Much before the app cabs came to our lives in Kolkata, this incidence occurred and it altered my opinion on the mob without a face. Mobs do have a face!
It was a hot and humid afternoon and I was returning from a sales call, on my way to the office in Russel Street in Kolkata. The taxi took a right turn at the Shakespare Sarani and Middleton Road crossing and the stopped just outside the Kenilworth Hotel. A vehicle had broken down and the entire traffic had come to a halt, waiting for a towing vehicle to remove the vehicle.
My taxi driver inquired with a by-stander. “Kya huwa yaar?” (what has happened?)
The by-stander replied, “Agey ek gari langda ho gaya hain. Tumhe kya? Meter Chalu hain na?” (A car has broken down but why should it matter to you? You meter is running). I could see the mischief in his smirk as he spoke, revealing his tobacco stained teeth.
It made no sense for me to remain seated. My office was at a stone throw distance. I gathered my stuff and offered the fare as per the meter. The driver asked for 20/- extra to the meter reading. I asked him the reason for over-charging. Leant that, it was for deserting him midway in the traffic snarl and he will be wasting fuel to crawl out of it, till he gets his next catch! I refused to pay and he refused to oblige. I argued with him and he paid no heed at all. I left the money by his side in the seat and was about to start off walking, when I heard him invoking my family lineage! I turned back and took him by his collar and all hell broke loose.
“Dekho bhai log, ek garib ke girebaan pe haath. Ek garib taxiwallah pe zulm. Bachao!” (Don’t miss out in watching this man insulting a poor taxi driver. A rich man is torturing a poor taxi driver’!)
A mob had gathered by then. I started running as the mob started chasing me. The mob had a face! It was the common thread that bound them. It was the opportunity to bridge the gap. These opportunities come one in a while, when the mob get incited by a common thread. In my case, it was the ‘class divide’. You don’t reason, you do not offer an apology. You just run, if you are lucky!