Cougar, Cab & Courage

Amrik Sanouria

No, it’s not an anagram for “a raisin oak rum” it’s the name of the taxi driver who picked me up one night in Victoria, BC.

I was impatient and harried by endless mid-tour hours of laptop dealings and a brutal harvest moon so when I got a late night invite to a bar by a buddy during the build up to the Rifflandia festival I was there. But the cab was late, I had to wait on the street loitering beneath the lone light in semirural Saanich with my mind flickering between cursing the taxi company and the unnerving local reports of cougars trolling that very same street.

It was with a sense of relief and annoyance when the yellow Prius turned up. I had to wave after it using my phone as a luminescent beacon as he inexplicably stopped and turned back not more than 50 yards before me. Maybe he had spotted the cougar crouching in the darkness just beyond my prone back. What ever his reason I managed to get his attention and the fare.

I like to talk to cabbies, but on this occasion I was off, distracted, disinterested. I mumbled a few curt directions but when he mumbled back his response he got my attention. His voice and words were buried and delivered with a slurring meter and I said to myself “oh great, this guy is either drunk, jazzed up on dexies or half asleep, no wonder he was late, man!”. Twice I have had cab drivers fall asleep at the wheel while careening me someplace, twice! Once in Boston and the other in Sydney and now it looked like I was heading for geographically balancing west coast example of poor professional workplace practice. I was wrestling with the dilemma of wether to abandon the fare and take my chances with the competing cab co and the local cougars at the risk of missing some good distracting cheer with my buddy while hanging with the Rifflandia hipsters at Smiths bar … I even got good intel that Sonic Youths Lee Ranaldo was going to drop in.

My conundrum was interrupted by a second slurred delivery by the taxi driver asking me what I was doing and I begrudgingly delivered a short closing response along the lines of meeting a muso buddy for a beer. I didn’t feel like talking, I was harried by the weeks music-biz-online-muck-work and figured it best to create an air of tension in the hope that it might steel the wits of the inebriated driver.

“I used to sing,” he said to me, his voice a little clearer but tinged by some obscured emotion I couldn’t yet resolve, “…in India” he haltingly continued with mild slurring. “Here we go” I thought to myself “some taxi drivers drunken reminiscence and desire to relate to a musician customer about some yesteryear small time covers band he fronted, a vain attempted at ….” but before I could finish my accusatory line of internal diatribe he finished his laboured sentence with “… before I had a stroke”.

Cab silence.

Amrik Sanouria is the same age as me and had a beautiful voice and promising Bollywood pop music career until four years prior when one day, out of the blue, he collapsed and woke up without a voice and a numb and motionless right side. We spoke of his slow recovery and his acceptance that he will never sing again but I was filled with a conflicting mixture of grief for his unspeakable loss, gratitude for my able body and wonder for his strength. I couldn’t fathom the depth of resolve required to confront such a loss and the effort to get back a fraction of what was so wholly taken in an unwitting instant.

Some happenings I feel have no meaning, just like the fact that another anagram for Amriks name is “sink aria amour”.

Blind chance and bad luck are lonely souls as they have no family and any of the relatives attributed to them, either by an innocent victim or partial observer, are merely shadowy figures of superstition. Conversely, I like to think of ‘rhyme and reason’ as musical twins in humanities mindful and compassionate family and in Amriks case I was unsuspectingly yet gratefully introduced to his closest companion and twin, courage.

Here’s a video of Amrik singing some Bollywood gold.