bhOndOO was paddling fast, but the cycle could not go beyond 10 KMPH. bhOndOO was sweating, but the bicycle was stubborn. Actually, the bicycle was also not at fault — bhOndOO did not have time to get the punctured tyre repaired — and so was riding the punctured bicycle.
During the Centenary Conference, bhOndOO was one of the volunteers. On the first day of the conference, he reached late to J N Tata Auditorium. — all due to his bicycle, he would claim. Since all other volunteers were already engrossed in their work, like registration and talk arrangements, no one could tell bhOndOO what his work was.
bhOndOO, disappointed — but full of enthu to work as a volunteer — stood beside the registration desk, looking at various guests. He kept smiling at various alumni from India and abroad and received warm gestures in response. He kept directing a few queries to the registration desk, since he knew nothing of the arrangements.
Soon, bhOndOO realized that he was getting considered as a Chief Volunteer, who was directing requests to appropriate non-chief volunteers. bhOndOO felt proud. He stuck himself beside the registration desk and kept directing people at the other volunteers at the desk.
While he was enjoying himself, he spotted a very fair young lady standing at a distance of two metres from him searching for something. bhOndOO kept observing her. Due to crowd, the foreigner could not notice bhOndOO’s continous glance. He finally made up his mind to approach her. He made up a statement in mind, “May I help you, madam?”.
Muttering the statement, bhOndOO started walking towards her through the crowd. He was one meter away, when he thought that the statement was too formal — almost like a waiter. He changed it to “Are you looking for someone, young lady?”.
bhOndOO was now two feet away from her, now muttering the altered statement. She was still looking around. bhOndOO’s pulse rate doubled, he forgot the crowd, and opened his mouth.
Suddenly, another fairer young man came and held her in his arms.
“Hey!”, three of them uttered.
“Where had you been?”.
“I just met my colleague.”.
“Why didn’t he meet his colleague for slightly longer!” and bhOndOO closed his mouth.
After an hour of Chief-Volunteership, bhOndOO witnessed the crowd dispersing from the reception area into the halls. bhOndOO was thinking of grabbing a chair when suddenly he heard something familiar: “Hey!”.
bhOndOO turned around and saw the young lady foreigner standing beside him. He was about to open his mouth in happiness, but he realized that “Hey!” sounded masculine. At the next instance, he saw the fairer young man standing beside the fairer sex.
The young man said, “Hi!”.
“Hi.”, bhOndOO replied looking at the lady.
“We are the participants of the conference. We want to go to thirty sewn cash scent. Can you hepus ketch a cap?”.
bhOndOO wasn’t sure whether he understood the English accent correctly, “I am sorry. Wha du wantuko?”.
The englishman did not understand bhOndOO’s accent. He thought bhOndOO was apologizing that he could not help, “Oh! Its okay. You need not be sorry. Can you tell us who would be able to help us?”.
“I will help you, Sir.”.
The fair and the fairer looked at each other, as if they were talking to a man who had lost his mind. To get over the comedy of errors, the lady took over, “Look…”.
And the person who had lost his mind started looking at her.
“… We want to go to a hotel. Its name is 37th Crescent.”.
“Oh! I see.”.
“Yes! Can you help us get a cab?”.
“Sure.”, bhOndOO exclaimed as if all taxi drivers were his friends.
And bhOndOO started looking around in a hurry. He was full of energy, enthusiasm and desire to help. The only thing he did not know was what to do.
His Chief-Volunteership peeped in and bhOndOO thought of directing the couple to the registration desk. bhOndOO looked at the young lady and thought that he should lead this battle himself.
He approached the registration desk and asked Gullu, “Hey, do you know any taxi agency?”
“Many. How many do you want to buy?”, and the registration desk volunteers started laughing.
bhOndOO glanced at the young lady, turned towards Gullu, thought of abusing him in local language, decided against, calmed down, and pointing fingers towards the couple, continued, “Two of the guests want to go to a hotel and they need a taxi.”.
Gullu looked at the guests, and said, “There should be a card in their registration kits which has a taxi agency’s number.”.
The young lady, amuzed and impressed, opened her registration bag, took out a card and voila, the number was mentioned! She looked at Gullu in appreciation.
bhOndOO did not like it. He stood exactly in between the lady and the registration desk, took out his mobile, and asked the lady for the card, “Let me call the agency for you.”.
bhOndOO called, the ring was heard, and a sweet voice of a lady was received by bhOndOO’s ears.
“Hello. I am speaking from IISc. I need a tax …”.
bhOndOO realized that he was talking to an automated response. He felt glad that the young lady could not figure that out.
The automated response resulted in another ring and a harsh voice of another lady was heard: “Hello?”.
This time, bhOndOO was sure he was communicating to a human, “Hello. I am speaking from IISc. I need …”.
“From IISc. Tata Institute.”.
“Ya, I need a taxi to go to…”, he looked at the young lady and whispered, “What is the hotel name?”.
“Sorry, Sir. You need a taxi to go where?”, the lady on the phone enquired.
“It’s 37th Crescent!”, the young lady answered throwing up her eyebrows.
“It’s 37th Crescent.”, bhOndOO reiterated looking at the young man.
“Where is it, Sir?”.
“Where is it?”, bhOndOO enquired, looking at the lady.
The lady looked at her companion. The companion opened his bag and took out a folded map of Bangalore!
After it was unfolded four times, the map looked huge. One side of the map was held by the lady, another by bhOndOO, and the young man was leaning over the map to search for thirty sewn cash scent! After a slight struggle, the young man succeeded in spotting the hotel. The lady looked at her companion in admiration, then looked at the post-master and gave him the message to convey, “It’s on MG Road.”.
bhOndOO conveyed, “It’s on MG Road.”.
“One minute, Sir.”, and the lady with harsh voice put bhOndOO on hold.
bhOndOO kept listening to Kannada Music, intermittently looking at the young couple. The young lady was intently looking at bhOndOO. The fairer young man was busy folding the map back and putting into his bag. The nice music got prematurely interrupted by the harsh voice — which was felt more harsh this time, “Sorry Sir. We don’t have a taxi available right now. Please try again after 45 minutes.”.
bhOndOO looked at the display “call ended.”. He did not know what to speak. The couple was looking at him with curious eyes.
“Sorry. No taxi is available right now.”.
They looked at each other, not knowing what to do. Although, both of them had the same expressions, bhOndOO felt hurt to see the lady worried. He started looking for options.
A glance at the road in front of the auditorium gave him the idea, “Wujju lake togo byau too.”.
“Would you like to go by auto?”.
“What is an auto?”.
bhOndOO never felt so helpless in his life before — except a few hundred times. Now how on earth am I going to describe what an auto is?
“An auto is an autorickshaw.”.
“Autorickshaa…”, both of them tried to pronounce.
“It has three wheels.”.
“Are you sure?”.
“Yes, yes. It has three wheels. And it is yellow-black in color.”.
“Yellow Black…”, they reiterated still looking puzzled.
“It runs on the road and can enter the smallest gaps amongst vehicles.”.
“Even if the road is empty, it cannot run beyond a speed…”.
Looking at their blank faces, bhOndOO thought of drawing an auto and he looked for a paper and a pen. But knowing his drawing skills, he thought of not confusing the guests further.
He continued his battle of explanation, “It is closed and you can comfortably sit inside it.”.
Looking like getting a clue, the young man asked, “Is it a bus?”.
“No, no. It is not a bus. Actually, it is like a bus, because it is also a public transport. But only two of you can sit into it unlike a bus.”.
“Oh! It is automatically driven!”, the lady gave her understanding.
“No, no. It is driven by a driver. So, actually, apart from you two there will be a driver also who would be in the auto.”.
The young lady looked unimpressed to have someone else in the vehicle. The young man tried to understand, “So, is it a taxi?”.
“No, no. It is not a taxi. But it is like a taxi, in which a driver will drive and you two can sit peacefully at the back, and there would be no other passengers.”.
“That sounds interesting.”, the young man replied and looked at the young lady for her response. The young lady was reluctant to go in an unidentified equipment, but due to lack of options, agreed.
“So, where do we get an auto?”, the million dollar question was asked.
“You will get it ouside the auditorium. I will help you get one.”, bhOndOO showed his hospitality.
He then escorted the couple to outside the auditorium.
“You see that yellow-black vehicle on the other side of the road. That is an auto.”.
Looking in awe, the foreign couple kept staring at the glorified vehicle. bhOndOO asked the auto-driver to bring the auto on the auditorium side. The couple in awe kept looking at the nice turn the divine vehicle took and were very much impressed by the driver who was handling it. They found it a bit difficult to digest that the auto could actually run on three wheels.
When the auto approached, bhOndOO asked, “M G Road?”.
“Where on M G Road?”, the driver enquired.
“It’s 37th Crescent.”, bhOndOO’s tape restated.
“Where is it?”, the driver asked.
While bhOndOO was trying to tell him that it was on the other end of the M G Road, the young man took out his map and tried to show it to the driver. The driver looked at the colorful map of his city, then at the young man, then at the young lady, and said, “Okay.”.
bhOndOO asked the passengers to get in. The young man got in followed by the young lady.
bhOndOO explained, “This is the meter. Whatever is the amount in the meter when you reach the hotel, you should pay to the driver.”.
“Okay.”, the young man accepted.
Then bhOndOO thought for a while and added, “The last two digits are paise and not rupees.”.
Everything was going nicely, when the driver of the glorified vehicle looked concerned. He asked bhOndOO, “Sir, you are not coming?”.
bhOndOO was puzzled. He was never asked for company so earnestly before. He actually thought of getting in since he would have got the opportunity of seating beside the young lady. But he made a practical decision, “No, no. Why should I come? I am not coming.”.
“Then I would take Rs.100. I will not go by meter.”.
“These people do not believe us. Even if we take them by a normal road, they will say that it is a roundabout way. I will take a fixed amount.”.
“What is he saying?”, the young man was inquisitive.
“He is saying that … that you will pay him a fixed Rs.100 and you do not have to bother about the meter.”.
“Okay, that sounds good.”.
All of them agreed and it was time to part ways. The young man leaned forward and shook hand with bhOndOO, “Thanks a lot, appreciated.”.
“No problem.” and he looked at the young lady.
The young lady smiled and said, “Thanks.”, without a hand-shake.
The auto started and bhOndOO returned to the auditorium with a heavy heart.