The SRE and I have a strange relationship with Salt Lake. It is a part of Kolkata that we have to drive past every time we go to the airport, we know people who live there, and the youngest child even goes to college there. There are parts of it we are somewhat familiar with, and are able to reach with relative ease, but these are few and far between. It is, in theory at least, very well planned, with few traffic lights within the area, instead of which there are innumerable straight roads (rare in Kolkata colonies) interspersed with equally innumerable roundabouts.
Here is a map which shows you the layout of this township.
The SRE and I first got lost here a few years ago when we went to drop young Suki home after watching Sue act in Proof. Suki guided us to her home, and also gave us clear instructions on how to get out of Salt Lake, but being rather dumb and befuddled by the darkness and roads which all look just the same, we managed to get ourselves well and truly lost. Since it was late it was also hard to find someone to give us directions, but we eventually got back onto the main road, and back home.
Early in 2010, a good friend of the SRE was in town. We sent our driver to pick up the couple and bring them home, and then dismissed him. The four of us went to the club where we were all meeting yet another couple for dinner. We decided to drop our friend and his wife back to Salt Lake, and actually managed to follow directions and not get lost. What a triumph!!!
A short while ago we learned that a dear cousin of the SRE and her husband were moving to Kolkata, and were staying, for the time being, in a guest house in Salt Lake. I went over one morning and spent the day with her, my trusty driver locating the place with relative ease. We called them over for dinner with us on Saturday evening. I did ask them to stay over, knowing fully well that locating their guest house at night would not be easy. However, they decided to go home and the SRE insisted on our dropping them there. We did get very near to their place before we got majorly lost in the grid of straight roads and roundabouts that is Salt Lake, since the cousins are also very very new to the place. A few confusing/confused directions were taken from a stray cabbie or two, and we deposited our most relieved guests at their gate. After which we proceeded home, getting misguided by the lack of street signs and stray guides who gave us the most flimsy of directions. We ended up several kilometers off track ( my only comfort being the fact that our petrol tank was full), when we reached a broken down road which had a metro line being built over it. This brought us to the Salt Lake City Centre, from where I more or less knew my way! One wrong turn and a u-turn to correct it, and we were back on familiar, known roads. Such awesome relief! I think I've told you before that I am the family navigator, but it is a role that I find exceedingly stressful now. I still like to follow the routes I'm driven on, and to note to myself the landmarks on the way, and the SRE doesn't utter a cross word either, but I feel huge silent waves of unease emanating from the poor man when he doesn't know which way to go.
Being lost and found that night got me thinking very seriously about life and beyond, and how important it is, if one is to tread unfamiliar paths leading to something worthwhile, to have a road map, and a guide to help you understand the way, and how to overcome the perils on the path. Ustad Amir Khan's wonderful dhrut bandish in Raga Marwa comes to mind-
Guru bina gyaan na paavey. Here is Rashid Khan singing this beautiful, meaningful bandish.
Going through the various journeys of a single lifetime, one encounters many guides and teachers. Even within a single relationship, one is both the teacher and the taught. The other day the SRE had to pay an emergency visit to his dentist, on a day when the driver was on leave, so I guided him around the long way that I knew well. He needed to make another early morning trip the next day, and proudly called me from the clinic, having got there comfortably all by himself. I felt most proud of my dear pupil! I cannot even begin to list the number of things he has introduced me to and taught me about, areas in which I am now reasonably competent.
Children, friends, enemies, strangers, pets, Nature.........all can teach us valuable lessons.
And if, like me, you are lucky enough to have Ma'am as your teacher, you can never be lost for long! In the most difficult of situations her wisdom and common sense shine like a beacon, guiding you through the trickiest of life's situations.
Truly, as the Adi Shankara said in his Gurustrotam:
Guru Brahma, Guru Vishnu, Guru Devo Maheshwara. Guru Sakshath Parambrahma, Tasmai Shri Gurave Namaha.
(Translation: Guru is the creator Brahma, Guru is the preserver Vishnu, Guru is the destroyer Siva. Guru is directly the supreme spirit — I offer my salutations to this Guru.