One jolly morning, I left the A’bad flat with my roomie Dharmesh. My mission: go to the National Institute of Design and plaster the place with announcement cards for “The Ludiya Preview”, a showcase of original art by Kutchi women put on by an Indicorps fellow. I had only 100 Rs on me, so I stopped by our dhobi lady to collect the 200 Rs I loaned her five days ago. She promised to return it in two days, and true to form had some tall tale as to why she didn’t have my money today. I ask Dharm to borrow some. The guy has 600-700 Rs on him, but somehow convinces me that I can get through the day on my meager note and doesn’t part with a single anna. Whatever.
I hop in a rickshaw and say “NID”. Dharm bums a free ride off me til Vadej, and after he gets off, I call my cousin on my cell. Rickshaw dude asks me again where I want to go and I say “NID” again while on the phone. Kiran, my cuz, is an NID grad and so I ask for a name of a prof such that I can get past security at the front gate. The conversations drifts onward to her sister’s coming wedding and more such that I am comfortably distracted along the journey. A mistake, one of many that lead to a rough day.
Mr. Rickshaw takes me to LD College. I tell him for the third time “NID”. He apologizes and buzzes off, dropping me off at a strangely familiar gate while I’m still on the phone. I pay the man the full 50 Rs he wants, despite knowing that he’s taken me on a circuitous ride and still rounding the fare upwards. I ask the guard at the booth for the directions to the prof’s offices, yet the roster seems to lack his name. Suddenly I realize why the place looks so familiar: I’m at IIM. I go back out and Lalooji Rickshawsahib is still there.
“Brother, you made a mistake. This is IIM. I want to go to NID.”
I hop in. He putters along, taking me back to LD College.
“No. I want to go to NID. This is LD College.”
“Then what’s NID?”
“You don’t know what NID is and you’re still driving me around? Don’t pickup people if you don’t know how to get them where they need to go.”
“Then where is NID?”
So the guy asks the ice cream cart guy, who of course has no clue.
“Paladi. Go to Paladi,” I say with growing irritation.
“Why didn’t you just say Paladi in the first place?”
“I told you NID four times. If you don’t know where that is or what it is, you’re supposed to ask. NID is famous. How does a rickshaw driver NOT know where that is?” My chastisement doesn’t seem to do much.
At this point, I decide that I shouldn’t pay the guy for the trip to NID. He’s already taken 50 Rs for basically wasting my time and already overcharged me on that. Any self-respecting driver would admit to there mistake and do the right thing.
Finally at NID, I get out at walk up to the guard, only to have my ears assaulted by the protests of by now my favorite driver. He wants to get paid.
“I already paid you 50 Rs. If you want more money, you wait here until I’m done, take me back to the ashram, and then I’ll pay you.”
“I’m not your house-servant. Pay me now.”
Several more heated exchanges are made. The NID guards get involved, and tell the guy to bug-off after hearing the story, but he’s sticky and stubborn. On top of that, the NID profs that Kiran recommended to me are both busy, so I can’t get past the gate and ditch him. This guy keeps yelling and keeps getting hotter and louder. I too have lost my temper internally, but am outwardly composed. I decide its best to walk away. I do so. The guy hops in his rickshaw after me and cuts me off. As I keep walking, he grabs me rather forcefully. Now I lose it and start yelling full on at the guy. The only problem is that I am so mad that I’m not making sense, and even if I was, he couldn’t hear me over is own yelling. Things are on the brink of physical violence. I decide that I should pay him the 30 Rs that he wants rather than let things get really nasty. Then I go on a long walk to cool myself off. Only problem is that its at least 42 degrees C by this time, and I only keep getting hotter, physically and mentally. I only have 20 Rs left so I can’t buy water to rehydrate or I’ll have almost nothing to get back to the ashram with. There’s not an ATM around for quite a distance. On top of that, my cell service credit ran out on the call with Kiran.
Dehydrated, wet, and still angry, I find a shady nook to sit down. Finally, I’m able to dissolve some of the anger. I get up and hail a rickshaw.
“I want to go to Gandhi Ashram. I have only 20 Rs.”
The guys shakes his hand at me and drives off. Other interesting responses from different drivers included laughter and to add insult to injury, the warm and hopeful “Nobody will take you for 20 Rs. Hahahahaha”
Of course, if I was truly composed, I would have realized that I could have just hopped in without telling them how much I had and then have someone at the ashram make up the difference.
Finally somebody takes pity on me and says that I can get a shared rickshaw near the bus stand. I head off in that direction in the baking sun. About a kilometer later, nobody at the bus stand knows where the shared rickshaws leave from. So I ask the bus station attendant which bus goes to Gandhi Ashram.
I wait. And I wait. And I eye the chilled water for sale nearby, wishing I could soothe my parched throat with wild wet gulps. And I wait. And the ice cream guy tries to sell me something but I just stare, probably from dehydration and anger induced insanity. And I wait. Why doesn’t the train station have a clock? I wait. Shouldn’t there be a time-table posted somewhere? Wait. I try and connect on a deeper level to how cold the world becomes when you’ve got no money, but I’m still too angry and imbalanced to do that. So I wait. Does time go slower when you’re miserable? I wait. Finally I get up and ask the attendant if there are any other busses that go to the ashram.
“Yeah, that one…” he says as he points to a bus that has just departed.
This doesn’t help my anger. I get up and decide that today is the day that I self-incinerate. I walk off into the sun, deciding that I just don’t care anymore. Rickshaw drivers make there characteristic “chtttt” sound at me, trying to woo me into their vehicles, but I just stare ahead and walk off. After about the 10th driver, one driver starts following me, insistent upon turning me into a customer.
“Look, I’ve only got 20 Rs. Go away.”
“No problem. I’ll pick up other people.”
After I get in, he says, “People like you never have only 20 Rs.” As if I’m Daddy Warbucks. I’m too mad to explain.
We buzz off and pick up 6, yes 6 more people to share the ride with me back to the ashram. People get off and pay 2-3 Rs for their ride. Finally its my turn.
“What? This was a shared ride.”
“You agreed to twenty before hand.” I didn’t, I just told him that that is how much I had. I’m too worn for another fight, so I give him the rest of my money and head into the ashram, broke, wet, and mad.
I had failed in so many ways throughout the whole experience. The biggest failure was that I had lost my temper, all over less than a dollar. I’ve let hundreds slip away without batting an eye and yet I was burning myself up over a lousy buck. The other obvious failure was that I didn’t accomplish my mission, simple as it was, and now had to apologize to the ladies who were counting on me to complete this minor task with major implications.
I mentally prepared myself for handling any similar circumstances much better.
In my experience, it has seemed that so many situations have felt like tests. When I fail the test, I keep getting hit with harder version of the same test until I learn my lesson and “pass”, after which I’m never again plagued with that problem.
(migrated from my original Livejournal post)