Suddenly I find myself using this phrase…that too, twice in a week.
It also made for some riveting conversation. When I start “You know what a taxi second is?”, I should have not been surprised when people drew a blank.
Before I tell you what a taxi second is supposed to mean, a word on how I discovered this interesting turn of phrase. No less interesting is the man from whom I picked this up.
Arun Veembur did many (and unusual) things before he lost his life from a tragic slip on the Cangshan range near Dali in China’s Yunnan province. A little over two years ago, he was on a solo hike on those treacherous mountains and, as dusk fell, so did he. A budding journalist, a talented writer, an exceptionally intrepid traveller, and above all, a very funny and irrepressible human being. And, of course, before all that for me, a dear nephew.
One who could never cease to learn (and to teach!), to read (and to write), to talk (and to listen, though not necessarily to follow!), to make friends (and be a great one himself)…the list could be as endless…as his dreams and aspirations.
For someone who is an avid reader, a book collector and a lover of everything words, I continued to be surprised by Arun’s mastery on the above. I later outgrew the pleasant shock of finding hidden gems in his bookshelf, despite having a formidable collection in my own library. When he visited us, I would revel in going over my favourite books with him; in particular, I cannot forget the happy hours we spent chuckling over the wit of Ogden Nash, one of our mutual favourites.
As for those delightful twists of phrases that I would stumble upon his writings, I can only hold back my grief, my anger, my helplessness when I realise he could have been alive, and amidst us all, to write many more of them. Not to talk of the book that he so wanted to write and which was the reason he took that sensational route out of India and ended up in Kunming, Dali and eventually at his final port of calling…
Anyway, back to the discussion on a ‘taxi second’. As per Arun, this is what it is…straight out of one of his write-ups for the Deccan Herald where he worked briefly before life (and eventually death) called him beyond Bangalore.
“A ‘taxi second‘ is defined as the time between a traffic signal turning green and the driver behind one’s car blowing his horn.”
I was so taken in (as I was with many more of his brilliant wisecracks and lovely antics) by this phrase when I came upon it a week ago that I found myself recounting it on two different occasions wondering if people had heard about what I thought was an ‘in circulation’ phrase.
But I should have known better. Arun, given a choice, would paint up a picture himself rather than take a print of someone else’s.
The next time, at some traffic signal, someone behind me honks like he has got ants in his pants, I will remember what a taxi second means. And, maybe, instead of shifting gears, would get out of my car and walk over to regale the stressed out driver with Arun’s explanation of what he had done just then.