A chance meeting with Moinuddin in Bangalore
My Bangalore trips never fail to throw up surprises. This time, a couple of weeks ago, the weather was of course a surprise – it was just too warm for Bangalore in October – but it was a drive in an autorickshaw that produced the real one. Sometime late afternoon one day, I had enough of walking down St Mark’s and Brigade Roads, after having had done a fair bit of shopping, spending an hour inside a store looking for DVDs of old Hindi films I wanted. My legs were aching and as I stood there on the sidewalk wondering what to do, there came along an auto; the driver stopped and looked at me quizzically. So I got in and decided to head to where I was staying.
When I’m in the mood I like traveling by auto. You can sit inside and see the world go by and, more than that, if the driver is the friendly sort, you can always start a conversation and get to know a thing or two. We were chatting about the weather and how the Garden City had lost hundreds of its trees to ‘development’ when suddenly vroom! a sports bike roared past. We were on a bridge, a flyover, where overtaking was not on, but here was a youngster breaking all rules, almost like a recalcitrant child. As I perked up to spot the last of him and the monstrous vehicle, the auto driver sighed in horror. “Why does he have to do this,” he said. “You must drive, much like you eat. Don’t you like to savour and relish the food you eat? Driving is like that – you must inhale the air, get a whiff of the smells and not be in a tearing hurry. Just like you must eat slowly for food to digest well, you must drive slowly to experience the pleasure of driving,” he added.
I couldn’t agree with him more. As my eyes strayed to the meter, I was aghast. The fare showed Rs 65 while we had hardly traveled five or six kilometers. Now I’m not good at handling such situations. So I decided to stay quiet and hoped he would get me home fast. And I stopped engaging him in conversation.
When my destination arrived, I produced a 100-rupee note from my wallet and thought I’d say there was something wrong with the meter, which showed Rs 80. The driver leaned back to have a look at the fare on the meter. He smiled, said “sorry”, and went on to explain how he suddenly realised he had not restarted the meter once I had got in, how he had been wanting to tell me that all along, how he wondered whether I would take umbrage, and how, like me, he too was waiting to get quickly to the destination! I was too flabbergasted to speak. He then asked me how much I would have paid in the normal course. Before I could say anything, he nudged a 50-rupee note into my hand.
“Thank you for your gesture, what’s your name,” I asked. “Moinuddin,” he said triumphantly, his left hand raised in half-salute, his way of saying goodbye. He reversed the auto effortlessly and turned the corner. I waited there a while and wondered whether I would ever meet him again.
No picture of Moinuddin or his auto here, but of colourful Brigade Road and its surroundings.