I often wonder what karmic contract oversees our mornings.
What stipulates, for instance, that one morning I will get up and be greeted by an empty gas cylinder, instead of the usual chai. And that, another day will begin with an hour of non-stop ranting and scolding from people whom I've done nothing to offend.
Which is what happened.
I was up bright and early (okay, so my weekday sunrise happens at 8 am... to each her own dawn) trying to call up a certain urban planner, to fix up an interview.
I had only introduced myself when the dam broke, so to speak.
The good lady refused me an interview, first-off on the grounds that I worked for a media group that doesn't 'report' but only 'supports' our editors' friends (very vehement, vitrolic emphasis on 'Frrrriends', virtually spitting out an explamation mark every time she used the word).
My plea, that I wished to understand the issues, and considered it my duty to speak to as many experts as possible - esp those with contrasting views - fell on deaf ears. To be honest, I didn't even get to make the plea. At least, not in one go.
I would say two words, be interrupted and listen to the good-if-angry lady, for fifteen minutes. How her clients' side of the picture was never represented.
Then, I'd say another three words (inclusive of articles and pronouns) and be interrupted again. Then, I'd listen to complaints about the media being biased, how my story was 'unconstitutional', how we were conducting 'trial by media' and how she couldn't care less, and would never speak to our group, in particular. And why didn't I just go speak to my editor-in-chief's 'Frriends!'
"Go to them! Go! Go to Mr R... Go to Mr D... Go!" she seethed.
She said that the activists were all being paid off. And that she could prove it. I asked her to, but she didn't want to meet me.
She asked me to ask myself - why was this issue being raked up now? At this crucial juncture? She insinuated that my bosses had sent me sniffing on the track on this story because they (or their Frrriends!) had vested interests. I did not tell her that the story was my own idea, not my boss', and that I had not even heard of Mr R and other names she was throwing at me faster than I could grab them.
I tried intermittently - three words at a time - to ask if she'd agree to an emailed list of questions, if she found it too painful dealing with me, in person. Unfortunately, she declined. She apparently didn't even want to share the same bit of newsprint with Mr R and Mr D.
She didn't want to be spoken of in the same breath as those "jokers". Several times during the conversation, she referred to various prominent people as 'bast**ds".
I was torn between hanging up on her, and reminding her that she was speaking to the media, and would she please watch her tongue? Suppose I had a recorder on, all this time? Did she realise I could, techinically, (for, although she said she didn't want to talk to me, she did speak a long, long time) put her words in print?
But there was also this bit of my mind that said this was just vented steam. And since I'd called her, maybe it was all part of destiny's preordainment - that the steam should burn my face.
Maybe it's just bad karma. Maybe, in a previous birth, I had been rude to a young journalist, first thing in the morning... Maybe this was payback time. So, I politely thanked her before assuring her that I would do my best to do a balanced story.
True, I awoke to find an empty gas cylinder, and - like always - it was left to me to tackle the crisis (read: lift gas cyclinder, carry downstairs to the re-filling shop, carry back upstairs... where are the boyfriends when you need them, I ask?).
True, I might have pulled a muscle and a half.
Also true that I am an unpleasant sight before my first cup of chai.
Especially when I trudge into daylight with a cylinder (okay, so it was a small cylinder that holds only 3-1/2 kilos of LPG, but so what?).
Riding beside me, there are two tiny pre-schoolers, three-year-old (or two-and-a-half?) boys, in a cycle-rickshaw (closed up like a cage, for their safety). Neat uniforms, slicked hair, hankies pinned to their breast-pockets.
They look at me and whisper something to each other.
They smile. I smile.
I wave. They wave back.
Then, timidly, one of them mouths -
I stare, open-mouthed, while one giggles to the other and repeats it -
And I cannot stop laughing for the rest of the morning.
What was that about karma, again?