Pappu wanted to be a driver, and I'm not sure quite how it happened, but he wound up practising on my car. Once I had to drive into town and he asked to drive us. On the way he was waffling all over Mahim Causeway, and a hard-nosed taxi-driver decided to teach him a lesson. He cut right in front of us, and a panicked Pappu swung the wheel hard to the right, and for a long distance there on Mahim Causeway, we drove along the cement blocks in the middle of the road. Bump-bump-bump, not a comfortable ride for those several seconds. When he got down, our tyre was flat.
We limped into a nearby petrol station. A man there took one look at the car, then turned to Pappu and asked: So, did a taxi force you onto the centre blocks?
Apparently this is common behaviour. Not that Pappu didn't deserve to be taught a lesson.
Anyway, Pappu didn't get very far as our driver. Not least because of how, when he drove, his passengers chewed their fingernails to the bone and emerged from the car shivering in sweat and fright. But he would come over every now and then and plead. Just hire me, Dilip-saab. You see how good I'll be.
He was a very pleasant young man, clearly fond of us and wanting to help in various ways. But I didn't want a driver, I couldn't afford one anyway (I could barely afford running the car...), and let me be frank Pappu, I don't want you as our driver. Nice as you are.
After a while, Pappu got the message. I'd run into him on the street sometimes. While he was still friendly, there was a certain small distance now. It was as if he still looked at me as a friend and, dare I say it, a mentor, in some ways; but yet he was just that little bit disappointed that I hadn't given him his ticket to becoming a driver. By hiring him, of course.
But he invariably would give me a hug and ask, whenever we met: when are you coming to have some mutton in my home? (He lived with a few other fellow migrants from UP in a small room in Juhu). I make very good mutton, you know!
Pappu eventually disappeared, or at least, I haven't seen him in some years. I don't know if he did become a driver. And it remains one of my regrets that I never had any of his mutton.
And there would be no reason to tell you this not-even-a-story, except that when I read this that Annie wrote so well, I remembered Pappu.
May 10, 2005
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