Akbar Bhamani was in a talkative mood. That was obvious. He waved a hand around, jabbering away about a hundred and one different issues. Engaging and colourful, his meanderings were entrancing. ‘Maybe you should stop waving that hand around,’ I suggested, ‘the other riders and drivers will think that you are signalling to turn.’
‘No one in this city pays any attention to others signalling. “Drive the way you want,” people say, “don’t worry about what others think or feel. This is Pune yaar.” But then, you are right, he responded and stopped waving his hand, ‘people will think that this is a new way of signalling.
Every city that has autos have their own style of signalling like in Bangloor the drivers stick one foot out. In Pune they seldom signal but expect everyone else to guess whether or not they are going to turn.’
‘But I haven’t seen you signalling,’ I interrupted.
‘No need to, I have good judgement.’
The man was an easy rider and whizzed his vehicle around effortlessly. I could tell he was a seasoned pro and not one of those fly by night, hit and run varieties.
After a small silence he said, ‘talking about signalling, I remember the time when I was driving an auto with an elderly gentleman sitting behind. I could tell that he wasn’t in a hurry so I went along in a relaxed way and sat whistling a tune.
Then I noticed a Fiat moving along in front of us. The driver was a woman and her hand was popping out of the window waving. “Aha, she’s going to turn,” I said to myself, just look at the way she’s waving her hand.
‘She didn’t turn but went on waving her hand. My passenger stopped whistling and said, “have you noticed the driver in front has been waving her hand and hasn’t turned. What’s her problem?”
‘ “I’ve been watching her too…but I don’t know what’s her plan,” I replied to the man.
‘ “Then why don’t you drive up side by side with her car and ask her when she’s going to turn.”
‘ “That’s being rude,” I said.
‘ “Well then,” the man said to me, “you drive up alongside her and I’ll ask her.”
‘ I went faster and caught up with her. She was driving one of those old model Fiats, painted red. ‘
Just then a cyclist zipped out from a side lane and we nearly knocked the fellow down. Akbar slammed on his brakes and we nearly tipped over. ‘Phew,’ he said, heaving a sigh of relief, ‘just missed him.’
‘What happened about the woman?’ I wanted to know.
‘The woman in the red Fiat. You caught up with her, then what happened?’
‘Aha, that woman, Okay now I know who you are talking about. For a moment I was confused. I will tell you. When we were close to her car, my passenger called out to her, “excuse me Madam, are you going to turn or not?”
‘The woman shouted back, “ what’s your problem? You don’t have woman company eh? No wife? No mother, sister or girlfriend? You have to start talking to me… that too while we are in the middle of the road. Don’t you have any sense in your head?”
“Oho Madam,” my passenger called out, “You are waving your hand as if you are going to turn. But haven’t.”
“I am waving my hand because I’m drying the polish on my nails. Haven’t you seen a woman drying the paint of her nails?”
Akbar laughed so loudly at his own joke that it seemed her was compensating for my absence of humour. Aarey laugh,’ he encouraged me, ‘this is Pune bhai.’