Where I stay, around the corner there is a fleet of autos. Each one have taken turns to drop me to work. They all have their own stories and an unspoken acknowledgement that they are all there for all my errands. I call them Bhai but they treat me like their lil’ girl and fondly call me “Madam” like my students in college.
I had so gotten used to Abdul Bhai dropping me to work. He knew which pothole to avoid and could read every crease of panic on my forehead that I was running late. There are days when he light-heartedly told me - “Madam, aap late ho aaj.” Of course, there is no fixed monthly payment arrangement. There are days when I take the bus or a loved one drops me to work. So, the meter never runs for these guys, I pay them the normal rate incurred once upon a time on the meter! And when Abdul Bhai is present, no other Bhai comes forward unless he has another set of school children to drop.
So there are days when Abdul Bhai has no change and very conveniently, I ask him to keep the change for the next day’s fare. So days went by and one morning, I don’t find him there and I don’t see him for days on end. I was curious to ask the brethren but refrained. One or the other took turns to drop me to work. I decided to keep the advance payment system a lil’ to my advantage. Abdul Bhai owed me 60 rupees before he did the disappearing act.
One Saturday afternoon I saw him catching a nap in his tuk-tuk. I was relieved he was back and so glad that my fears were proved wrong. But again, he never showed up in the mornings. I was like OK, he must be serving guard at some other place to avoid paying my money. I feel extremely horrible to admit this.
But on Wednesday he showed up and wished me, “Namaste Madam, bahut din ke baad..” I was like ahem ahem, managed to break ice, inquired about his missing-abouts. He told me his tuk-tuk gave him enough trouble to not turn up in the mornings. And you know what, when I got down near college, he told me with gallant honesty that he still owed me 60 rupees.
You might be tempted to say it’s only 60 rupees, big deal! I know as much - it is not that 60 rupees but someone’s trust and another’s credibility. He restored my faith and affirmation. Smiles.
This afternoon, I had a nasty auto-guy to deal with on my way home. He wanted to intimidate me with his auto-meter theory and that I was being difficult and all. It was pretty apparent I was fighting for justice with a buffalo in front of my home. There was an unnecessary ruckus. And guess what, Abdul Bhai and another Bhai came to my rescue. There is a certain chutzpah in the manner he conducted himself. He told me clearly, “Madam you pay just as much as you should. We will take care of the rest.” I took a peek back and see what the deal was. Very professionally, the nasty fellow was shooed away.
I was definitely not crying for help. But in a public situation with onlookers, we also have proactive people and one of them is Abdul Bhai. I just prayed for him, thanked god for people like him. I felt good to be in Hyderabad.
Thank you, Abdul Bhai. You are my new hero.