I headed towards the autos queued outside the domestic airport and carried my bags to the front of the line. As I got into the first auto, a white-uniformed fellow with an I-am-a-somebody demeanor leaned in, blocking the exit. He said: “Hundred rupees… If you get a pre-paid slip, you will have to pay a hundred and fifty.”
I snapped something about using the meter, and then tried to alight. White Uniform stepped back, saying, “Okay, okay. Meter…”
Later, I asked the driver how much I owed him. He tried to overcharge by 10 rupees.
I looked at the meter and took a deep breath. One part of me was saying: Forget it. The other part said: “Don’t add to a culture of financial misdemeanor.”
So I pointed to the meter. He stared at me sullenly and said, “I waited in line at the airport a long time.” I retorted, “So I pay because you have to line up?”
I wanted to say other things — about how you have a better chance of being treated with respect if you act like you deserve it; how cheating becomes a way of life; how this is a vicious circle of blame and powerlessness; how I too wait in line for autos but do not charge a premium for it. But I didn’t say any of this.
Two days later, the road was blocked by another Anna-people rally. Tricolour flags etcetera.
I was in an auto and the driver was twisting this way and that, peering at the junction. He mumbled, “Now are these Anna-people headed right or left?”
I had to smile. Big question, that one. Are they headed right, or left?
I asked the white-haired driver what he thinks about Anna Hazare. He shrugged.