June 1, 2001

point a finger at someone; three are pointing back at you

i fought with two, not one, but TWO auto guys, right at the centre of a main road, at vashi.

the autowallahs here can be very helpful, if you’re unlucky, they could also be the snobbiest person you’d ever meet that day. sometimes you can see that when you enter the auto, sometimes you realise it when you get out.

here’s what happened:

i had to go to vashi. since i did not want to subject my fragile little spine to two bus rides, i decided to take an auto one-way… got into an auto waiting outside our office, and asked him to take me to vashi.

driver1: saatth rupaye honge (that’ll be rs 60)

i’d anticipated this, and sternly told him i’d pay by the metre-card only, which would roughly come up to rs 45 or so. he agreed, and just as he started the auto, his friend got in too. now this guy was stone-drunk.

after a nail-biting ride along the highway (the two friends kept exchanging the driver’s seats, right on the middle of the road!), two narrow escapes with a speeding bus and another with a tanker, i decided i’d had enough of excitement for the day and asked him to stop. i hadnt reached my destination yet (HDFC bank) but it was a five-minute-walk from where we stopped.

i saw the metre-reading just in time before he turned it down with a quick move…turned back to me and said: saatth rupaya

me: but the metre read just 3:40! show me your card
driver1: i don’t have a card
drunk driver: its rs 60, you’ll have to pay up
me: no i don’t need to, show me your card or i’ll call the police
drunk driver: o yeah, so you’ll call the police hanh, you’ll walk off without paying?

i could sense that this is going to grow into an ugly scene, but i’d decided to fight if i had to. so i picked up my bag, and got off the auto. my idea was not to walk away without paying them, but there was an auto a few yards ahead and i wanted to get the right rates from him.

the drunkard guessed what i was up to and followed me close, rambling all the while. i’d reached the other auto and found out that the charge actually came up to rs 43. lest i have to fight to get back money from the two jokers, i fished out exact change from my purse and handed it to the more sober driver, who by now had probably realised the futility of the entire fight. he also saw that the drink was doing its bit to make his friend yell and ask for money from me.

meanwhile, a little crowd was beginning to gather, and in that little crowd were three little women. i wouldnt have noticed them, had one of them not tapped on my shoulder to ask what was wrong.

they were very dark-skinned, all three of them. the bright coloured yet weather-beaten sarees, cheap and gaudy-looking bangles on their hands, and the garish and glossy lipstick on their face reminded me of the girls who always line the streets of d n road at bombay, even during the day time. were these little women prostitutes too? what could they be doing here? would they extort money from me too?

a second question from the same woman reminded me that i was supposed to be fighting with the autodrivers. perhaps i was happy to have more people on my side…i gave them a quick summary of what it was about and before i could complete, the women verbally pounced on them…with the choicest hindi (and kannada) gaalis i’d probably heard only in the movie satya. this scared the lights out of the sober autodriver, who’d already begun to drag his drunk and ego-battered friend back into his auto.

while the rest of the tamasha-watchers dispersed, the women began to question me about where i wanted to go, and whether i’d be ok. but i suddenly felt threatened in their presence. the thought that they’re going to make me pay for their help just wouldnt leave my head.

maybe i really had too much of adventure for a day. because i was very wrong.

even if the women were prostitutes, for that moment i didnt see that they were the only ones who helped me, when none of the so-called “educated” lot stood around enjoying the scene. the realisation was very humbling. while i gave a piece of my mind to the drunk autodriver, three strangers left me with a lesson i’ll never forget.

a) that i can stand on my feet when needed and even fight when i have to, alone.

b) that i too can make mistakes.

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.