Yesterday I approach a group of autos at Kundalahalli Gate and find one of them vigorously waving at me. And he is the only one who is willing to just ferry me across the (Marathahalli) bridge so that I can take a bus from the other side. The guy continues smiling as he sets the meter and then says “gottaaita saar?”. My first reaction was that he must be some mad guy and just kept quite. Then he said “IIMB. Hostel. Night Canteen”.

“But what the hell are you doing here driving an auto?”

Illa saar, alli set aaglilla. Bitbitte. Nimm jotegene bittbitte” (Things didn’t work out there, so I left. Along with you. At the end of last march)

Upon further conversation, Channavel (not sure of the name – saw it on the auto display board and don’t particularly remember it) told me that the IIMB authorities didn’t allow him to continue working two shifts as he had been doing while we were there. They said that he would be allowed to work only one shift and his salary would be halved. No amount of negotiation worked so he left.

Auto nimmdEna?” (is this auto yours?)

Howdu saar. Bank financu.” (yes sir, bank finance.)

While on the topic, he never mentioned “saala” (loan) but always said “bank finance”. Maybe for those people, loan is something bad that you take from moneylenders. This was “finance” for him, not a “loan”. And he was bloody proud of it. And he said that even after paying off the EMI, he now earns much more than what he did doing two shifts at the IIMB mess.

It was a short ride – i just needed to get across the bridge, remember – and no sooner than I had gotten into the auto, I had gotten down, paid, bid goodbye and gotten into a Volvo bus. Then suddenly I realized I hadn’t yet placed him in the mess. His face was definitely familiar but where was he in the mess? What was he doing?

Halfway through the bus ride, it dawned on me. There is a shop within the IIMB mess where you get biscuits, chocolates, light snakes, soft drinks, etc. Everyone has an “account” there and whatever you buy gets directly charged to your mess bill. Recently (= towards the end of my stint at IIMB) that “shop” had diversified into making coffee, tea, fruit juice, maggi, etc. And I remember there was one guy who used to be there right from morning till late in the night. Two shifts, now I remember. The guy was a fixture there. And here he was, now, driving an auto!

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