The autowallah smiled when he motioned me toward his autorickshaw. His brown teeth gave him a mouthful of what looked like soggy cigarette butts. The same guy has driven me to work at least twenty times this year, so when I hopped into his autorickshaw this morning, there was no need to tell him where to go.
I like this autowallah. He drives a bit slow, but he's pretty reliable and never claims to lack change of a 100-rupee note ($2.50) the same way most of his colleagues do. I've never had to raise my voice to this autowallah, which is saying something.
Barely fifty meters from our house, we approached an empty four-way intersection of two equally-sized roads at the corner of a small park. Just as the autowallah began braking into a right turn, a silver Honda Accord (a luxury car in India) began racing through the intersection from the road we were turning right onto. The guy behind the wheel of the Accord looked neither right nor left as he tore through the intersection at a perilously high speed.
The autowallah turned right hard and slammed on the brakes. The idiot driving the Accord didn't even see us until we smashed into his rear left bumper.
The autowallah and I were both OK, and a quick examination of his vehicle showed only a minor dent. The Accord squealed to a stop and the fool driving it jumped out, surveyed the significant scratches and dents on his bumper, and started yelling at the autowallah.
The brash boob driving the Accord wore a navy blue sweater with the collar of a button-down shirt poking out. His shoes were shiny and his hair combed with precision. This rich fool sneered at my autowallah, heaping disdain and blame on the rickshaw driver's brown teeth and ratty ski cap.
They yelled at each other in Hindi for ten seconds while I continued to examine the damage to both the autorickshaw and the Accord. When I looked up again, a crowd of twenty people had gathered. A man in a dirty blue sweatshirt and unhealthy-looking red goop in his right eye appeared to be trying to mediate the argument.
I strode into the fray. Everyone but Goopy Eye ignored me. So, raising the volume of my voice as much as I tried to lower its pitch, I turned to the fool who caused the accident and said, "This was completely your fault. You didn't look right or left before you blew through the intersection. This is your fault."
Everyone looked at me like I had just spoken Swahili. The autowallah and the wealthy dope began yelling at each other again. Goopy Eye looked at me and shrugged.
Perhaps fearing the mob of poor people that was gathering around (because he certainly didn't seem troubled by my proclamation of blame), the rich fool soon scuttled to his car and drove off, without any information being exchanged. This was surely a victory for my autowallah, whose vehicle was virtually undamaged compared to the Accord.
The rest of the drive to my office was accident free. When we arrived, I tried to give my autowallah a big tip, but he refused, instead giving me a big brown smile along with the proper change from my 100-rupee note.
"You did great. That guy was a total idiot," I said to the autowallah. "That was all his fault. You did a great job."
The autowallah corrected me with a cluck. "God is great," he said.