What Will You be When You Grow Up?

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70’s in India was a period of limited exposure. Kids then had no clue of Chinese toys, cartoon channels, pizzas or Mac Donald’s unlike today. No television instead a large-sized radio was the only home entertainment and we had our ears glued to a fifteen minute play every night on All India Radio before wrapping to bed. In fact I vividly remember, my first ever introduction to the world outside was Chinese food but cooked in Indian style although my father never took us to a Chinese joint. He detested Chinese for screwing Indians real bad in the 62′ war.

My parents did like movies. Twice a month, we watched random movies but each time Amol Palekar’s movie released, we had to watch it first day last show. Any theater would do. My mother had a huge crush on Amol Palekar, a mystery my father and I never did figure out but he made sure to book tickets in advance. Messing with his wife meant a huge financial blow as nothing less than a visit to a jewelry store could possibly calm her down.

Amol Palekar
amol palekar

On Sundays and school holidays, I’d go with my father on his scooter to our highway gas station. That’s my family tradition. When the son turns five, he’s got to learn stuff about his family business and I was my parent’s only son.

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This is how it works. When I passed out from school, my father asked “What’s next son?” I told him I wanted to study further. When I finished my high school, he checked again “So, what’s next son?” I asked “Can I go to college?”. He smiled with worried eyes. But when I abruptly quit college he was the happiest man on earth. “Son, it’s high time you join our family business. I’ll get you married to the prettiest girl from our community in a year’s time and send you off for your honeymoon. How about – Mount Abu? Manali is too far and cold,Mount Abu is just a four hour drive. You can take a bus and son; you got to realize value of money”

Anyway, life did not transpire as they had planned. A story for another time.

My father’s gas station is on a large chunk of land, he owns on the state highway. When he started way back in the 70’s, he rented out excess land to two enterprises that complemented his business.

Shankar, better known as Madrasi was a dark stout guy with large shoulders and an over-sized but stiff belly, ran a tyre repair shop. He slogged from six in the morning till he hit his whisky bottle sharp at eight in the night. He had the cutest smile and a perfect set of white teeth and none dared approach him for any job after eight p.m. His drab room had a large poster of Jayalalitha (A south Indian actress) in dancing pose and the rumor was he spoke to the poster in the night, though in the eighties as he grew older, he found his true love in Silk Smitha.

Jayalalitha
jayalalitha-tamil-actress

Silk Smitha
silksmitha1

Sharma, a skinny, shrewd man got the bigger pie of land to run his vegetarian restaurant. To begin with, he knew a few drivers from his hometown who plied on that highway frequently. At his own risk he offered them fuel on credit but charged a monthly interest of 3%. My father took his share of money from interest accrued.
So here’s the deal. If you dine at Sharma’s restaurant, you can park your truck overnight, rent a makeshift bed for a nominal charge and buy fuel on credit.

Despite the horrors of my family tradition, I looked forward to my Sundays. The countryside breeze, smell of gas, cheap toffees for free was nothing less than a day’s picnic, but the most eventful moment was getting inside a truck. I’d wait for the most colorful, swanky truck to stop by and the drivers never refused to let me in for a peek. The size of truck overwhelmed me as a child. My tiny hands holding the massive steering wheel, watching myself in the large rear-view mirror, looking at people from above, listening to Bollywood music on a treble pushed up stereo made for my few good childhood memories. Each time I entered a truck cabin, it gave a sense of its owner, his mobile world stacked with choicest collections from places I hadn’t had a clue of then. Pictures of his wife, kids placed in an angle his eyes won’t miss while driving. Then those drivers seemed as perfect husbands and fathers to me. “I am a king on a giant chariot, always on the move” remarked one driver, I had met.

We visited a family friend on a Sunday evening right after my day out at the gas station. On the dinner table, our host triggered one of my worst blunders, “Son, so what will you be when you grow up?” I shot right back “I’m going to be a truck driver.”

That was the quietest dinner, we ever had.

* Thumbnail pictures are sourced from the net.

97 thoughts on “What Will You be When You Grow Up?

  1. Really enjoyed reading about your childhood and parents and life in India in 70s– captured my interest from the get-go– the very beginning. Interesting from many angles and easy to read. Good show, Arjun!

  2. Arjun, learning about your early life and culture was a great experience, for I believe all the money in the World cannot replace a family who care about you, and your family clearly did and still do… Memories of youth and the pitfalls, the way we hurt someone close, all unknowingly, with careless words. A part of growing up,… Looking forward to the follow up…xPenx

  3. I really enjoyed reading this Arjun. And look forward to the story for another time. Enjoying the memoirs from another place, another time, another culture. Yet it ties us all closer somehow – this common humanity and memories that we share. Thank you. Sharon

    • Wow. That was the intent and your comment is so reassuring of my humble effort to try and communicate a completely different world with my friends on WP.
      Thank you so much for dropping by and leaving me your heart-felt words.

  4. Arjun you should call for the dinner,i could make for you and your lovely Family a European dinner:)
    Great how you explain your story,is amazing to know from different culture,i hope to reading more on the next post,thank you!!!

    • Thank you Massi for a wondrous offer and I trust and can vouch for your skills. None will care to talk about anything but the food. Your kind words are encouraging and I’ll surely attempt to engage you in the next part of this story.

  5. I think I’ve always felt a deep feeling for you
    I do not know … why …
    it is a pity that I do not know properly use the English language.
    We would have told a lot of things and shared the joys and sorrows.
    Memories of childhood, purity in the eyes, and the words
    make you the man you are today.
    Thanks iIn your family made ​​you a strong man with all the weaknesses of the world.

    your writing always smells when you talk about you.
    A hug from wind ♫

  6. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing of your life and background. We sometimes assume what something might be, but often are off the target. Thank you for sharing a part of your life with me.
    love
    Yisraela

    • Thank you for stopping by. To be honest, I have no insight how readers respond. In fact, this post has confirmed my doubt. The primary intention was to flaunt my earrings. None said a word. I’m so hurt !😀
      But I agree, my parents are truly amazing people to ponder and write about.

  7. smells like home…

    the old good days

    when there was no
    I-phones, I-pads, I-pods
    just I-happy

    only the radio
    movies
    a ride in big old truck
    feeling the breeze
    with a smile

    good conversation,
    father and son
    sharing high hopes

    pure bliss

    (I knew the post was going to be different, have to say the first photo says a lo about you, you could of posted that photo with a tittle like the thinker,the traveler or the journey. Thank you I went back in time, my childhood was like that too, life was slower back then the world was different too more colorful, what a beautiful story about life and those special moments, life is about those little moments, is all in the details no matter how small they are and I found out you are not that young lol like me hahaha!)

  8. Pingback: What Will You be When You Grow Up? | Ta hendene til din kjære – se på dem og hold dem hardt Disse hendene skal du følge, leie og lede. Du skal få føle på varmen fra dem og kjenne en inderlig glede. De skal stryke deg og de skal holde rundt deg –

  9. When I was a little girl, I use to ask the truck drivers driving behind our family’s car to push (pull) the horn. I’d sit in the back seat and give them signs. If they pushed the horn, I’d blow them a kiss and wave them goodbye.

    I enjoyed your childhood story much! It was almost like being there and living that memory with you🙂.

    • Wow. I’m sure they savor moments of encounter like the one you mentioned. Driving miles on the endless road and all of sudden someone look you makes signs, they respond and a surprise reaction from you makes their day.. Wow! and you never meet them again…Just a moment shared in bliss!!
      Thank you so much for sharing your childhood memory, so unique!

  10. More! More!
    I was riveted by your story-You are a wonderful storyteller Arjun both with words and pictures. It seems many families have a child that just does not quite march to the same beat-it can make for both an interesting and tumultuous time, but it also lends itself to great stories. Well done-

    • You’ve touched the very core of my purpose to write. If I can entertain readers with stories from my past, I’m healed. Thank you so much Meg. To be understood is a reason enough to celebrate my existence.

  11. rememberings and storytellings, romance and ideal perfections

    the houses we construct with the bricks we think we have

    thank you for writing

    • True, I’ve material enough for a book. So while I wait to make my movie as a director, I write. No free flow of words yet so I’m happy taking pictures. That too seems to be peaking out so another addition nowadays is cooking🙂

  12. I enjoyed to read a peace of your childhood, well written🙂. If you after all these years see go by a truck, now you remember what some of that passion ?

  13. Beautifully written Arjun, loved it! In a way we all want to be truck drivers, don’t we! Driving around, singing songs, stopping by at the odd dhaba to gorge in on the local cuisine..! If only their real life were so much fun🙂

    • Fun is subjective. Passion is 100%. Make an offer to a truck driver. Say, I pay you double. Quit this, I’ll give you an easygoing desk job and you’ll be surprised. Same is the case with the staff on trains. Not just the driver or the guard, the attendants too takes a lot of pride in their job. A common dream amongst them – Rajdhani

  14. Great post! When I was young I wanted to own a mini-grocery store, I wanted to be the cashier because I think earning is way easier with that. Never thought that wealth don’t come from a jar of candies sold🙂

    • Thank you for sharing a beautiful memory from your childhood. Earn lots of money in a store that sells candies and lots of stuff, we’d love to have them all🙂
      I dote on your last line “wealth don’t come…..”
      Just repeating your words here, I’m so touched!

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