All in a day: the different faces of Chennai
All in a day. This afternoon, I took an autorickshaw from my home, in T. Nagar, to the Nungambakkam Landmark where “60 percent Sale” on books is going on. The sale isn’t great, though I did pick up loads of Vanity Fair and Esquire for just Rs 50 each. Moments after the autowallah took off, he noticed on the road another auto driver helplessly looking at his dead machine. My guy stopped and asked him what was wrong, and he replied, “No petrol.”
“Get on to your seat,” my guy commanded him, and even before I could realise, he was powering the petrol-less auto with his feet. For about five minutes, he pushed that auto with his feet, and finally, as a petrol pump appeared, next to the Vani Mahal signal on G.N. Chetty Road, he gave it one final kick — powerful enough for the other driver to steer his vehicle into the bunk. Just at that moment, the timer at the signal had already counted down to four. Our man rotated the accelerator and zoomed across — a true hero. Every action of his was so well-coordinated that he could have been Rajnikant playing the role of a heroic auto driver.
While at Landmark I got a call from wife. She is new to Chennai and its roads and flyovers, and this morning, while coming from Alwarpet, she goofed up at Gemini flyover. She had intended to go to Nungambakkam, but a colleague of hers, who was in the car, caused confusion: “Take left… No, sorry, sorry, take right.” By then, my wife had already taken a left, and as she attempted to turn right, a cop sprang up from nowhere. He started with Rs 400, and finally let her off for — shame on the police — just Rs 30. I still don’t know whether to blame the cop for taking bribe, or admire my wife’s bargaining skills. I wish the day had ended with that. But.
Back home, I was engrossed reading an interview with Colin Farrell in Esquire when she called again. “Where are you?” I asked.
“At the ATM near our house.”
“I can’t find my wallet.”
“Check in the car.”
“Checked everywhere. I think I left it in the hotel (she was attending a training programme at Quality Aruna).”
She “thought” she had left the wallet in the hotel: which means chances of finding it were slashed by 50 percent. And considering she had left it behind in a hotel, of all places, where you can steal anything without being accountable for it, the remaining 50 percent was also gone. Yet, we drove to the hotel.
My wife put on music to make the drive less stressful: if only she knew what was going on in my mind. Ever since we got married five months ago, her money has been my money — mine gets over far too quickly. And her wallet had all the ATM cards and her driving licence too. Since I had never bothered learning to drive a car, her licence was crucial. I had visions of sitting in a police station — either to lodge a complaint for the missing wallet, or being taken to task for driving without a licence (in case she dashed into someone in the rush to get to the hotel). I could foresee a tragic evening.
“Anyone there,” my wife said loudly in the now-empty conference hall which was full of people just an hour ago. Total silence. “Excuse me, anyone there?” she said, peeping into the staff corridor. A young bearer appeared. He had the wallet. He handed it over to her along with a piece of advice: “Please keep some identification card in the wallet. I didn’t know where to call.” He asked her to check the money: it was intact. The wife pulled out a 100-rupee note to reward him for his honesty. He refused. She insisted. He refused again.
As the emotional ‘lost and found’ drama went on between them, I silently rejoiced. I had a valid reason to drink this evening, instead of having to invent one.