Article Published in THE HINDUSTAN TIMES

Nearly made it

Navtej Sarna

Being too late is one thing. Its quite another thing being just too late. The former classifies you as a brave also run. The latter consigns you to the painfully unfortunate nearly made it camp. The distinction, the reader might say, is one of mere degree. So I thought too until it happened to me too frequently to be mere chance. Now I’m convinced that it has something to do with my timing.

It was just after payday. There you see the slip up-already a day behind. I am standing at the bank counter. The teller is a lady who takes obvious interest in her job. Efficiently she takes the slip, updates the passbook, and hands out the tenners fresh and crisp. All this while I wait and watch. As soon as I stake my claim, the stars take over.

Along comes a long lost friend of the teller. There is much where –have- you- been -ing and did you-know-ing. Understandable. Friendship and all that, I console myself. Finally, she turns apologetically to her work. Only to find that all those fresh and crisp tenners have been given out. She picks up another pile, meticulously counts them through twice, and writes down their numbers. I’ll spare you the details about how we-the teller; her friend and I- at last manage to unstaple the pile of notes with a pair of borrowed scissors. You get the point though.

But, says the discriminating reader, this could happen to anybody on a bad day. Possibly, but not again and not all the time. In bus queues, in fast-food parlours (here the sauce just finishes) and in post offices where all loose change vanishes mysteriously at the innocent appearance of my fiver.

Here’s another one. Sunday morning. I am waiting for the ballet tickets. The line is long and arty. Standing far behind many kurtas and jholas, I know that I really don’t have a chance. But the tickets keep coming. Hope rises. And then, yes, you guess it. I am only two ballet freaks away when the lady at counter looks up. I don’t even wait for the “Sorry...”

I could easily have been twenty people away when they ran out of tickets. But I had to be denied the consolation-cushion as I have learnt to term it.

Endlessly it carries on, this tale of being almost there but not quite there. Freud would have something to say about it. Probably how I nearly did something in my childhood.