Old Washermenpet is not a big; nor a proud locality in Chennai. Mundane life takes place. It is spliced by four major roads – G.A. Road and M.C. Road which run north-south with T.H. road running parallel to it, Cemetery road running east-west and an extension of M.C. Road encloses it. One fine noon I was driving my dad to a bank on the fringes of M.C.Road. The road was quite dangerous with pits and shallow, closed man holes. However, the real danger lies in the vehicles – especially the fierce share autos and the auto-rickshaws.
They seem to be following the American traffic rules by almost keeping right all the time. The ferocious pace and the refusal to budge even when you honk or ‘wink’ your headlights was even more scary. However we reached the bank in one piece. My dad went into the bank whereas I lazily began to park my bike where just outside the building an incident happened which I wont forget.
I heard a scared but a determined shout of ‘Anna!’ as a guy barely of my age parked his scooter and pointed his finger at an overpacked auto-rickshaw which screeched to a halt. “Enna naa ipdi vareenga!?”, he asked in a scary voice. He pointed generally at the whole of the auto-rickshaw and asked how it could come to that wee end of the other side of the road. Just then, a fierce looking guy in his late twenties who very much resembled the main pirate in ‘Captain Philips’ hurried off from the auto to face him. Another younger looking male and an elderly female in her early forties trailed off shortly towards the duo where the conversation heated up!
The pirate was very intimidating and realized that the boy was scared. I was shocked when the pirate look-alike told the boy that it was his fault and he should have been more careful. However any onlooker might see that the auto was coming at a greater pace and to the right side of the road without any real traffic. I was even more perplexed when the elderly woman in pink chudidhar pointed accusing fingers at the helpless boy and backed the pirate. A crowd began to gather around.
The boy, though scared stood his ground and didn’t give up. He had just avoided a head-on-collision with an auto and he had every right to be furious, but he showed that he was scared and nervous. He was protesting again but in mid-sentence was slapped hard in the face by the pirate which made my jaws clench! That slap was totally uncalled for! The boy became shell-shocked and a formal looking man in full sleeved shirts came to the boy’s aide though hesitantly and told the pirate that it was totally uncalled for. The pirate however was unabashed and moving nowhere. After all this drama, the younger looking guy who was in the auto trudged toward the pirate, forced him into the auto amidst the eerie crowd and the auto disappeared.
The boys eyes were swelled up but he managed to hold up any tears. The crowd didn’t disappear though. Two elderlies offered a word or two of comfort to the boy who was slapped and threw some obscenities at the pirate long after he disappeared. The tension seemed to ease up a bit. All this happened in less than a minute and a half!
When I trudged back to the bank to join my dad, I realized that there was a knot in my chest; a heavy feeling which refused to go away because I just stood there and watched an innocent guy get slapped. I let everything happen without doing anything. My mind wavered suddenly into a thought process and began analyzing why I did nothing for those minute and a half. Surely, those people are strangers to me. If they were acquaintances or friends, would I have just stood and watched? I am pretty sure that if this scene had happened in any movie, then I would have jumped with one of my legs outstretched finding the pirate’s chest and then a small fight scene followed by the slapped guy thanking me (Assuming I am the protagonist here). That never happened.
Maybe I was scared and intimidated by the pirate looking guy himself. What if he fights back? Surely, it was not my problem. I was quite abashed to find out that these were the exact thoughts that ran through my mind when the guy got slapped. That was why I didn’t do anything. I did care, but I was also scared. Would everyone be scared? I don’t know.
Well, one thing is for sure. Life is sure not like what they show in Tamil movies. Whatever you do has a consequence. This one incident drove that thing deep into my heart (Though I already know that most of the Tamil movies are stupid) and gave me a reality check.
But, wait a minute. What would you have done?