Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Gut-Wrenching Incident

 A day before Gandhiji's birthday, my daughter came home and flopped on the sofa, announcing.

'I sawed a movie in School.'
'Oh, you saw a movie?' I corrected and added 'Which one?'
'About Gandhiji.'
'Oh. And did you like it?'
'What did you like?'
After a moment of thought.
'That he never hit anybody.'

Fair enough. She got the basic point.

So it was rather ironic, what happened to me just two days later, as I headed in a taxi cab for my first ever radio interview - a live one at that - at the RadioOne studio in Noida.

I was talking to my mother on the phone to remind her to listen in ( as if she needed reminding - she was already busy digging out the seventeen radios in the house), when I noticed something - another Innova seemed to be aggressively trying to pull ours over. My cab driver, having no choice, slowed down to a stop - on the right lane of the highway. He then got out as I distractedly continued to speak to my mother - the other driver was out now as well and some heated words were being exchanged. Then I saw the other driver grabbing my fellow's neck and before we all knew it, they were trying pretty much to kill each other.

I told my mother something along the lines of 'Trouble.' and then started shouting 'Bhaiiya, Bhaiiya' to try and distract them. To my horror, the other driver had now managed to open his car boot. For a moment, I was sure it was a gun and this was the end - I could see the flashing headline. 'Four killed in another road rage Incident.' I was therefore immensely relieved when I saw it was *only* a wrench that the fellow was now brandishing.

The momentary relief vanished when I saw he was serious about using it. He was now trying to drive it into my driver's gut, with a very practised air. My own scrawny driver was apparently the street-wise variety, though. He deftly blocked the guy's attempt at disembowelling him, and they swayed, locked in battle. This was too much for me. Without thinking, I jumped out of the car and raced towards them - I don't remember now what I was saying, but it had a lot of 'Bhaiiya, Please!' in it.

I could make out that the other driver was blaming mine for having banged his car. Now, I may not have been paying as much attention to the road as I should have, but I knew we had not made contact with any other car, and I assured him that he was mistaken. My hassled driver also reiterated that it was some other car that had done it. The wild-eyed fellow looked like he might believe me for a moment, but then he suddenly decided not to, and went back to trying to drive the wrench into the other fellow's body. They lurched this way and that, and I suddenly saw the flash of the wrench very close to my head.

It was eventually only due to the intervention of some very nice passers by - including a Stout Sardarji and a Yellow-T-shirted Elderly Uncle, that the two of them were pulled apart - ordinarily, I'm not sure if people actually intervene in scenes like this - but maybe it was the fact that they saw that the two scrawny men were really at it -and that it was only a scrawny girl in a formal white shirt matched with blue jeans scrambling around trying to stop them. They asked me to stand back and figuratively rolled up their sleeves and got into the fray.

It was then that I noticed him - in the back seat of the other fellow's car, there was a guy who looked Japanese to me. It wasn't just his features that gave him away as belonging to that country - it was also the fact that the fellow was merry filming us on his fancy camera. I couldn't believe it - I was out there risking my neck trying to stop a fight and this guy was playing Steven Spielberg. It was amazing. If I hadn't been so worried, I would have been furious.

Anyway, thanks to the nice men who bothered to stop - while other not-so-nice men yelled at them because their cars were parked in the middle of the road and causing traffic to slow down - the fight eventually broke up. I was very, very grateful to the gentlemen - once the Japanese guy saw the fight was over, he then stepped out of the car and stood there. I went over to him and told him tersely that it was not our driver who was at fault - he avoided my eye - he was examining his camera and all he had to say was 'Yes. Okay. Yes.' I walked off in disgust. The scene was over and we left.

I was reminded about this incident that my mother once narrated. Apparently, her driver Kushal was once being attacked by not one, but three men - this being too much for her, she had instinctively jumped out of the car and tried to stop them - she pulled ineffectually at the shirt of one guy, and it seems, rather fascinatingly, that she tore it off his back. My Masi was also close on her heels and the two of them valiantly supported the long-time loyal, scrawny but fiesty Kushal until that battle was over. I remember being horrified that my mother had engaged in fisticuffs of this nature, no matter what the provocation, but she had shrugged and said 'What could we do?' and then ignored our poking fun at the fact that she actually tore off a guy's shirt.

I finally understood now, though. On the surface, I was very calm as I counselled my driver about the need to stay calm even in the fact of intense provocation in these dark days - only to be told that he too had a wrench and would not have hesitated to use it had we not interfered. So much for my counselling. I pushed away the thought that came to my head - that I would have liked to use my own wrench on the Japanese guy's camera. If I had a wrench. I should get me a wrench.

So anyway, I was very shaken - the only good thing about the whole incident is that I was not in the least nervous about the interview with Chris of RadioOne that took place about 30 minutes later - it really didn't seem like the most earth-shattering event anymore. In fact, she was apparently quite gleeful when she was informed about my incident by the girl in programming saying 'We'll open with THAT conversation.' I liked her. Will post about the radio interview soon.

Anyway, I think we all came out of it safely. I find today that I am able to feel rather amused about the whole thing - the only thing that is not funny is that my mother had called Vijay up in a panic and he was scared, trying to reach me, and eventually he ended up configuring something on my Iphone that allows him to track me whereever I am - a fallout which I was not anticipating and which I don't quite appreciate. Especially since he has decided to test it at regular intervals, causing loud beeps to startle me, followed by messages like 'Why are you on Ring Road? I thought you're coming back from Noida to Gurgaon now?' He thinks it's funny. I don't.

But if we examine the issue a little more deeply - I think the only actual regret I have is this - I didn't tear off anybody's shirt.

You're the Boss, Mum.

P.S -I suspect strongly that Gandhiji would not have been pleased by any of this. 


  1. Oh my God, you mean all the jazz was just for the Jap's camera! That sick guy, he and his camera deserve a wrench alright(Sorry Bapuji)

    Hats off, I am not sure I would have dared to fight with angry men with wrenches! Your mom rocks too...

  2. Oh...what an incident.. well Y ..I missed your talk on radio, well next time and am sure there will be lots..
    take care

  3. Oh god! I would have used the wrench on that Japanese man too hmmpf!
    Waiting to read about the interview :)

  4. Sorry for the incident. you dealt well.Road rage is very bad.

  5. I wonder if the two cabbies understand how bad it is for business if they fight while they both have customers. As for the Japanese guy, I suspect the urge to show this live incident to family and friends and then tar the "other" culture (in this case, Indian) with the same uniform brush would've been irresistible.

  6. Although amusingly told, it could have gone awry...

  7. For a moment I thought this incident was of Mumbai and I found it strange. But Delhi explains it all. Bumps and scratches don't lead to fist cuffs in Mumbai let alone wrench fights. What is it with Delhi and the phenomenon of road rage?

  8. Scary, Dude:(
    No Gandhians left on desi roads:(


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