Monday, 14 January 2008

True Story: Citizen Auto-Driver


On the way to uni this morning, I performed the usual rituals; getting into an auto-rickshaw, ensuring the driver understood where I was going. Trust me, I've been driven to places WAAAY of the mark a few times when I did not name at least 2 landmarks besides mentioning the name of my famous campus and uni!

Anyway, the point is, 2 mins away from my stop I prepared my fare in hand so that I don't start searching my bag for the right change when I get there. Today I took out a Rs.100 note to pay the driver my Rs.60 fare.

When I whisked the note out of my purse, it flew out of my hand into the merciless traffic of Kamaraj Salai. Anyone who's been on Kamaraj Salai will tell you it is no less than a death wish, to run after a stray note on that road, no matter what the denomination. But tell that to my auto driver, will you?! This amazingly brave driver (or brainless...whichever you'd perceive him to be), parked the vehicle safely along the roadside, got down, and darted through the heavy traffic, dodging the tank-like Ambassadors, reckless scooters, autos etc to chase the note. As though that was not amazing enough, he actually caught it while it whizzed between vehicles. He then proudly waved to me with it, 50 yards off where I sat, completely awestruck!

As he walked back towards me, I saw an arm extend from behind a pillar that separated him and the road he had to cross to get to me. It gestured him to approach. From the sleeve on the arm, I knew it would be a traffic policeman who must have seen the incident as we'd passed him so closely during this 'drama'. I assumed he just wished to "kepoh", as we say in Malaysia....or in English, to be a "busy body".

The driver disappeared beind the pillar. When he emerged next, he wore an angry expression, nodding his head in annoyance and was muttering under his breath. As soon as he saw me peering out of his auto, he apologised and explained that the policeman had literally taken the note out of his hand! No explanation or query. Just like that! The auto driver expressed his annoyance about his failed attempts at convincing the policeman that the money belonged to a customer in his auto, just across the road!

The auto driver suggested to me politely that perhaps I should cross the road and go ask the policeman for the money myself since the policeman doubted the driver's testimony. This of course was a last resort as it has commonly been the advice of my Chennite friends, to stay clear of troublesome (or more precisely in this case, bullying) coppers. As I got out of the vehicle, the policeman who was up until that time standing there watching the driver walk back to the auto, hurriedly got on his bike and sped off!

The auto driver's eyes turned bloodshot and he started swearing at the policeman! I was amazed that my driver felt a certain sense of duty towards getting his customer's rightful money, back. Among so many auto drivers I'd met who couldn't give a toss as to what happens to their customers, today's auto driver came to me as a big surprise. Though I lost my money to the cop, I felt I needed to reward my driver. So I gave him a tip over the fare, both of which I had to conjour up from my remaining stash after a desparate search for spare change in my school bag. I was again amazed that he was polite enough to refuse my first attempt to give him a tip.

And that, was the event of today which I thought was blog-worthy.

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