Chennai , 6 10 am,Saturday .A pair of hands enjoying a poor man’s “Mike Tyson versus Rambo” fist fight, with the choicest of madras slang thrown in! Two call taxi drivers in a waltz! Welcome to Chennai Kamraj Domestic Terminal. I had an urgent trip to Bombay to make and I usually don’t like this kind of a start to my day! And lo and behold, the next piece of news astounded me! My flight took off 5 minutes before time and landed 10 minutes ahead at Mumbai! I will surely have Jet lag!.
Thinking it prudent , because it works well in the oft-maligned cabs of chennai, I wanted to take a pre paid taxi to Andheri(w).
Security guy ” 3321 cab le lo saab”
3321 cab driver ” Andheri nahi chalega”
Security guy ” yeh wallah cab mein jao”
yeh wallah cab driver “Kyun? 3321 kya kaha?”
Me ” Huh??”
Finally I got into another cab
Our new cab driver asked me how much I paid and started whining about traffic and why Andheri W sucks and then he got into a low pitched marathi-ish hindi which sounded like an associate’s voice after appraisal! .
God has not endowed me with too many good habits, but one habit which alternates between good and dangerous, has been an ability to empathise and converse with anyone! . With my broken hindi (sample given above , you may have seen) , I heroically started conversing with my only hope for Andheri (W) sitting and driving our airawat. His bark slowly turned into a low growl and then some silence. We were now at one of the many signals in Mumbai , where Metro rail is creating havoc in traffic. And as it happens anywhere in India, I see a “not so priviledged” old lady extending her arm against my window, with nothing in her palm and hope in her heart. I give her a 5 rupee coin. And our cab sarathy looks at me and says “Malik dekh raha hai”. One more person comes to the car and I give her a 5 too, and now , our cabbie shows me a little of his pan chewing teeth , and enamels it with a smile
And then he starts telling me his life story, of his native UP,his poverty. His name is Irfan btw.He talks about religious persecution, he talks about the serial blasts of 1993. And then I ask him where he was on 26/11.
And ….there is silence and slowly he turns back and says ” Woh kala dhin tha saab, bahut takleef diya”. and he says his mind is still filled with anger , fear,hatred. And he continues ” ek cab driver ko uda diya, woh K…..”Anguish, pain in his voice. I realise how we all are, socially emotional animals.The most stark and horrid image for Irfan, was that of a fellow cab driver, being killed.It was not about politics or religion or anything else. It was his empathy, his immediate identity which he connected to
I swiftly take him away from that topic and ask him if he prays.I ask him about Ramzan. And then I ask him which is his favorite place of workship. And irfan says ” Woh Sachin Tendukar ka mandir hai na, Siddhi Vinayak,Dadar may!”
This time , I was stunned into silence.I realised what I had heard!”Irfan Mohammad” loves Siddhi Vinayak! What a beautiful country ours is! Here was a simple poor man, telling me God doesn’t have an affliation! And he also tell me about our responsibility ! He says it is Sachin’s temple! Thats his identification! What an impact! Isn’t that the impact all of us in seats of responsibilty have? When many our following us , or doing things because we are doing it, don’t we need to set the right examples?
What a lesson!
And finally we arrive at Anderi (W) and Irfan stops the car , gets out with me , and says “Aao saab, Chai peelenge” and buys me the most wonderful cup of tea I will ever have in my life!
And to think my story started with two cab drivers fighting with each other that morning!