Saturday, November 06, 2010

Kandan, The Chennai Auto Driver

I was thinking about Kandan today.

And it’s funny I should remember him today. Because it was about this time of the year last year when I encountered him! I was in Chennai to meet a friend and had to catch the onward bus to Pondicherry to meet another friend. And that’s when I got into an auto to get to the Egmore Private Bus Stand. Except that’s not where I reached.

A little after leaving the hotel and getting into this auto, the auto-driver and another man who had accompanied him asked me which Travel Agency my bus was with. I said I didn’t have a reservation yet and had to find a bus. They suggested that in that case I should go to Thiruvanmiyur so that I can get to Pondicherry for 40 bucks flat in the Government bus. I asked them if the bus would be safe and they reassured me. So I redirected the auto to Thiruvanmiyur and older man got out after giving some instructions to the younger one. 

I did realize at that point that I would end up paying the private bus fare to this auto driver anyway (I had paid 70 bucks to get to Spencer’s on Mount Road from less than 2 Km away) but I’d rather be in an auto than a bus. So I carried on. 

The auto driver started talking to me soon. He told me his name was Kandan and then we spoke about our best friends, about the city, why I was there, why I was going to Pondicherry etc. He told me it wasn’t safe to go to Pondicherry at that time and I should stay back till the morning. I told him I would call my friend if I faced a problem. He also told me I should call him if I or my friends were visiting again and he could take them on a tour of the city. At some point he also said that I was a good person since I was talking to him without any inhibitions; most people don’t like talking to auto drivers he said. I felt a little sorry at that point about the world we had created because frankly I had such a nice conversation on that journey and felt taken care of because this man was genuinely concerned about me and my safety. What’s more, he was talking in Hindi, albeit broken! What a complete deviation from the stereotype of Chennai auto drivers that we’ve created!

So Kandan got me to Thiruvanmiyur and then made me sit in the auto till he had found a bus with an empty seat for me. He also told me to let him know when I landed safely in Pondicherry. And I did that, the least I could do for all the concern he had shown.

Outside of all that is shown to us in films and on TV screens, outside of all that we hear from others about this world and how unsafe it, outside of the comfort zones of our homes and 10 PM deadlines (which make us believe that we will be safe forever if we stick to them), there is magic, there is beauty and there are angels waiting for you. If you are willing to place your trust on this world, it will come back to you manifold. It always does for me.

I could tell you enough stories to convince you it is more than just coincidence. I could tell you of the time when I was stranded in Frankfurt and was taken care of by a father figure in the form of Himanshu Sir; it was the first time I was panicky and scared and he came along to make sure I had no trouble getting by. 

I could talk about the lady in Pottery Town who invited us into her house just so we could click pictures of her beautifully painted pots, asking nothing in return. She even gave me five small pots as gifts so I could paint them and decorate my house with them. When I refused to take them without paying money she argued whether I wouldn’t have taken it if my grandmother had given them to me!

Then there was Madhushree aunty who passed me on like a baton to Nagarathna aunty while I was on my unplanned trip last year. It was like travelling with foster mothers all through.

Then of course there was this Hungarian man who actually told me that he was my angel…plain and blunt. God knows I will never forget that encounter…ever!

More recently there was Mr. Sudhir who came by on a random Sunday afternoon to tell me that the world is a beautiful place and that there are beautiful people around to remind us that all will be well…at a time when I most needed to hear that. And for some reason I believed him. In my gut it felt right to believe what this person was telling me without even knowing me. And I have to admit that it’s true.

This world is full of miracles that are waiting to happen around every turn. It is filled with people who can develop genuine affection for you and take care of you in a way that can only be termed as miraculous and angelic. It is a beautiful place filled with beautiful people. 

I’ll tell you how I was sent a sign to reaffirm even this faith. It was on Sunday that I had a disagreement about my approach to the dynamics of two characters in my play. I begged to differ on the treatment because it is a story I strongly believe in. On Monday morning I got a call from a panel member of the audition where the play was staged that the story was being considered for the next level. And the same afternoon I got a mail inviting write-ups for Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul Book of Miracles. It was as if God were telling me to recollect all these instances and reaffirm my faith in the wake of the previous day’s discussion. Beauty exists right here in this world and I would have to acknowledge that in writing. 

And I’d be happy to do that. In today’s world where people are being driven to believe in such a negative image of everything, it is only faith in love and beauty, it is trust in another human being that will take us through. ABBA phrased it already for me – I believe in angels, something good in everything I see. And I do hope this becomes everyone’s song very soon!