I was late. I pushed my way through the crowd to reach the AFC gate before them. Swiftly I made my way to the auto rickshaw stand near the Botanical Garden Metro Station. As I was approaching, I shouted in routine, “Amity” and the driver pointed me to the auto which had one passenger waiting for someone to share the ride with him. The driver asked the both of us, “Bhaiya, 50-50 kar lo, aap 2 log hi chal lo” (Brother, split the fare 50-50, if you don’t want to wait for another passenger), to which I quickly responded, “Kar lo, chalo. Time nahi hai.” (Alright, let’s do it. I don’t have time anyway) However, the young man was not in a hurry and in his sly voice said, “Bhaiya ek aur ka wait kar lo aap”, (Brother let’s wait for one more passenger) which is something I would’ve done too but I was late and it doesn’t matter much but I’m one of those people who try to minimise mistakes, if and when they happen.
“Single kar lo bhaiya fir, kitna lo ge?” (Take me individually then, brother, how much for a single passenger?) I asked the auto rickshaw driver hastily and he showed me 9 fingers and said, “Ninety”. On usual days, I would’ve bargained but I was like, “Chalo fir” (Let’s go), and he pointed me to a fairly shiny and new auto rickshaw but I didn’t pay much attention to it until the whole union surrounded me like a group of some very excited children.
One of them pointed to the auto rickshaw I just sat in and asked me to step out. “Bhaiya dekho naya auto lia hai isne, pehli bar chala rha hai, pehli sawari ho aap iski”, (He’s bought a new auto rickshaw, you’re his first ride) he explained as all of them showed me the new auto rickshaw.
I sat after a little examination. I was already beaming since this is something I had never seen before in my life and I doubt I will ever see a sight like this.
“Sir, jhuth nai kehre hain, naya auto lie hain, abi registration bi pura nahi hua hai. Ham bs showroom se hi aa rhe hain seedha. Shagun ke 101 de di jiyega” (Sir, not lying, I bought this auto today, it’s not even properly registered yet. I’m coming right from the showroom. Please pay ₹101 for good grace), the driver said to me while laughing. Usually, I would’ve argued, bargained and brought the fare down to at least ₹80 if not lower but this was different. If you did not know this, which I doubt if you’re from India, there is this custom of giving money as presents with an extra ₹1 for good grace whenever someone gets something new or is celebrating some occasion. For example, the amounts go like ₹51, ₹101, till about any denomination that ends in 1, even ₹10000000001 is a possibility, though I doubt anyone would ever give that as a present of good grace. Bribe, maybe. Anyway, I used to ridicule this concept as I did above, which I am truly ashamed of right now but you, the reader, would’ve been bored otherwise.
I paid the driver with ₹101 as promised after arriving at the campus. I also had a very good conversation with him throughout the ride. It was one of those perfect moments in life where nothing is wrong. After I paid him, the good man said, “Sir isko to kharch bi nahi karenge, seedha mandir mein lagaenge” (Sir, I won’t even spend this. I’ll donate it in a temple directly) and as I heard this, I couldn’t help but smile. For if someone can believe in a custom to this extent, you cannot ridicule it. You’re not human if you do.
So, today, with just one instance of how people still have faith in all things, I regained some faith that I lost all those years ago or at least learned to appreciate faith again which is fine. Baby steps. Here’s to going from 0% believer to 10% in just two months. I’m still an atheist though. It might or might not change for life is, unpredictable.