There’s an adda of auto-drivers outside the apartment where I reside. And every time I go out, they huddle in droves.
One day, it so happened,
Auto driver: Kya, Madam! Aap mujhe pehchante nahi ho kya! Mein aapko kitne baar Gachibowli ko drop kiya tha.
Me: Arrey nai! Aapko toh mein achi tarah se pehchanti hoon.
Auto driver: To phir aap kyun hamesha doosre ke auto pe chale jaate ho?
All this feeling of apnapan happens only in India! It happens not just with auto-drivers, but even among students that I taught briefly. Emotionalism is a quintessential Indian trait. Still. And it’s what makes the country so warm, endearing and home.
Anyway, over the years, some auto-drivers have become familiar. I know their names, their past, their current life, and more.
I’ve always loved traveling the regular way mainly for its anonymity and cheap thrills. So train rides over expensive flights. Auto rides over cars. Rickshaw rides now extinct over auto rides — the slower the pace, the sweeter the pleasure.
Much to the displeasure of my daughter sometimes. She stands a foot far when I eat on the street. Gorging on pani-puris and some random street fare.
“Don’t you care about your reputation? What people will think?” she asked me one day.
“Not over this!” I said while slurping on another pani-puri. “Bhaiyya! Ek aur please!”
To my daughter’s defense, she’s been brought up most of her life so far in the US. Coming back to India was a massive culture shock for her. But she’s adjusted with time and is happy here now. However, the American influence remains — also, the peer pressure of what her friends might think seeing her mother eat on the street-side.
Anyway, today morning was just like any other. As ordinary and lovely as can be. So, Sayed, the auto-driver tells me,
“Madam, aap bahut achi tarah se baat karti ho!”
“Matlab doosre log auto-walon ko auto-walon ki tarah baat karte hain. Aap friend ki tarah baat karte hon.”
I gleamed. Best compliment ever.
Anyway, life is in the little things. The little moments. The little people.
Small is big. Slow is fast.
For life cannot be both extensive and intensive. The faster you spend it, the shorter it will be.
Over time and experience, I’ve learned that achievement is highly overrated. There’s beauty in still time. Like the still waters! There’s strength in being who you are unapologetically. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone, including yourself.
Of course, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t show your light to the world or multiply your talents. Of course, you should! What a shame that would be to whisk through life without honing our talents and being useful to the world.
But there’s no end to success and achievement. Really. It can soon become a vicious trap. Especially in the digital world that we live today. Without external validation, some of us lose our sense of identity and worth. What if we don’t need validation in the first place? The thought itself is liberating in itself.
What if we did our own thing and remain detached to life’s ups and downs? What if we had time to stop, stare, and sniff the roses? How liberating again!
Adopt slow and steady to simmer and savor life.