpful right now!”
I disconnect in rage.
My brain is comatose for the next 15 minutes. In slow motion horror, I switch the laptop power button off. Then, feeling like, what more could I possibly have to lose, I try switching it on again. My Dell machine beeps, and then restarts. The home screen appears and asks for my password. I watch in fascination. My files appear. Everything is working, all is as it should be. I burst into fresh tears – tears of joy and relief. I call Kamal back and meekly apologize. He calmly instructs me on how to back up all my files. It takes three hours, there is material on this laptop that dates back to 1995, but I do it, all of it, and I make a prayer to God, saying thank You, thank You, thank You for saving me.
More coffee, another smoke, and then I’m back to worrying. What to do about my lost mat? The doorbell rings. I imagine it’s the security guard from downstairs warning me about a looming water shortage so I fling the door open with the usual irritation.
It’s not the guard, it’s a short, chubby man smiling and holding out my rolled up Manduka mat in its cover. This man is the auto driver. His name is Sadiq, he’s a father of nine who lives in faraway Ghatkopar, and a Hero who drove back here, to Versova, even though he’d already reached Vile Parle by the time he realized that a random passenger had stupidly left her mat in the back seat of his auto.
Stunned, I offer to pay Sadiq for his trouble, but he says there is no need, he is just doing his duty.
I feel very humbled, ashamed of my spectacular self-absorption. I offer Sadiq some water, it’s the least I can do, and he accepts cheerfully, telling me I should, in future, always check the seat of any auto or cab or train or vehicle I am ever in before getting out. I agree and apologize, for the second time this morning, and Sadiq leaves, saying God Bless.
After all this crying, mat drama, laptop drama, I am so exhausted that I go to sleep, telling myself that in all this, there is a huge lesson for me and I have a lot of deeper learning to do. In the meantime, I will always back up my files. And maybe it’s a cynical world, but I will always have faith in the kindness of strangers.