The Rifle and the Rickshaw

There was some problem with the last email update, and the link may have been slightly wrong. For the avoidance of doubt, my previous post, Is that THE Sonia Gandhi?, can be viewed here.
My latest coffle of photos can be viewed here.

A Day in the Life of…

One fairly decent all-purpose journalist’s interview question is, “What is a typical day in your life?” And I feel that it’s about time for me to reveal a typical day in my life.

Since I now have one single dairy [sic] entry which features a high-speed vehicle chase, largely justified police brutality and Sheffield Hallam University, I think it only right to share with the world the events of:

MON 14/3/11

Received an early-morning text announcing that my parents had landed. I headed into town and jumped into a rickshaw, only to find that he had not the faintest idea where the Heritage Hotel was. He stopped random Tamils and asked for help, then demanded a random price of 200 Rupees.

I only just stopped him zooming past the hotel gate, and received a very dirty look from the security guard – clearly, rickshaws lowered the tone of the hotel. I settled myself down in the pleasant outdoor reception to read the New Indian Express until mum and dad arrived. An airline pilot was revealed to have bought his license. The Board of the temple protested against it having adopted a customer charter: “Our forefathers laid down guidelines on the running of the temple and it should be all we follow.” The Indian Passport service trade union had voted to a ‘no lunch’ and ‘no holiday’ constant workload policy as a rather counterintuitive protest.

Presently, my visitors strode in, garlanded in flowers, attended by both a hotel taxi and our driver from the travel agency, Bennett. They checked into their very swanky room, and we were presently eating breakfast in a very swanky restaurant – though only after a chat with one of the porters who happened to be a proud graduate of Sheffield Hallam University. Mum claimed to be very nervous about eating pongal, idli and other rice products, as they allegedly breed disease. But it’s impossible to live in India without consuming rice – as I well know!

Took a lovely hot shower before catching a rickshaw back to Pasumalai [Madurai’s stone-masonry district where my hovel of a flat can be found!]. I could tell that the driver was drunk not only from his constant meaningless gibbering, but also from the way he treated the road network like a computer game, overtaking anything that moved and barely missing several motorbikes.

My suspicions were further confirmed when he mistakenly drove into the Gateway Hotel’s pathway, performed an elegant three-point turn inside a bush and then proceeded to drive, at great speed, the wrong way up a busy road. This caught they eyes of a nearby squadron of traffic police, who made “drunkard” gestures and directed him to pull over.

Like any responsible citizen, he simply put his foot on the accelerator, though quickly came around to the idea of stopping when multiple rifles were levelled at him (and also at me, since I had the misfortune to be sitting behind). An officer yanked him out of the vehicle by his hair and held him while he was slapped and punched by a couple of others.

Some of the younger policemen told me not to bother paying him (silver lining alert!), chatted to me for a few minutes and then put me in a fresh rickshaw for the remaining 100m of the journey, which somehow came to 30 Rupees! I walked into the journalism office slightly unsteadily, and didn’t emerge until it was time to go  and meet mum and dad for dinner at the Supreme’s rooftop restaurant. The three of us ate for £7…

Strolled to the temple to watch their 9pm ceremony where some god is paraded about, surrounded by clouds of incense and suspiciously jazz-like music from an Indian oboe-like thing.

I said to my return rickshaw driver, “So how much will that be? 80 Rupees?” and received the disarmingly honest reply, “No. 75 Rupees.”

And there was evening, and there was morning…

Just one final word for those people out there who will read the above typical day and assume that every day is equally dull, boring and devoid of excitement: yesterday I was in a restaurant where the manager invited me to sign the VIP Visitors’ Book, which at that point contained only one inscription, from the Director of Madurai Airport.

So it is rather exciting after all!

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One Response to The Rifle and the Rickshaw

  1. Sandra Webber says:

    To do justice to Sheffield Hallam Uni, he was not a porter but the restaurant manager, having studied guess what? Hotel Management

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