This one’s not about travelling in the auto. Not even about the auto itself. But just about the universal fact, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ reinforced.
My friend V and I were travelling in my car to The American Centre near CP. As, we both are condemned to be forever ‘directionally-challenged’ we had no clue where to go when we were half way through, floating around the road to Janpath (Geography may not have been one of our best for the both of us in school). A lost and confused bunch that we were (Me, V and the driver), we were asking for directions helter-skelter. None of which, really helped as such.
It finally took us ten minutes to find a helpful auto-driver by the road, who looked like he could make sense of our whereabouts to us. At once I made the driver stop, and rolled down my window. I made a gesture as if I were calling out to him, and said, “Bhaia, American centre kaise jaana hai?” (How do we get to American Centre?). The auto driver stepped out of the auto, and came up to our car.
After he reached the co-driver seat window, he said, “Would you like to go in my Rickshaw, or do you need directions?” (mind you, he said all this in pure, grammatically correct English with perfect diction!!). This was one of those times me and V felt our jaw drop spontaneously. There was a pause for a few seconds before I mentally shook myself after what I had just heard. And finally when I did get out of the miniature trance, I meekly said, “Can we please have just the directions?”
At once he promptly replied, “Now see, you have to go straight till you spot the first signal, and then from there…” when I interrupted (still in the lingering state of miniature trance), and pointing towards my driver, I said, “Umm.. Can you please explain it to him in Hindi?”.
It took me some time to carry out that interruption as well. Me and V were still giving each other the dumbfounded looks, with the embarrassed smile.
He finished explaining to my driver and I finally, truly and wholeheartedly, said thank you and smiled till it reached my ear. To which, I received a spontaneous, “My pleasure!” from him.
As we drove passed, V and I couldn’t avoid thinking about it. We still couldn’t believe what had just hit us. It’s amazing how we’re so quick to judge and place people in these little brackets known as ‘stereotypes’. Thinking about it further, if it weren’t for that little monster known as stereotype, the auto driver talking in English would have just been, though uncommon, but such a normal thing, and instead of getting temporary mental paralysis, we would’ve acted like civilized human beings and been normal. Because of the mental picture we had in mind about them, we could never imagine it even being an actuality.
This day today taught me, (and very well at that) that under absolutely no circumstances, should we ever judge a book by its covers. And we, as petty human beings have no right whatsoever to put others into brackets that ‘society’ apparently laid out for them.