Sitting in the car on the main road outside the airport, I keep a weather eye out for cops. This is a No Parking Zone, but so is the road leading in to Departure and Arrival. Parking, such as it is, is unaffordable. So I wait outside for the flight from Chennai to land, and my mother waits outside Arrival promising to call me once she's ready to leave. Thankfully it is a Sunday and there's nearly no traffic on the roads, making the one cop under the flyover lazy and lenient.
Cool dudes on motorbikes whizz past with no helmets on; cars go on the wrong side of the road with their headlights on because the road they want is just here, so who's going to go half a kilometre to make that turn? One enterprising crowd on a scooter stops ahead of my car to drop off the third man, who then skips across the road and rejoins them on the other side, out of the cop's line of vision.
Just then, a mail van drives by. I see it in my rear view mirror and cannot believe my eyes. Mail van on a Sunday? But it is a mail van, and I make a hasty wish. I've always wished on mail vans and looked out for black cars afterwards. Some years ago, black cars were a rarity and you'd have to wait for a long time to uncross your fingers - like looking out for the second star after you've wished on Venus, and you gave up because the stars just didn't turn up or it was dinner time or there was, more often than not, too much light pollution to be able to see anything but the first one. Wishes were not so easily granted. But now black cars are more common than a cold; it is the mail vans that are rare and joyful to behold as a consequence.
So I wished, hastily as I said, because there was no time to think what I really wanted. I just had to wish. A black Swift drove by over the flyover. I squinted to see it well enough to release the wish. Then, to my increasing disbelief and happiness, in the space of the next ten minutes, five mail vans drove into and out of the airport, with black cars either following them or driving past on the other side, sometimes just obscured by the van.
There's a lesson in here somewhere. I think this means that if I want something badly enough, I have to hang out outside post offices at clearance time, or at airports on Sundays. But wishes granted that easily can't be worth much. Surely life has to be more difficult?
For instance, if a black car follows the mail van, is it allowed? Is a wish released no sooner than it is captured, heard at all by whoever is supposed to make these things come true? Is there enough time? And what if you catch the same mail van and car several times, just because you can see it again and again - once in front of you, then in the rear view mirror, or perhaps out of each window as it passes, making a separate frame and therefore a new mail van.
And do blinks count?
And do you get greedy and make several different wishes on each passing van, or do you get desperate and wish the same wish again and again?
Half and hour went by, and then forty-five minutes. The flight still hadn't landed and the mail vans had all gone. I sat and watched the clouds scudding across the sky and the diffuse sun spotlighting the road every now and then.
And then the call came. Not the one that meant the mail vans had done their work, but the one that meant I no longer had to sit and outstare every passing weirdo who wondered what I was doing there on the main road.
I'm still waiting for the other thing to manifest itself. Clearly, plenitude means nothing. Wishes demand penance and long waiting. I feel lucky but maybe that's just Google. I'm considering being bitter and cynical when the next mail van goes by. And if there is no black car in sight, I've promised myself not to make a wish.