It is part of my profession to talk to anybody on the street, because that’s how I get the news. But, it is strange when people catch have this instinct to strike a conversation with you, without any context and expect you to react. Especially auto rickshaw drivers. This was not my first experience of having a light chat with an auto rickshaw driver; yet, it was strange how he observed me, expecting me to react to everything that he wanted to say. He was obviously in the mood for some friendly banter. And yeah it was a 45 minute drive.
I as usual took an auto rickshaw from home to hurriedly get to office. A meeting! I was late, in a mess and tense. I usually make most of my calls to check if anything has happened in the criminal world while I am traveling, because I have to report at the meeting. This middle-aged auto rickshaw driver, with large eyes, big built and dyed hair kept looking at me through the rear view mirror. I thought, `just another annoying lecherous man’. I was talking to a colleague about a rape and a murder which I had reported a day ago. He obviously seemed to have figured out that I am a journalist.
The moment I hung up, he asked me in Kannada, `what rape were you talking about?’. I thought for a minute before reacting and he repeated again, what was that you were talking about?’ I said, `well, you must have heard about the woman who was raped in Chikpet yesterday’. And he says, `yeah yeah yeah. Ocourse, read it in Sanjevaani (most sought after evening Kannada daily newspaper’.
`And then the murder. What was that?’ he asked again. I said, `well, a murder has been reported this morning in Chenammanakere Acchukattu’. And his big large eyes went rolling and he suddenly turned to look at me with a question mark gleaming on his face, obviously looking for some more dope. I did not have much to say. So then he continued with his banter. I was amazed by the stuff he came up with. Especially his English. Yeah. He preferred to speak to me in English after sometime, though he knew that I could respond in Kannda.
``You know, kids nowadays, I mean rich kids have become a daily contributor to the increasing crime in the city. They have their father’s money and don’t know what to do with it’’. And then he looked at me. I said nothing. He continued. ``These IT professionals, they can live a happy life. You know. But, they either commit suicide, or they kill their spouse or they are into some economic crime’.
`And the rowdy menace. It has become intolerable. The other day, I saw a man being cut into pieces in the middle of a busy road. I mean, why?’. I said, ``The city is very unsafe’. Responded just for the sake of it as he obviously wanted me to react. Then he says, `I have stopped interacting with anybody. I have my family and I finish work and get home. That’s all. Nothing more than that. We can’t trust anybody these days’.
ICING ON THE CAKE
Then there was silence for almost 20 mins. I was almost reaching office. And then he goes again. This time he took me by surprise, cause it had nothing to do with the earlier topic. `Can I ask you something?’. Even before I could react he said, `Don’t you think there should be a rule that a man and woman should not involve in a relationship before marriage? I mean, in my generation, when I was studying PUC (12th standard), I did not even look at a girl. We feared our parents. Even if we like someone, we never got involved with the person. Nothing before a marriage’.
I did not know what to say. Then he says, `You know I get embarrassed when couples try getting cozy while traveling in my autorickshaw. I cannot even say anything, as it is not right to intrude into their privacy. But, I don’t feel good about it’.
He asked me again, `Don’t you think there should be a rule?’. I said, `I really don’t think that is possible’. He then smiled and said, `And then there are men and women who have extra marital affairs’. There was no more time for any reaction. I had reached office. He took the money and smiled. While I walked away, he drove off.