Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Palani, The autorickshaw driver.

"Boss?? Station??" I asked just as I just turned into the alley. The autowala nodded and I gestured him to follow me. By the time I reached my bhabhi’s place to park my bike the autorickshaw had also made the U turn and was waiting for me to board it. Bhabhi asked me about my tickets, money and food. All in place bhabhi.. And then I had a look at the auto. I was getting late and the last thing I would have wanted was in front of my eyes: a fragile looking auto. As I boarded, I told bhabhi that I hope it takes me to the railway station on time. There was no time for responses…though Tantu waved me goodbye. I love the sweetheart!!!

It was the 31st of October and my train would start from Bangalore at 2000 hours sharp for Mumbai CST. I had booked a top berth ticket via Tatkal. There were only two things in my agenda: Sleep and read Harry Potter part seven. I always love reading good books while in the train and hence don’t mind the extra cash for the AC coach. Expectations of a nice time with the book in the train were quite high… I was in no mood for a backtrack. While these thoughts flooded my mind, I asked the autowalla about the time that would take to reach the city railway station. He checked the time and said that we’d reach about half an hour before the train departs. That was about one hour from then. Too risky, I thought… traffic was horrible that evening. We need an alternate option and then it clicked… Cantonment Railway Station. Udayan Express has a 2 minute halt there and comparatively Cant. is closer than the City station from where I was. Moreover Udayan arrives about 10 minutes past 8 at Cant.

I asked the autowalla what would he have done... and presented the facts to him… train at 2000 Hrs, can be boarded from Cant. station also and we’ve got only an hour and half with us… He asked for a couple of minutes to think and then told me that Cant. would take only 30 minutes and we’d be going there. I was so pleased. After that what happened…. That’s the reason for the blog.

His name is Palani…and since days gone by, he’s been in Bangalore. He’s seen the small town of Bengal-uru famous for its weather and coffee beans grow into a mighty IT hub of Asia. Though destiny put him to ferry people from one part of the town to the other, he’s got good friends with him…One such person is Ashokbabu who own a 50 acre land beyond Sarjapur village. Over the weekends Palani along with his friend visit the summer house [as they call it] and spend time there. The park’s all green with a water stream running from one part to the other. Crabs are supposed to be the tastiest and the most dangerous there. Palani had once saved his friend’s life by some alternate medication for treating Asthma.
The surge in the petrol prices has not left enough margins for profit in the auto driving business and hence he shifted to gas. In spite of the initial investment, gas offered better margins. Moreover with the onset of IT, professionals take long distant travels to their offices which are situated at the outskirts…this also gives them good returns.

“Wosh!!!” We took a U turn and just missed the rear of a Mazda truck by two inches… Palani was trying his best. We were going through all sorts of routes which I had never seen any autowala take. He told me… “Its loss for me to take short cuts.. but… Uparwala hai.. ” and raised his arm. I smiled… I was pleased… and told myself … “achche logo ki kami nahin hai duniya mein…” [No dearth of good people]. Every now and then he’d tell me how much more time it’d take to reach the cant. while I looked at the way ahead and my time piece... my mobile phone.

Somehow I didn’t like the idea of causing a loss to him and offered to take him for a coffee. He was shy of joining me… and suggested that I go alone and have something while he’d wait for me. “Oh come on Palani, I want to have a coffee with you cause that’s the only thing we can have together now” He agreed and we had good hot coffee… while Palani described about his life and friends. The small cafĂ© besides the road was just perfect for a hot coffee and a person reminisce about days gone by. At that time I wished I had more time. He agreed that the coffee was good… great in fact.

We reached the station at 1940 hours. He asked for my mobile number and told me that he’d want me to visit his friend who owns the park for a weekend out. I can even bring my friends. I asked him... “Would you remember me?” and he smiled and replied “Aapko nahin bhulunga…” We shook hands and I walked towards the railway station while he went ahead with another passenger.

As I waited for my train to arrive, I wondered how the last one hour had passed. I told Libin and Shinvanj about the Palani…

I hope someday again I meet him, just the way I did this time… “Boss?? Station??” and see the dark smiling face of Palani.. the autowala.

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