Search This Blog

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


"Some men are born mediocre,some achieve mediocrity and some have mediocrity thrust upon them...."
This seemingly inoccuous statement could have had serious consequences for me a few days back.After a very enjoyable afternoon out with friends,I was in search for an auto-rickshaw ride back home.As I was to find out soon......Boy,did I get one!

A quick rain-check on the status of auto-rickshaw drivers in Ranchi ,for the reader-Not to be confused with the lowly,down-on-luck,wretched creatures to be found on the streets of bigger cities , Ranchi auto drivers are massive chain-smoking,gutka-chewing,cop-baiting Stallones.

They have tremendous faith in both themselves and their machines-angular,lean,diesel-guzzling behemoths,which give off a solid,reliable thunk-thunk sound as they go about their daily rounds of the city,like a benevolent monarch checking on his subjects.

It was a hot,muggy evening,the kind that draws out your sweat glands teasingly,and leave you often with a single,immensely annoying trickle of sweat down your back.I glanced inside the auto which was almost filled.I thought I could squeeze in myself towards the front of the vehicle,and presently I did so.I sat there,two other people with me minus the driver himself,and waited.And waited.And waited.

It seems that the driver was not to be appeased until the auto had broken every known record(if such a record existed) of people crammed in an auto.No amount of pleas on our part could move him to stop looking for potential customers and start his hallowed vehicle.Finally the chap on my side decided that enough was bloody well enough.

"Agar nahi chaalu kiye to jaa rahen hain hum........", he insisted, in what he obviously thought was an ominous,scary voice,as if pronouncing the death sentence to the driver.The driver barely glanced behind his back,continued his calls of "Aaiye aaiye....Harmu colony,Argora road...." and somewhere in between managed these words-"To hum kab roke hain aapko....jaaiyega to jaaiye....sasur ka gaadi nahi hai aapka...."

I was speechless.As the driver stood there smoking a beedi,in his carefully careless way,I sensed all the swagger of a Viv Richards striding out to bat against hapless novice bowlers,a Jimi Hendrix strutting his stuff in front of the swooning millions,a Kasparov secure in the knowledge of his own genius..........

Meanwhile the driver spit out red betel-juice on the road(he had discarded the beedi in the favour of a paan now),an elderly woman stumbled and stuttered her way towards the backseat of the auto.Now the auto was so full, that stray hands and legs were beginning to poke their way out of the open sides of the vehicle,like overgrown diseased branches of some massive banyan tree.Half of my own body was now at the mercy of the elements.

It was then that the driver,I'll call him Rambo,was finally satisfied.So,with four in the front,minus Rambo himself,and God knows how many people in the back,we set forth on our voyage,as intrepid as Columbus himself.

Picture this,if you can.There was so little space in the front,that Rambo was nowhere near facing the steering.Instead he was near the edge of the vehicle,his legs pinned to one side,his upper half contorted in an angle of 45 degrees or even less,to reach and control the steering.And don't even get me started about my own discomfort.It shall suffice to say that I was just about conscious of my limbs,and I was hanging on for dear life.

I have never been on a real rollercoaster,but the mixture of thrill and fear is, I have been told,somewhat similar.It was in apparent disdain for traffic laws and the laws of physics alike that our merry ride was thundering along.

Since Rambo was not directly in front of the steering,he had only his wrists,instead of the whole arms,to provide direction to the wheel.So,the auto was turning sharply and rather abruptly,sometimes avoiding unsuspecting passers-by by inches.Those magical wrists,with all the artistry of a Tendulkar flicking off his pads,or that of a Federer imparting a beguiling top-spin on his forehand.............. they were all that stood between us and disaster.

Yes,the game was well and truly on.After a particularly close shave with a motorcycle rushing directly towards us,he turned towards me,and grinned from ear to ear,showing off his tobacco-stained molars,as if to say,"Close shave,eh?" I tried not to betray the fear on my face as I meekly told him to slow down,a motion seconded by-
1) A young mother clutching her infant daughter who was getting increasingly shrill with each turn.

2)An excitable old lady who presently let forth a stream of Bhojpuri abuse which would,I am sure,have put her grandchildren to shame.

In the face of such strong and varied opposition,even the mighty Rambo had to bite the bullet.He slowed down,and finally a couple of passengers skipped off the auto,grateful to have reached their destination alive and well.This meant that life was a lot easier for both Rambo and myself.He now had more space to manouevre and as for me,well......the circulation returned to my blood-starved legs.

When it was time,finally,to step off the auto,I heaved a huge sigh of relief,having seen tantalising and unescapable proof of my mortality.I looked at the ground beneath my feet,like a pilgrim setting foot in Mecca for the first time.My spirits lifted considerably,I reached in my pocket to hand Rambo the fare,which he accepted with a good-natured grin,which was either a sign of his beastly sarcasm....or his deep-rooted psychosis.

Either way,he left me with this parting thought-
"Bhaiyaji,sambhal ke...aajkal to paidal log ka bhi koi theek nahi hai......hamri gaadi ka kya karen..."

No comments: