Confusion abounds. Horns blare and screams surround. It is the middle of the night, but the queue of the pick up vehicles at Mumbai International Airport is the picture of an early morning fish market buzzing with frantic activity. I wait for my turn to reach the token vending machine when a cab driver in a mega rush accelerates, halts and then rams into my car. I swerve to the left in the nick of time to avert a major accident. In the process, however, I almost ram into an XUV and now there are two more voices added to the din.
The XUV driver is livid with me and cannot wait to tell me how women should not be behind the wheel but in front of a cooking range. I am furious with the cab driver for having dented my car and am trying to scream across to the XUV driver that it's his fellow male homosapien who is the cause of this clamour and clash. The XUV driver is in no mood to listen; his argument being that to save myself and my car I have no business of harming him and his precious chariot. But while my car on wheels has taken some blow, the dainty XUV has been able to hold on to its makeup and grooming despite what it's owner wants to believe. So I am unable to understand the reason for the rage spewing from this totally irrational, possessive and obsessed master of the car. Surprisingly, as the two of us are at loggerheads, the man responsible for the hit, twist and mix tale is sitting inside his vehicle and staring at the two fighting idiots with a "get over this episode" expression on his face.
His complete nonchalant and in-oblivion expression makes me ready to want to chew his head off. Wanting to settle the score, I knock on the window and ask him if he has any explanation for his mad haste. The man looks at me as if I am the one who is totally insane. His world view is simple; he is just trying to cut into a faster moving lane and as it is his birthright he had made no error whatsoever! Oh Goodness, how I wish I can step out and haul him out of the cosy cocoon that nestles his sorry being! But before I can even think of the suitability of actioning my thought, three airport parking attendants have suddenly appeared. They are staring and assessing the situation. I want the cab driver's taxi and licence number. I am adamant. I am now asked to park on the side and wait till the three men in charge can lodge a formal complaint. And welI their speed is just a 180 degree opposite of the one that has caused all this drama!
I don't have the time. Mother may be out in a few minutes and I am not letting her wait. So my only option is to drive away, letting that never to be allowed on the road sample of mankind, off the hook. His good deeds have saved him today and in a cooler moment I acknowledge, so have mine.
I park the car and walk up to the arrival gate, buy myself a coffee and start penning this post down. Suddenly I am reminded of another accident, another cab driver and another incident that happened just two days ago.
I had boarded the cab from work and was eager to get home and enjoy a cup of hot ginger tea in the late evening of a cool breezy Mumbai winter. I was engrossed in clearing my mailbox when the driver said, "cops are so unfair. One just extorted 2000 rupees (USD 30) from me and it was not even my fault! The other cab driver came and rammed into me, broke his headlights and then started screaming at me. He and the cop, both Maharashtrians started talking in Marathi and the poor me was left as an observer. Ultimately he asked me to pay damages of 2000 rupees. I promise that I made no mistake but then why am I being singled out and punished?"
He did not end this conversation but instead broke into an inconsolable bout of bawling. It was strange to see a grown man cry and ask for justification for being discriminated and bullied. It was heart wrenching to hear a hard-working man robbed of his earnings and dreading to go home empty handed towards the end of the month when finances are already stretched. It was unpleasant to acknowledge that humans have fallen to levels where the world beyond our own nose sometimes could not matter more than the speck of dust on the ceiling.
At the end of the journey his queries were unanswered. I had no reasons to his whys. I had no idea of how to react. I had no clue if I should just pay my fare and leave or should I let him vent it all out. Tarrying in this indecision I took out my wallet and gave him some money, slowly I asked him to keep the faith and finally gave him to flowers to offer at the temple ahead. I walked out hoping I had helped.
What contrasting interactions with two people of the same profession! What contrasting attitudes of two individuals each dealing with a stranger! What contrasting reaction of the stranger driven by a perception of reality!
The driver tonight could have been preoccupied with some concerns at home. The driver the other day could just be a great actor who made a fool of a gullible passenger. I perceived reality using my framework, and reacted completely differently in both situtations, based on my analysis which was done using my tainted or tinted lenses...
And so, as I wait for mother to clear immigration and then collect her bags and come out; I am thinking of ways in which I can clear my preconceived notions, collect my thoughts before I act, and come out of every interaction with a better balance between rationality and emotions.
Will I be able to achieve it in the near future? Will I be able to handle every situation keeping these parameters in mind? Will I find out if my perception of their realities was accurate?
Questions abound. People and their chatter surround. It is a reflective post that now has to stop as I can spot mother walking out.