The thirty minute auto ride from Nehru Place to Tughlaqabad Institutional Area was something that over the previous couple of weeks, I had learned to approach with caution, if not apprehension. In that relatively short period of time, I had rubbed shoulders with prostitutes, eunuchs and hordes of drug addicts drooling on my shoulder, all within the confines of the rickety three wheeled contraption.
The eunuch affair was particularly disturbing or downright hilarious, depending on your school of thought. They had trooped in, six of them, had grinned at me and had started bawling merrily, accompanied by cymbals and an occasional gesture in my direction, asking me to join the party. Maybe they were singing about their castration, but I did not ask. Somehow it didn't seem prudent.
Anyway, I digress. My apologies.
The chief reason for experiencing such delightful co-passengers was the fact that the route happens to pass through Govindpuri. For the uninitiated, let me put it this way. If Delhi is Middle Earth, Govindpuri is Mordor. If you still don't get it, here's another fun fact. More than half of the city's felons are extracted from the slums of Govindpuri, if and when the police feel like arresting them. That place is as seedy as they come.
If you are still interested, then you would probably ask why I went through the grind everyday and still cribbed about it. No no, I have no alpha male illusions about myself; it takes me multiple swats to kill a half dead mosquito, so holding my own against a bunch of antisocial toughs would be my forte in a parallel universe, never in this. The metro was a more sensible option, but the nearest station was pretty far from my office, and apart from being a wimp of the highest order, I am also very lazy. Do remind me to highlight these points in my CV.
So, once again on a drizzly morning I was sitting inside an auto, waiting for it to fill up so we could begin the bumpy sojourn. Presently two men entered and stretched themselves.Lets call them Red Shirt and Check Shirt. It was one of those rare occasions when blessed normal souls cared to join the travelling party.
Ah, the irony of it all.
The driver seemed to know these two, and had started his metallic bag of bones without waiting to fill it up with passengers right up to its last inch, as was the routine. That should have been my first clue. My second clue was a visual treat; Red Shirt had pulled out a black revolver from his pocket and was twirling it thoughtfully in his hand. He noticed me staring at his gun, pointed it at me, made a sudden 'bang' noise, and sniggered along with his partner. For obvious reasons, I failed to see the humour in it. Nothing is ever funny when you're at point blank range.
"Loaded, country made," he declared. He seemed happy about that, so sacrificing my happiness for my own sake, I converted my expression into what I hoped was an admiring one.
"Where to?" he went on. So the day had finally come when I had started engaging myself in banal morning chitchat with a possible murderer.
"Tughlaqabad. Job....internship." I wished he'd put that revolver away.
He laughed as though watching a Jim Carrey movie. "Money in your pockets, a possible laptop in that bag of yours, and you still.....?" he continued laughing, "See this?" he said, indicating his gun. "This, is a magic wand; I point this at you, you automatically hand over your stuff to me. Magic, see?" He banged the seat, overflowing with mirth.
If fairy tale dialogues included death threats, they wouldn't be much different from the way Red Shirt put it.
"Anyway," Check Shirt piped in, "You're unlucky, Bakshi's the one going to take the hit today," he stubbed out his cigarette, took the gun out of his friend's hand and rapped its butt sharply on the metallic grill, indicating the driver to stop. They got out, leaving me slightly befuddled. The driver behaved as though nothing had happened, perhaps this was nothing new to him; the mere sight of these two men had instigated him to start his half empty vehicle from the auto stand, clearly indicating that mob bosses ruled the roost in these places.
I reached office and worked furiously on my pointless project all day. Before leaving, I caught hold of the security guard.
I had a vital question for him. "Sirjee, how do you reach the Saket metro?"
PS- The conversation included in the above account has been extensively censored. Apart from that, I have attempted to record everything as they actually happened.