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The Real and the Surreal: A Roller Coaster Ride

Some experiences can occur later in life. The Hair Raiser roller coaster ride at Ocean Park in Hong Kong, happened courtesy family pressure, specifically his 12-year-old daughter. It was followed by similar upturned, twisted and turned, high speed encounters at Disneyland, which can be a little rattling for the brain, tummy, ego and self-confidence. His life is not entirely boring, writes Siddharth Srivastava.

(Above): The infamous auto rickshaw, India’s answer to the roller coaster.

I do have my share of thrilling moments, such as watching T-20 cricket matches, safely perched on my immovable couch, eating and drinking. At other times, I have no other option but to travel inside an unstable auto rickshaw, which anybody living in India knows, can be a death-defying act in itself, zigzagging through heavy traffic, at very high speeds.

On, under, sideways at the Hair Raiser, my expression was mostly open-mouthed in a distort kind of way. I tried to yell. I did not hear myself until the abrupt end of the woozy ride. For my 12-year-old, it was simply “awesome,” even as she furiously waved her arms, ooo-ing, aaah-ing, laughing, like the rest. That’s the way it is in the many YouTube videos she has been watching as a build up to the real event in Hong Kong. An overdose of action flicks such as Hunger Games, Fast and Furious and feverishly-paced multimedia games have their impact on kids.

And my kid only wanted more of the rides, despite humid weather and queues of expressionless Chinese Mainlanders patiently waiting their turn. She obviously did not want to do it alone. She wanted me to be by her side, not for support, but for doing things together as a family, a theory aggressively propounded by her parents.

I tried to explain, togetherness on a roller coaster is not akin to dinnertime family talk, but she would have none of my arguments. Plus, as a father I was also concerned about her doing stuff on her own that I was not fully comfortable about, like hanging upside down from the side of a steep mountain with the sea hundreds of feet below.

My wife cleverly took charge of our three-and-half-year-old younger daughter, who can be as difficult about her needs such as Temple Run time on the iPhone.

Gender stereotypes and biases in real life are a lot different than the constant talk in the media. The man has to earn, change nappies and do the roller coaster. There is no choice in the matter. The woman changes nappies, while the rest depends on her mood, whims and interest.

The current status of my younger kid, conveniently for my wife, is the unhurried horse and other animal carousels that I too do not mind. Some of the movements translate to a nice butt massage. My surmise, though, is I will need to do another set of roller coaster rounds some years down the line when the younger one seeks out the high speed thrills.

I am sure the rides will only be worse, longer, higher and with more upside down time. Or, maybe I will let the two sisters handle it between them.

I do believe India could do with more roller coasters. It cannot be a priority area like roads, power, railways or hospitals that our Prime Minister Narendra Modi should incorporate into his agenda for change or “achche din.”

Amusement parks can be a safe entertainment option beyond eating out, pubs and Bollywood movies for regular middle class folks who want more. I also believe there are enough thrill seekers in our midst, who could do with a bit of artificially enhanced adrenalin inside their bodies without endangering lives of others. These would include rash car drivers that can range from young Alto to BMW occupants and call center cabs. They abound. All roller coasters should be made complimentary for inherently dangerous auto rickshaw drivers.

Soothed and satiated of their homicidal and suicidal tendencies they will perhaps drive with some sanity on Indian roads that are far more dangerous than any roller coaster ride around the world.

Siddharth Srivastava is India correspondent Siliconeer. He is author of "An Offbeat Story," a reality fiction novel. He lives in New Delhi.


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