It probably began when I was about 6, and living in a 7th storey flat in a building in close proximity to the Mumbai International Airport. When chickenpox and measles forced me to stay back home, I remember sitting in the balcony, counting the airplanes landing into and taking off from the airstrip. Like graceful white swans, they flew, making sweeping turns with their enormous wing spans. Plane after plane, plane after plane. It was like the world ran ONLY on airplanes!
Living in the suburbs of Bombay is equivalent to having rickshaws (commonly referred to as “ricks”) as a part of the daily routine. Its almost a religion. Counting rickshaws on packed Bombay roads is like counting ants in an ant-hill! The moment you start counting them, you are bumped into, honked at or yelled at (for no reason whatsoever) by another auto-rickshaw driver. Besides, you are ALWAYS rushing to get to some place or the other. So unless you are doing it aimlessly, or are going to meet a relative whom you really don’t want to meet with, the opportunity for rickshaw counting is next to never. So, if I have, at any one point, ever counted beyond 5 rickshaws, I think deserve a gold medal!
A few years later, work demanded me to shift base to Bangalore. Here, it was the incessant whizzing and zipping past of a multitude of motorbikes (and those scooters mainly used by the older generation)! If you really wish to try something weird, try standing in the middle of one of those ring roads. You will be able to see a SEA of bikes coming onto you – from ALL directions! A trip to MG/Brigade Road – on our own bike – on a Saturday afternoon meant getting sandwiched between two cars, accompanied by fifteen other bikes. With all the commotion and pollution, I couldn’t really afford to open my mouth to talk to Srini, or attempt to hear anything he said. So, all I did was count the other bikes around me. And after 20, either the lights would go green, or I would simply lose count…
After that, came Plano-Dallas. Our house by the highway gave birth to a new interest, namely, counting cars – of all colors, makes, models, shapes and sizes!!! And it was not just limited to cars. There were pickup trucks, SUVs,18-wheelers, and God knows what else! And add to that an official speed limit of 45mph; meaning cars going at 55-60mph all the time, making it tougher to count!!! The acoustics were pretty amazing too, what with the once-in-every-15-minutes wail of a fire truck, ambulance or trooper. I once was on the verge of believing that I had maxed out on my counting capacity! But thankfully, the life of this “hobby” was restricted to only those one-off terribly boring weekends – yea, tea in the patio, mumbling numbers, as if it were a mantra!!
And now, an apartment by the Hudson automatically calls for counting of water vessels. Sail boats, speedboats, tug boats, mega massive cruise liners – we have them all. From fast ones to the ultra slow snails, the variety is endless. Just looking at the density of the foamy streak left on the waters, you can tell what kind of vessel made it! And with Lady Liberty, Empire State Building and Times Square in the vicinity, the skies around here have more choppers than clouds! There are copters day in day out, weather no bar! Huge ones, teeny weeny ones, bright red ones, army green ones, and also some really scary looking ones! The fact that I am situated 23 storeys above the ground makes me feel I am closer to these whirlybirds than the trees below! Maybe one of these days, I will find myself waving out to a pilot! During those long telephone conversations with mom where she is reprimanding me for my funny sleeping habits, all I need to do is stand by the window, and I am instantly entertained. Within a second, I see at least 5 vessels and 5 helicopters. Talk about competition!
Well, now that I am done with so many types and modes of transport – no wheelers, 2 wheelers, 3 wheelers, 4 wheelers, 18 wheelers, wings, and rotors – I wonder what’s next! Trains? I am not so sure I would want to do that. Cuz that would also mean permanently living in an earthquake… wouldn’t it?!