We live in a city that brags of its achievements, of its IT sectors, of its socially aware and educated crowd. For a while now, I lived with thi impression, until an incident that took place on June 19th changed my very perception of the city and its people.
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It was just another normal day and I was off to meet a friend living less than three kilometers from my place. I commute by rickshaws most of the time, since I don’t have my own vehicle. I got into an auto, the drivers earrings and strange looks did not bother me because like I said, I am a regular and I know better than judging people by their appearance. It was not until we crossed a hundred meters that everything felt weird.
There was another rickshaw at a distance, and a man on a bike, both eager to cross the narrow lane. This caused a jam that would have easily cleared, had one of them decided to give way. The driver of the rickshaw I was commuting in suddenly slowed down and gave the biker an angry stare and foul-mouthed him, much to my astonishment.
The road these men were on, did not disturb the path to my destination so I saw no point for him to do something as strange as that. The jam cleared and the driver just slowed down the auto in the middle of the road and kept staring at the biker with bloodshot eyes. The auto driver caught in the jam drove quite calmly and my rickshaw driver tried to buck up and keep pace with the other auto asking him in an arrogant tone “What the hell was that man’s problem?” The driver just smiled back and said in Kannada, “He’s playing the fool on the road.”
My driver reached the main road and began driving rashly almost hitting a kid seated on a bike behind his father. He drove past the other vehicles like in a video game. I held on to my seat and dialled my friend’s number as I wasn’t sure where exactly her house was located. The man was driving so fast and when I told him to stop he went a furlong further and applied the breaks in such a way I slid off my seat.
The meter showed thirty one rupees and I had 130, I told the man I was short of one buck. To which he pointed at a small cigarrette shop and asked me to change hundred for a buck. There were a lot of men smoking their bidis. He began insisting for the rupee, so I decided I would just take the change from my friend living a hundred meters from there.
I told him to take a right and he was speeding for no reason at all. I told him to take the next turn, he turned in the same pace and the auto skidded, moving on one wheel. I was on the wrong side and literally fell out of the auto, screaming in fear. To stop my head that had just fallen out I caught the bars of the auto which happened to have a nail that hit my palm hard. He gained control and the auto stopped, by now there were nearly 10 people gathered around us.
I got down from the 30 degree upturned auto and asked him the neccessity to drive so rashly. I do not know if he was hurt but I was hurt, my hands red and my knee hurting bad. He began hurling abuses at me, calling me names in Kannada. I was furious too, but to my disadvatange I do not know the language fluently, atleast not fluent enough to abuse him back.
I stood there checking if I was okay, if I could walk and he went on with the ‘nin amman, nin ajji’ etc. While I made a weak attempt to get back at him and yelled ‘nin appan,’ the unscrupulous driver now more furious than ever, got out of the auto in a manner such that he would have hit me. There were nearly six men around us and a few women. this happened at 5 pm in Kammanhalli, a few meters away from Jalvayu Vijar.
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I took two steps back, while he continued publicly vilifying me as he drove off. After he left, the people cleared and the few extremely ‘concerned ones’ adviced me not to leave these wicked drivers. They told me, “Always take down the auto registeration number.” I stood blank wondering what just hit me and why did the residents not make an attempt to take the number down themselves.
I was too shocked to talk. When my friend came and took me, I saw bruises on my legs and my palm was swollen. In fear of it being a fracture I rushed to the hospital and explained to the doctor of what had happened. He listened to me very affably, gave me pain killers and adviced me not to use my hand for a while. After handing over the prescription and giving me several tips on how to deal with auto drivers and enlightening me about the Indian public being the worst public in the world, he smiled and now switching over to Kannada he said, “This is India my dear, ADJUST MADKOLI!”
Seems like now commuters would require helmets, since most rickshaw drivers these days think they are all Michael Schumachers seated in Ferraris. Anyway every other person I narrated the incident to rebuked me for not taking the registeration number down, and I curse my weak presence of mind for letting that number go.
However, I don’t blame myslef either, the bruises, the pain, the abusive crazy driver and the well-dressed mute, some smiling and some serious onlookers was too much to take in all at once. The incident is still fresh in my memory. Though my hands are swollen and every attempt to type is as painful as the whole incident itself, I’m still making an effort to tell my story.
The real culprit I realised is silence. Silence is an option, choose to speak! Because my dear Bangloreans, why must we always adjust?