personal diary

The ‘unspoken’ conversation with an auto-driver

Even as the train slowly chugged into the platform, I couldn’t wait to see the city. Had the city’s landscape changed since my last visit? What happened to that construction in my neighborhood? Is it the latest upscale restaurant or is it Amma’s restaurant? No matter what I did to constrain it, the excitement and suspense kept building up all the time and, not to forget, I made a mental note to drop in by the mall that’s got everybody talking.

With the train finally screeching to a halt, I got down spiritedly. Upon recognizing my dutiful father, who had been waiting patiently for the past half-hour, I walked towards him, towards the city that I have always looked out. Making our way out of the crowded station, we crossed the road and flagged down an auto. “Annanagar West, Thirumangalam.” “Yes sir, 250.” “Meter?” and to my immense surprise, the auto-wallah acceded. Wow, what a change over mama! With the luggage firmly in tow, I managed to get one fleeting glimpse of the regal Chennai Central building. “Appa, it’s good to be home.”

It so happens that the just- retuned person has much to talk about, and the driver who ferries him home, invariably, becomes party to the conversation. This blog post is dedicated to that chap, who listened into the conversation with my father, and though he didn’t utter a word throughout the fare, I felt he would have been compelled to offer his piece of mind…

As we went past the Ripon Building, the seat of the city’s Corporation, huge machines and cranes dotted the stretch. “Appa, I tell you… these guys are taking ages to complete the metro. Back from where I just came, five phases are operational and the city (Delhi) just can’t survive without it.” My dad was only willing to offer his take on the subject. “Yes, I am yearning for the day when the Metro is up and running, for I can ditch these autos and travel on them. If everyone takes the metro, the autowallahs will buckle up.” (No sooner than my dad said this, the autodriver, whose name for the convenience of this post will be Raju, glanced at us through the mirror, and mockingly said, “Oh yeah? I am pretty sure the metro won’t drop you at your doorstep. We are here to stay, after all!”)

Flying past the Harrington road subway, I whipped out a hankie to wipe out the sweat. “Appa, you know, it was raining in my place and not so long ago, we had a hailstorm. Hail storm! Can you imagine that?!” “First things first, what on earth is a Hailstorm?” “It is heavy; no monstrous rainfall accompanied by ice pellets the size of a small pebble.” (The astonished Raju stopped by the wayside and turned back with incredulous eyes. “Are those the ones we get to experience in Abhirami Snow World?” “No, those guys are deceiving you Raju.” He turned back grudgingly, and started the ride, while uttering curses that are only too pleasant to recall.)

After few minutes, I again raise the topic of the weather. “Appa, how has been the temperature like, here?” “So far, bearable but the dog days are not far away.” “Phew, I don’t want to think about it!” (Raju, negotiating a signal countdown, was at it in an instant. “Switzerland returnee, are you?”)

With the house merely blocks away, I saw the unfinished construction nearby. “Appa, are they ever going to finish it? It seems that ‘under-construction signage’ has been there forever.”

(“Are you ever going to finish your conversation? Tell me, when was the last time you were here? I mumbled, ‘four months.’ ‘Four months?’ you sound as if you were away for a long time!”) 

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