Wednesday, November 26, 2008


So I've had plenty of discussions regarding religion, how some believe that God is in control of everything while others believe that he's just there and lets things slide according to the laws of physics and what not. One thing most everyone agrees on is Karma. How Newton's third law applies to feelings as well.
Two cases in point follow.

In Bombay, during my Summer Internship, my office was in the area of Andheri. It was situated along the highway and at the junction where one has to take a turn off the highway to get to the Andheri station, which is how over half of Bombay commutes. So one fine evening (and it really was a fine evening, cloudy, windy and cool) I was catching an auto outside my office to head to the station for my weekly weekend trip to Churchgate, Colaba, and one of the numerous Bars/Restaurants there. After a not so brief wait, I finally managed to get hold of an empty auto. Immediately as I got in, I saw a young man (he couldn't have been more than two years older than I) emerge from the many by lanes of Bombay onto the road I was on in search of an auto as well. I asked to driver to stop and offered to give the young man a lift to the station. He smiled and agreed and got on.

In the short five minute ride, we discussed mundane things about the city, the weather, the ongoing IPL matches (which I never followed but loved Bullshitting my way through - actually I can't bullshit my way through them, just love bullshitting about how I bullshit about stuff; "all talk", I am, so I've been told). He asked me where I was going, I asked him the same, and we spoke half-heartedly with each other. When we got off, he reached for his wallet but I refused to accept his money, reasoning that I was going to pay the minimum ten rupees regardless of whether I had picked him up or not, and I paid the auto driver and walked off.

The Bombay local is known for the multitudes of passengers that throng the trains, stations and the roads that lead up to them. One author estimated that the trains carry more than the population of the state of New Zealand - every day. To travel on them, one needs to have one of a) a train pass - which are available for a fixed route; b) a set of coupons - which allow you to travel from and to any station till the coupons run out; and c) a normal run of the mill ticket purchased from the counter. The first two save you the hassle of waiting in line at the ticket counter, lines which often extend to infinity in the clammy heat of the Bombay Summer. This day was no different - save for the somewhat comforting weather, which was mostly nullified while standing in an enclosed space with about two hundred people.

So I'm standing in line, and counting till 100 and then backwards and then forwards and backwards to kill time. Suddenly I feel a tap on my shoulder. I turn around expecting someone to ask me if he/she can cut in line and am all ready to decline when I see the young man whom I had given a lift earlier standing behind me to the side holding out a punched coupon for Churchgate station. He smiles in the way only good men know how to smile (or bad men who have been shown incredible acts of kindness, like how I would imagine the Raj smiled when they bowed before the Mahatma) and handed me the piece of paper, thanked me once more, and walked off.

The second incident occurred just two days back, in the city of Bangalore (where I am currently residing) and completed my theory of sowing what you reap. After going on a solitary KFC binge at the nearby mall, I was in an auto on the way back to campus, which is not six kilometres from the mall. Now the auto drivers in Bangalore are just obnoxious. All those who have ever had to travel by an autorickshaw in the city would know what I am talking about. They curse you, demand extra fares for the most inane reasons (I recall one person being told that his meter ran faster than the bike his friend had followed them on because the autorickshaw had three wheels and the bike only two) and get downright confrontational to the point of using violence if you do not acquiesce to their exorbitant demands. I've lived in Delhi for three years, and as an outsider, I can tell you that the rickshawallahs there are serious pains in the posteriors. But they seem like angels compared to the drivers here.

So I'm on my way back and the traffic is hell. It's rush hour in the Silicon Valley of India and all those young IT professionals with their large cars bought off thier hefty MNC salaries (which are actually dirt cheap for the MNCs) are crowded on Bannerghatta Road. My auto is stuck behind a long line of cars when these two men on a bike pull up on the right and ask the auto driver if he can let them pass in front of the auto so that they can get into the left lane. The auto driver gives them a glare, as always, which they assume to be consent. After all, you will never see a smiling autorickshaw driver in the Garden City.

The two men on the bike begin to make the pass in front of our man's auto when without warning (and no reason save to irk the bikers) the driver of the auto nudges his vehicle into the rear tire of the bike. Nothing serious of course, just a little bullying to remind them of who's boss.

Which backfired terribly of course. The two men immediately disembark from their two wheeler and step up to the side of the auto and begin what I must admit was one of the best vicarious highs of my life. They heaped abuses on him in the local dialect (which I unfortunately am unable to reproduce here) and slapped him around incessantly, each slap being followed by more insults and more slapping, each louder, harder, more spiteful than the last.

I sat in the back seat with a smile in my head. After all, it was the auto driver's fault. And more than that, though I firmly believe that "an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind", there are still those people who cannot understand any language other than the gospel of violence and dada-ism they preach. After a full five minutes, I got bored of the spectacle and intervened, pleading to the two bikers that he had been slapped enough and that I was getting late. With a slap and a slight, they broke away from the flustered driver and clambered back onto their Bajaj and sped off.

The scales do balance, as I have said earlier. The same auto driver whose humiliation I had passively partaken in turned out to be incredibly honest - his meter was not tampered with, as so many are in this city - and I decided to tip him for it, paying him the sixty rupees that was my reservation price for the ride back home.


Startup Talk said...

what are u talking about??? you write awfully well

The Comedian said...

Me write everything from arbit max thoughts to highly biased opinions... potpourri, avial, gravy...
and thanks...