It was a languid Sunday morning in Mumbai. The traffic was moving smoothly on the otherwise busy Cadell Road in Mahim. We were in a taxi going to Bandra to meet Anita’s aunt when I noticed a swanky car and a swarthy man at the helm, smoking as if in a hurry. Just before Mahim junction, where Cadell Road forks, he dropped his half-smoked cigarette on the road. Following that, he emptied something into his mouth and a moment later spitted the red contents on the street, making a big blotch on the road’s surface. I was shocked but not surprised. As my taxi pulled alongside his car I couldn’t stop myself and said sarcastically, “Dustbin hain kya?” He looked stunned but managed to nod and then shouted a yes at me. The taxi-driver who seemed to have enjoyed the exchange told me that the guy in question was a rich diamond merchant, whose daughter and wife rode in his taxi often.
I ended up saying, “So much for being educated!” to the taxi-driver. And cursed the rich for taking everything for granted including public properties and people they hire as ‘helps’. The arrogance of the man had startled me, and I was livid at his rude reply. After I calmed down I introspected about my own behavior – then and in the past. His remarks might have been the cause but it was something inside me that led to my anger. Perhaps, it was my assumption, that being in the wrong the man should have listened properly or not answered back as he had. Perhaps, my long-held beliefs might have triggered these feelings. The exchange gave me a chance to dwell inside and understand myself better. Having an understanding of my beliefs about how the world should treat me helped me to come to terms with my anger.
On the other hand, was it right on my part to have taken the mantle of monitoring public behavior? Was I putting myself over-board? Haven’t I too indulged in such acts of throwing garbage (plastic wrappers of candies) on roads? What would be my reaction if someone pointed out my ‘wrongful’ act in a public space? Once, a guard at the telephone office pointed at me to park my scooter to a place where parking was reserved – I had swallowed my ego then but I had felt bad on being told. And the tone of the guard was polite, unlike mine which I realized was not only sarcastic but had a taken the air of being sacrosanct or perhaps even holier-than-thou!
I am thankful that the car took a turn and went away otherwise a heated exchange would have resulted with both parties feeling abused and unhappy at the end.