It's been ages I had interesting conversations with the autowallah bhai log. Around Diwali, i met a kind soul who drove me home safely through an unavoidable potholed road.He charged 10 rupees more than the actual meter fare and for a change, i didn't feel bad giving him his premium. I also offered a box of Diwali sweets.His face lit up and he was tad guilty, left with a 'Happy Diwali, Madam!'
Yesterday,I was outside a big retail store with a big bag and of course,the waiting autos are always the foxy ones, negotiating with them is a real hurdle. So I don't even look at them - simply ignore. I flagged a running auto, a young boy driver and I must say,I am partial to brand new autos.He had absolutely short hair, seems to me, he shaved his head weeks ago.I didn't say a word, just hopped in and he had that 'please,meter pe 10 rupaiya, madam' look. I gave him a hard stare and told him to take the nearest left and exit to the connecting road. He mumbled a grumble but gave up mid-way, more like a student who has been denied a free period.He defended he won't get any return passenger. I retorted he should never give up hope.He said he lost all his hair hoping.I was like - come again? I preached if he got up everyday that he would not get any passengers.You can always expect 2 kinds of reactions. One, to extract their pound of flesh, some autowallas drive over potholes purposely and make you regret you ever hired them. Two, well the obvious - drive properly.Well, my young boy drove properly, more out of love for his new auto.And, methinks, he is not from the city, once in a while, he asked me directions. Two, he also gave me options of shortcuts or regular U-turns which meant more fuel and more fare.I left it to him and he took care it was optimum for both.
I was amused a little. I remarked at him that he does not look like a local, he confirmed. He was from Mahbubnagar and I asked him what about his family. He said he has none. I asked again, mother-father? He was puzzled, and answered of course, his parents were there. Then, what was he thinking - wife and kids
. His parents were in Annaram.On further enquiries he said he is a class 9 drop-out and he was more interested in autos and lost interest in school.I asked him if he ever wanted to finish school. He said yes, his mother is after his life egging him to write his 10th.I asked him, if he wants to. He said yes because he feels bad his friends are in college.I asked him his age, he quickly defended saying he is not so grown-up as he looks but is much younger. I told him I didn't say he looked old. He reluctantly revealed he was 17.And what about his driving licence - he was like 'ho jata'. Very good, I told him his entire life was there in front of him and tomorrow, his kids would be very proud if their dad managed to study a little more.
Soon, I was at my doorstep. He pleaded with me to give that extra 10 bucks. I looked at him with a stern but gentle stare. I handed him the meter fare. He accepted it fairly. Then, I handed him 10 bucks with the promise that he will write his 10th open schooling exam.And wherever and whenever we meet again, he should shout out with the update.I asked his name - Venkatesh. He asked my name - 'What is your name, Madam?' I said, 'Madam!' And, that I used to teach kids his age.He held that 10 rupees, wondering whether to return or ..I didn't turn back.