The planets had conspired to get me on the Ashram flyover that day at that time….
There was more than the usual traffic. Two cars had stopped (one behind the other) in the middle of the road. The drivers were arguing to establish culpability for a prang involving their cars. Having settled the scores, the athletic young driver of the lead car walked back to his vehicle. Unmindful of my car passing his through the narrow passage, he flung open the door. His wrist got caught between his door and the rear view mirror of my car as I was trying to manoeuvre through the passage. He shrieked as the mirror assembly of my car broke and hung by its wires––he was hurt badly.
It was the beginning of a two-hour ordeal.
“Are you blind? You can’t see even with specs on. I’ll hit you!” He raised a closed fist as I lowered the glass.
Here was a youth half my age, threatening to cause me physical harm. It felt as if he was challenging my years of training and grooming in the Air Force. A deluge of memories of my days as an instructor in the Paratroopers Training School and as the Chief Instructor at the Garud Regimental Training Centre flooded my cranium.
It was difficult to hold back the urge to counter rage with rage. His last words were still echoing menacingly in my ears: “I’ll hit you!” I looked piercingly into his eyes and said calmly, “Please go ahead. Just try.”
I don’t know what did him in. “Get lost!” He said with his clenched teeth; turned and walked back to his car.
I drove off slowly not knowing that the ordeal was not over yet.
The youngster blocked my car at the end of the underpass near Moolchand Hospital. He raised his bleeding wrist and asked, “Who will get me first aid?”
“I will,” was my instant reply. He refused to go along with me to the Air Force Medicare Centre for treatment. So I followed him to a nursing home of his choice. At 8:30 am, the night duty staff were leaving; the day duty staff had not taken charge. They were not in a position to treat him. Half-heartedly, he let me take charge.
I made him park his vehicle and drove him to Moolchand Hospital in my car. He was given first aid and medicines. “Take these tablets after eating something and return for further treatment,” the doctor said handing over the prescription. His wrist had suffered a hairline fracture.
He had calmed down considerably when we reached the cafeteria. “Sir, I’ll have a coffee and half a pizza if you don’t mind having the other half.”
We chatted as we ate. He was Atul Batra (name changed), a fashion designer, educated in London and worked from there; had an office in Delhi too. His father was a retired Inspector General of Police. He was a kick boxer. After we agreed that it was an accident in the true sense of the term, we opened up and talked on more interesting subjects including fashion. Having served as the Assistant Quality Assurance Officer in the Ordnance Parachute Factory––where they manufactured parachutes and a wide range of garments for the Indian armed forces––I had a fair knowledge of garment manufacturing.
Just for fun, I asked him if he knew why the buttons on the garments for ladies and gents were stitched on the opposite sides. He did not have an answer. He guessed that it had something to do with the two lobes (left and right) of the brain, which functioned in diametrically opposite way for the two sexes.
“Did people have the knowledge of difference in the brains of the two sexes in the era when buttons were invented?” I winked as I asked.
“No, people of that era did not have this knowledge about brains.” He looked quizzically at me. “Do you know the answer to that question?”
I told him that when buttons were invented several centuries ago, only the kings and the members of the royal family could afford them. The men folk used to dress up on their own––the buttons were placed on the right side for convenience. The queens and the other ladies of the royal family, on the other hand were assisted by maids. For the convenience of the maids, the buttons on the garments of the queens and the princesses were stitched on the opposite side. The practice has continued.
He was impressed by my knowledge. “I didn’t know that,” he said.
Both of us laughed when I told him that my source of information was Google.
Our interaction lasted two hours. His parting words when I left him by his car were: “Sir I’ll stitch a lounge suit for you.”
An instance of road rage need not always end in broken noses.