The time was 3.40 pm. And it was a Thursday, the day we fall over ourselves to send the City Reporter to Press.
And my cellphone rings. It was a call for help.
“I am right outside your office. The front tyres of my car are wobbly. Could you help?” my friend pleaded.
I obliged, asked my office colleague for a phone number that could come in handy if it was a car breakdown.
The sun was peeping from behind a cloud, as I saunter out to meet my friend on Resthouse Crescent Road.
Wearing a white top and faded blue jeans, she was looking purrfect. But then, the problem was not with her, but her car.
“The tyres are wobbly. Can you do something with the toolkit?” she pleaded.
“I am a stranger to cars, but there might be someone who can,” I tell her, and go back to the office and retrieve a colleague’s driver, to play the Good Samaritan.
By then, the sun had done his vanishing act and it began to drizzle. I fish out my green, waterproof cap and get out of the office to find her holding an umbrella.
The driver gets down to work immediately: inspects the rear wheels, tightens the bolts and takes the car on a test drive.
“It’s perfect, no problem,” he declares.
And then, it happened.
“I need to go to Manipal Hospital. My mother is waiting for me and she doesn’t have a cell so I can inform her, and I can’t drive this car, I am out of breath, Zahid… is there a chemist nearby? I am an asthmatic, and it gets worse when I panic.”
She took me by surprise. For a second, I speculated if she was playing the fool. And then, she cuts in, ‘Zahid, I am seriously out of breath. I might collapse any time. Please hold me.’
I do so and ask her to sit inside her car.
“No, I can’t. I am claustrophobic. I have to be outside.”
I ask her to sit on the footpath instead, but she walks back and forth and doesn’t stop worrying.
“I can’t, I am just not feeling right. Get me an inhaler… and just in case I fall unconscious, remember Zahid, it’s only Electrol or Glucose for me. And don’t go anywhere Zahid…. I really don’t know what to do.”
I hold her.
“My hands are going numb, rub them Zahid.”
I do. But that doesn’t help. She was back to her breathless best. And then the driver says a colleague has an inhaler, and goes inside the office to get it. In under a minute, he is back with a glass of water, with my colleague close behind him, with pills and the inhaler.
“I hand the glass to her…” But she is as frantic as ever.
She gets a call on her cellphone.
“No papaji, my friend is here, you don’t need to rush all the way here. If something happens, he’s there for me.”
My colleague asks her to take the pill, and plays the perfect counseller. “I am an asthmatic and I know what it feels during panic attacks,” he says. “Stop getting panicky and you will feel good. Now take this pill.”
She says she can’t, because she’s allergic to it.
“What are you allergic to?”
She doesn’t’ answer, and gets more panicky, when the cellphone rings yet again.
“Don’t worry, we have your uncle’s number. Does he know your medical history?” my colleague asks.
My friend gets even more panicky.
“Not to worry. We have vehicles and people on standby, so no need to panic. Just calm down,” says my colleague.
Her cellphone rings again.
My colleague picks up the phone this time. The phone goes dead.
And then, she breaks into laughter. A gang of youngsters surround us.
“You are on camera,” she tells us, and points to the Qualis parked before us.
The door shutter opens and we spot a camera right before us. One of the crewmembers asks us to say ‘cheese’ to the camera. Another member comes from behind, and plants a cap on my head. The cap says, MTV Bakra.
(Published in City Reporter, 2003)