‘Kumbha Kumbha! Guff Guff!’ I chanted in a shrill tone keeping time with the sound made by the Grand Trunk express as it traversed the rough, hilly terrain between Itarsi and Gwalior. Usually, kids chant something like ‘Chuff Chuff! Chugg Chugg!’ when they want to imitate a steam engine. But I chanted it just the way I thought I heard it. I was convinced that my version of the sound made by the train was the correct one. I was all of nine years at that time and was fascinated by the long tunnels and the steep ups and downs we encountered during our journey from New Delhi to Chennai, the erstwhile Madras.
This journey by the Grand Trunk express was one our family always undertook every year during the summer vacations. While we were traveling, I often used to think to myself; if I could have so much fun sitting in a train compartment, then wouldn’t the engine driver sitting in the steam engine and driving it have a lot more fun? It was during one of these journeys, I decided that once I grew up, I would become an engine driver. My parents had always wanted me to become an engineer and after all, if a profession is called engineering, then it could only mean that an engineer was a person who drove a train’s engine. It just could not mean anything else or so I reasoned. So I would be doing just what my parents wanted me to and they wouldn’t be upset with me.
Anyway, my fascination with trains and engines ebbed away when I realized it would be much more adventurous to fly an airplane. This became my life’s goal for quite some time and to tell the truth, even now I would love to learn how to fly a plane though I would hardly qualify for a learner’s license even in a private flying school. Soon after, I saw movies in which spaceships were flown by hefty men dressed in stylish white coloured space suits. What is a pilot compared to an astronaut who zooms around in space? That made up my mind for me. I decided I would be an astronaut.
And oh yes, there was yet another profession I was obsessed with between the engine driver and the pilot phases. If you go to the Gandhi Mandapam (Gandhi’s statue) near Marina beach in Chennai, you will find a junction that is now manned using signals. The traffic is heavy out there. When I was a kid there would be a traffic policeman who would stand on a pedestal at the meeting point between two major roads and in one hand, he would be holding a small round whiteboard with the word STOP written on it. He used to manage the traffic at the junction. The chap would be wearing a neatly ironed Khaki uniform and all he had to do was flash the board with STOP written on it to stop the traffic or wave with his other hand to tell cars and buses to move on. I imagined doing that job and getting many people to obey me. It was the kind of thing that would give anyone a God complex and made quite an impression on my young and fertile imagination.
Later when our family settled in New Delhi, I watched many Hindi movies and that was when I wanted to become an actor. My favourite actor at that age was Amitabh Bachchan and I would daydream about growing as tall as him. Unfortunately, that was not in my genes, and I am a mere five foot, six inches tall. By that time, I was sixteen years old and had gotten out of my childhood fantasies. I began preparing seriously for engineering entrance exams and got into IITBHU (formerly IT-BHU) on my second attempt at the IIT Joint Entrance Examination. The standards at IIT were very high and I barely scraped through the course. After passing out I attended some interviews and got a few jobs in metallurgical engineering. The locations were in Rishikesh and Haridwar and I did not join. After that, I got into some marketing jobs for some time, but I found I did not have the skill to talk glibly, which is so important for a marketing professional. Finally, I took up Information Technology and worked steadily for nearly thirty years before I quit and took to writing full-time. I am now fifty-six years old and have published two novellas on Amazon Kindle. I am currently working on my debut novel. My ambition now, as far as my profession is concerned is to publish at least one bestseller before I take my final bow.
This post is a part of Blogchatter Blog Hop