April 10, 2007

Break a stick

One more note from days spent in Gujarat five years ago. (May be familiar to some: this incident has appeared in this space before, here).


Nothing to do with weeks of bloodshed. Or maybe it does, I don't know. But one afternoon in Ahmedabad, I stumble on an exclamation point to some thoroughly depressing Gujarat days. On my way to lunch with a friend, a white Indica accidentally, gently, nudges my rickshaw from behind. Too mild a bump to have damaged car or rickshaw, doesn't seem like anything to be concerned about. My driver, burly and 55, gestures in half-hearted irritation. The light changes, we drive on.

But the car has different ideas. Seconds later, it pulls alongside and ahead, forces us to the side. Man leaps out. Gleaming shoes, spotless white shirt, creased trousers, hint of CKOne or substitute, maybe 30 years old -- the picture of an executive somewhere. But now, his face is twisted in fury. He bears down on us, yells that he honked three times. He and my driver go nose-to-nose, abusing each other loud and lewd enough for an entire city to hear.

I try to pacify them. For a moment, I think I have calmed the exec down. Then he turns, lopes back to his car, reaches in and brings out ... absolutely the last thing I expect, but just the fine auto accessory we should all carry. It's a long, sturdy lathi.

Before I can react, he lopes back, swings at my driver's forearm with a ferocity I would not have believed had I not seen it. The sound, as it connects with flesh and the bone underneath, is stomach-turning. He hits so hard that the stick actually breaks in two.

He jumps in his Indica and is gone. Blood flowing from his arm, my driver is doubled over with pain. As if in a dream, I see one of the pieces of the stick, settling in the dust at our feet. A curious child picks up the broken lathi piece. People stop and stare, grin and move on. I stand there in the sun, horrified, speechless.


Madhat said...

the great Indian class struggle?

Anonymous said...

Wish you had gotten his number and put it up on your blog Dilip, like you had with a couple of traffic incidents. Lots more serious.


Dilip D'Souza said...

Could be, madhat, could be!

Jai, I will always feel annoyed with myself that I didn't get the number. I was so stunned by what happened that I wasn't thinking straight as he ran back to his car and took off.