Pic.: Shankar Ramachndran
As the autorickshaw I was commuting by stopped at the busy signal, the cleaner of the tempo next to us spat out on the road, inches away from us, blood-red paan from his mouth. Barely the mess had touched the ground, my young autowala blasted: “You idiot, do you do it on your house-floor, too?”… He was really furious!
“Why are you worked-up? Is there any problem for you?” the cleaner yelled back.
“Yes, there ‘is’ a problem for me,” my autowala was out on the road, now, “Do you want me to show you that?”
On the other side, the cleaner opened the tempo-door and was ready to pick the gauntlet…
The yellow-light had already flashed… I knew, if someone didn’t intervene, a war would break out on the busy street!
So, I held my autowala’s hand, gently, saying, “Brother, let it be.”
On the others side, I saw the tempo-driver gently pleading before the autowala, “Sorry brother, he shouldn’t have done that.”
Luckily, the cleaner had calmed down, by now… and, my autowala was back on his seat… “This city is dirty because of these pigs!” he gave out his last line!
The green-light had come on, and the tempo and auto both went in their own directions…
On rest of my journey, a few questions haunted my mind:
Why did my autowala react so spontaneously and I didn’t? Was he more concerned about our city than I was?
Why did the tempo-driver ask an unconditional apology and what made the cleaner calm down, so quickly?
What if a war had broken out on the road?
When I gave the fare, I said to my autowala, “You did a great service to this city… Many were watching you!”
I was one of them, for sure.