On boarding an auto-rickshaw in Madras, the most common scent that you are witness to is the auto driver cribbing about how less he is being paid for this particular trip. Reasons are usually attributed to the rising “petrol” prices. The other day, I got the same quirk from a nice looking gentlemen and I asked if his auto ran on petrol or on diesel. And he never spoke for the remainder of the journey.
Something really vague happened today when we boarded the auto on Mount Road to head to Broadway for getting back home. This man, looked old, must have been in his 60’s. He did not complain or brag on how less we were paying him and instead shot off into conversation mode, which is very unlikely unless you are in Kozhikkode or Palakkad in Kerala. To my knowledge they have the most talkative auto drivers who can speak anything from small talk to politics and the nuances of it.
So this man…, he started off in the usual political fashion lauding our “amma“ for her decision to convert the secretariat-to-be into a multi-speciality hospital. To which I nodded in agreement. And then he went on to the metro rail project, whose construction has been going about in the recent past. He was critical of the fact that the authorities had taken away a part of the road, but he couldn’t see any work being done on them. This was more like my zone for small talk and I told him that the construction had already commenced and it is an underground section along the Mount Road.
The lights went red and upon hearing my response, he instantly turned back, looked at me and said, ” Are you crazy?? How can they run trains underground?? How will you reach the station? How will you board the train??” I thought it better to stick to my claim and told him that would be the case, atleast this time around. And I showed him one of those entry and exit ways proposed and he was startled. The poor man could not digest the fact that when so much of space was available above ground level, there we were, going below it. By now, the idea had sunk into his head and he went on to say that this was the first time he had heard of something similar and opined, “No one had ever thought that trains could be run underground also”, in obvious reference to this master stroke of amma. “First the hospital, now the metro rail, WOW..“
Though the bubble of admiration was broken when I quite casually remarked that all these decisions are/were not made by her. There are always a panel of experts who work on these aspects to bring about a solution and that she, as the chief minister merely brings it out in the public. On hearing this, he retorted, “Apdi naa avanga amma illa saar, summa!!” (Then she is not amma sir, just another human being.), with a look of disgust and disbelief . He did not speak for the rest of the journey, lost in thoughts. In a matter of 10 minutes, his faith had gone for a toss. The auto meandered into Broadway and I bid goodbye to our man, who acknowledged the conversation with a smile, quite an unusual way to deboard an auto-rickshaw.