Wednesday, 13 April 2011

A CRY FROM THE HEART!


Ananda P Srestha
Having attended a wedding reception in the Lagankhel area the other night, my wife and I just happened to get out of it all at about ten thirty p.m. – well after dark. The thing that always nags you when you attend such late night parties/receptions – and which partly kills the fun and enjoyment – is wondering how you are going to get back home. Whether there will or will not be a taxi available, the hassles that are bound to be involved, bargaining, etc. Luckily enough, we saw a taxi in the distance and rushed towards it fingers crossed, hoping against hope that we would be lucky.
"Khaali chha?" I asked eagerly.
"Kahaan jane ho?" the taxi driver counter questioned as is the general practice in the late evenings. "Bisalnagar tira" I said with abated breath hoping against hope that his answer would be in the affirmative. The taxi driver coolly looked us up and down as if we were petty criminals, thought for a while as if he was going to make a decision of life and death, and then looking ahead of him said somewhat rudely "utaa tira na jaane." My heart dropped at the not so surprising answer and could not help picturing ourselves walking the entire one and a half-hour distance home. For a while, we stood there pathetically hoping that a miracle might happen and that the taxi driver would change his mind.
As if on cue we heard the taxi driver ask, "Bisalnagar kata tira, dherai maathi ta hoina? This time, the voice had lost its rough edge and was somewhat, more civil. "Look, drop us anywhere near Bisalnagar, even Tangal if you so wish, wherever it is convenient for you," I said, prepared to walk the remaining twenty-five minutes distance home. Suddenly to our relief we heard the welcome words"basnus" he said "tara saat saya rupiya laagchhani petrol paudaina." Desperate, and left with no other choice we scrambled in.
We thanked our lucky stars, before the fellow could change his mind and were soon on our way. After a while out of curiosity, I asked the taxi driver why he suddenly changed his mind. There was another long silence. "Look" he said, "just about a month ago, while waiting for passengers in the Baneshwar area outside one of those late night restaurants, three men entered my taxi and told me to take them to Basantapur. I did as told, but as we neared the area, I was told to turn into the police station. The men got out and strode indoors without even paying my fare. I went in after them and demanded that I be paid, but was told to shut up and wait till I was called in. I asked what I had done wrong to be treated in such a way but no one seemed to listen. Again, I asked for my fare. But "Chup laag barta karaunchhas" was the only reply I got.
For no fault of mine, I was being treated like a common criminal. There were also other taxis lined up inside the compound and I had to wait till I was called in. By the time my turn came, it was about one o’ clock in the morning and was told to pay Rs. 600 fine. When I asked what I had done wrong, the same retort "barta karaunchhas" rent the air, and I had no option but to pay the "fine" and quietly get out and go home. Obviously the passengers I had brought in were either policemen or some thugs and instead of paying the taxi fare, had framed me instead for some "wrongdoing" so they could get away without paying my dues" concluded the taxi driver his voice choked with emotion.
"And by the way that is not the only incident" he continued after another long silence. "Just about three months ago, I was in the Kalimati area late at night when two boys, whose looks I did not at all like, entered my taxi and told me somewhat roughly to take them to Balkhu. I refused at first, but later agreed knowing Balkhu was nearby and also sensing that refusing to do so might lead to a fight. When I stopped at the Balkhu Bridge, they told me to proceed towards Dakshinkali. I refused and told them I did not have enough fuel. They then told me to take them a few kilometers beyond the Tribhuvan University gate.
I did as told and drove on, when suddenly I was grabbed by the scruff of my neck. I stopped the taxi abruptly, one of the boys rushed out, and I knew in an instant that they were going to rob me. I jammed the accelerator and dragged the other boy as he tried to hold on to the door of the taxi.
The moment I got the chance, I turned the taxi around and drove back full speed towards the Kalimati police station, and immediately lodged a complaint. But to my surprise, the policeman on duty told me, rather casually that beyond Balkhu was not their area or ilaka and that I should inform the Kirtipur Police Chowki regarding the incident. Just fed up with the whole thing, I went home cursing my stars" he said.
"That is why I have to be careful and think twice before taking in passengers late at night and going long distance," said the driver as we reached our destination. "After all I also have a family to support and my wife anxiously waits my coming home." As I paid him the fare, I could hear him utter somewhat viciously. "For me the government in this god forsaken country just does not exist. Besides, when the law-enforcing agency is itself corrupt there is nothing you can do" he said rather viciously before he drove off into the night. I could not agree more. It was a cry straight from the core of the heart!

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