Aakash Arasu

A Man of the World

The sun touched my cheeks, a warm shower on a winter morning. It was six in the morning, and the sun was rising lazily, reluctant – I assume – to leave his own second AC seat after a long and comfortable journey across the sky. I could relate, though I must say a train ride across the sky seems way more exciting compared to my journey from Guwahati to Delhi. But, that’s not really possible, is it. I stood taking in the raw beauty, until a family of four rudely bumped past me. Hmph! They call me a dreamer, absentminded, and other such things, but I disagree. I am a real man of the world, if there ever was one, I take no shit from no one and give back as good as I get. A real man’s real man, if you will. Anyways, presently I tied my shoulder length wavy hair into a bun atop my head. It’s the delhi dust you see, not good for the sheen. I quite like my overgrown beard and hair, it makes me look wild. Like a carelessly powerful lion. He meanders slowly through his forest, not out of laziness or the inability to run, but because it is His forest.

I threw my stole over my shoulder and started lugging my luggage down the ramp leading out of the New Delhi Railway Station. Like flies to cow dung, or rather like lizards to flies, the auto drivers descended on me.

“Bhaiyya, where to go”s and “guesthouse ,hotel”s hit me from all sides. But I’m no fly, I’m a frikkin lion. Ain’t no lizard gonna hunt me down. I stared straight ahead and walked on with my head held high, shaking it once a while to let the reptiles know that the king did not require their assistance. Regal. I’d already checked the availability of a cab in my phone and I am not going to spend a rupee over three hundred. And one can be sure that delhi’s autos start at least twice the actual fare. My hand had started to hurt by now, my luggage you see, was weighed down by wisdom.

Books; I had a suitcase full of books. I stopped for a second to rest and switch hands, and at once the waiting lizard shot out its tongue.

“Bhaiya kidhar?”, he enquired, starting to pull the suitcase towards the auto.

I gave him the address, following in his wake.

“Phor hundred”

“Three hundred”

“Arey bhaiy-“

“Fir nahi chahiye”

“Acha theek hai, lekin sharing jayenge”

I nodded. No need to interact any further. He heaved the suitcase up or at least tried to. I watched, fingering the cigarette in my pocket, a marlboro red, classic; always.

“Pehla savari hai din ka”, he turned to me, having finally shoved the suitcase into the space at the back of the passenger seat of his auto.


“Haanji, to auto stand se nikalne ka fiphti lagta hai. Aap de dijiye to total se kaat lenge.”

“Change nahi hai”, I said, popping the cigarette in my mouth, “Panchsow hi hai”

“Change mai la dunga”

“Theek hai”, I said, handing him a five hundred rupees note. He took the money and walked back towards the station.

I threw my backpack onto the auto seat, sat down and brought out my trusty bronze lighter to light up my cigarette, wishing it was a joint. I get tired fast these days, gotta get back in shape. Even the lion needs to go on a hunt once in a while to show the pride who’s the boss. The family of four from before walked past my auto. The father with his downcast eyes, a dog without its master. Hachiko. I could almost see him standing at the office, hands folded, sloping shoulders, his boss chewing him out about his sub par tea. His ears hear the abuse, but he doesn’t. His mind is blank, he doesn’t mind the abuse. You see, he knows it’s a part of his job description, the words have no meaning, the boss could have been moaning in sexual pleasure for all he cared, the obedient dog never talks back. It knows that the master will never understand him, all he will see is his dog barking at him, which will infuriate him further. So what’s even the point in telling him that he had asked for coffee that morning.


On a more serious note, I don’t understand such a life. You toil and toil for a nameless, faceless company that never has, does, or will care for your well being, all so you can barely live in a precarious state of mediocre comfort. Pump out a couple of kids, unload your hopes and dreams onto them, exist till you have made sure your progeny follows the cycle you did and then pass away without making a mark on the planet. Forgotten like the dog you are. Actually even Hachiko was immortalized, calling someone like that hachiko is an insult to hachiko.

I put out my cigarette, shoved the butt into the spare cigarette box I always carried with me. They’re nonbio-degradable you see and we have to conserve the environment, each one of us. Presently though something else was bugging me. It had been ten minutes since the guy had left with my money and there was no sign of him returning. I stood on the footboard of the auto and peered towards the railway station, trying to find my guy in the sea of auto drivers. Did he just scam me? Is this the last I would see of him?

I wouldn’t put it past him. These auto-wallahs are basically just socially accepted scam artists. A year back, when I first set foot in this city, the first person to greet me was an auto driver who asked for eight times the real fare. Eight times!! I wouldn’t put it past them to try to out-wait me and take the five hundred rupees. There should be a system where the auto drivers aren’t allowed to pick up passengers themselves, rather they should be assigned passengers with a pre-paid receipt. Maybe something like that exists already. I do vaguely remember seeing something similar at the airport once when my driver came a few minutes late. I should have just flown as usual. None of this hassle with flights and chauffeurs. Not like I had a choice or anything-


Well, guess I shouldn’t judge too soon. Just because he’s an auto driver doesn’t mean he is a scammer. Then again I’m not exactly a pushover. These are shrewd master scammers, he must sense that he can’t fool me that easily.

“Doosra savari nahi mila”


“Ab to jyada lagega”

“Fir rehne do”

“Fiphty to kat diya already, total three fiphty lagega”

“Theek hai fir chalo”, well it’s just fifty rupees, and he probably needs it more than I do anyway.

It’s also getting dreadfully late. I wished to be at home and in bed as soon as possible, fifty is a small price to pay for that. Well we jumped in and left at once, the deal was done- why wait?

Early mornings in Delhi are quite tolerable, empty roads and relatively empty sky. The wind in your hair as you zoom past empty crossroads, if you don’t mind your hair falling out in a few years that is. A good set of earphones won’t go amiss on these auto rides either, to drown out the dying-granny groan of the engine or the bhojpuri crap these auto wallahs love to listen to. I plugged in mine and played my favourite song, ‘Right in Two’ by the band ‘Tool’. There’s an accompanying animated video for it on youtube, now this, this is real art. It has a message, a meaning, a reason to exist other than fair skinned bhojpuri kamariyas. The most important message of all if you ask me. Don’t worry I’ll tell you what it is.

We humans have created everything from basic society to international societies called religion. We say that at the core these societies are ideas of peace, utopia and equality. In reality all this is just a facade that we created, we’re just apes who divide everything we see in our attempt to be the alpha. That’s all we are. Apes. We see a pretty ape and want it for us and us alone. We see a juicy banana and now we want the pretty ape and the juicy banana. We see a baby ape performing unbelievable somersaults and now we want a pretty ape, a juicy ape and a baby ape who can perform unbelievable feats. Along comes another ape who shows us how helping it will help us get a pretty ape and ensure she doesn’t leave, get all the juicy bananas we’ll ever need and be able to get the best somersaulting apes to teach our baby ape. Before we know it we’re in a team of apes blindly helping another ape get the juiciest bananas, the prettiest apes and the best teachers for their baby apes that we can only fantasise about.

More people need to realise this. My auto driver, that guy at the station, and crores of other such people. Not me though, oh no. I am not the same, I am the antithesis of the ape. I am the lion. I don’t work for someone else, to fulfill someone else’s dreams. No. Every breath I draw, every drop of my sweat, every cell of my brain is spent as I wish, when I wish, and for what I wish.


The auto had stopped. My house loomed in front of me, a citadel of dark teal looming above the ocean of sickly gray that the city was. I looked up at the window of my room on the second floor. My mother had left the fairy lights on like I had told her to. I grabbed my backpack and walked up to the front door past the saluting guard at the gate, he’d get my suitcase. My thin hands looked like a stick man animation pushing the heavy oak door’s ornately carved handle. Mother was waiting for me in the drawing room as usual.

“How was the trip?”


“Hmm, why did you come by auto instead of Uber? How much did it cost?”

I am getting tired of her already.

“Three fifty”, I say, as I start climbing the stairs.

“Three fifty for a two hundred rupees trip?! Hmph! I told your father to just book a flight and cab as usual- Wait! Where are you off to? Tell me how college was. . .”



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