Come On, Engine!


Mumbai-based author of ‘Cherish The Natural Feeling’, Hoshang Dastoor, shares his over three-decades-rich wisdom in Design, Business Processes and Management, based on his personal experiences and evolution. Besides his love for writing, he has nurtured a lifelong passion for European classical instrumental music, presenting programs for twelve years.

I once knew a guy. His name was Nozzle, and he was a lovable rogue, if ever there was one. He had every imaginable vice, and yet could exude love and genuine warmth of heart. You could not help forgiving him unconditionally for having ruined you out of house and home!

Optimism was his watchword. When he was in dire financial straits after a round of hectic, obsessive betting at the racecourse or at cards, he would boast with the most radiant air, “Wait till I come into money, my boy! My stars are very bright three months from now, and I will make you a multimillionaire! Just you wait and see!”

When he was chased by furious, utterly maddened creditors, to whom he had promised repayment a hundred times and defaulted as often, he would athletically jump over the compound wall and make a zippy escape, when alerted to their imminent approach, to severely frustrate them yet another time. Quite a feat, I assure you, considering his age!

And when he was dying of almost every disease, the tough old codger would declaim in ringing tones, in answer to one’s anxious enquiries about his health, “Day by day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.”

Once, somebody tried to explain to me the difference between ‘immoral’ and ‘amoral’. Now the best of us can confuse these two terms, but you would clearly understand the distinction between them if you had watched and experienced our hero in the various complex and devious transactions of his long and turbulent life. He was clearly amoral, never realising that he could be seriously upsetting and harming others, including his own near and dear ones, by his actions, and was ever like a wanton, untaught child.

While Nozzle’s ‘sinless misdemeanours’ were each a distinctive manifestation of the innermost core of the man, and while each of us who knew him had a favourite story showcasing his wild excesses, none was as spectacularly breathtaking in its earthshaking humour as the one which graphically narrated his worst day at the Mahalaxmi race-course.

You see, like many other punters, Nozzle had taken to avidly studying race-day booklets such as the good old Cole. He integrated the information he picked up from there with his own instinctive judgements, theories and predictions, as to which horse and jockey were the likely winners of a given race on a particular weekend afternoon, and would place his bets accordingly. So what? All punters do this, you will say, and you’d be quite right.

Nozzle, however, was no ordinary punter, being a desperately compulsive and unrelenting gambler who brought a breathless, frenetic, razor’s-edge excitement to every encounter with the racing scene. On this particular Sunday, he was absolutely, incontrovertibly convinced that a horse called ‘Engine’ would win hands down, by a margin that would devastatingly embarrass all his opponents.

The race began, and people started screaming out the names of their favourites. Nozzle had recklessly bet a fortune on Engine, and heads turned towards him in stupefied amazement when he started roaring, “Come on, Engine! Come on, Engine!” at the top of his raucous voice (hopelessly hoarse from chain-smoking those desperately rough, strong Honeydew cigarettes), for Engine was a droopy dead duck, notorious on the racing circuit as a miserably dreamy and thoroughly unreliable performer.

As expected, Engine was in no position to oblige, despite the enormous range of tactics employed by his seasoned and hapless mount to egg him on. The gap between Nozzle’s hot favourite and the others widened inexorably, and Engine finished last.

Nozzle’s cries of heart-rending despair at his grievous loss that day rent the air, and also brought the house down, “Arre, arre, arre! Tobaa! Tobaa!  Dabbaa aagal, Engine Paachhal!! Arre, arre!! Soo thai gayun!!”

(“Alas, alas, alas! Oh no! Oh no!  The train bogies shot ahead, and Engine was left behind!!! Alas, alas!! Oh, look what happened!!”)

The real triumph of Nozzle’s spirit, despite this latest and greatest ruination, was that he never learnt a lesson from this experience. He just continued to be his own true self till the very end of his life.

He did much wrong, and at the same time, was without sin. Can you figure that one out?

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