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“We will pay… Please!”

Dr Navniit Gandhi Wednesday, January 10, 2024
“We will pay… Please!”

Anita’s college, in South Mumbai, where she headed the Department of History, was just about a km or so, from the railway station. The cab fare metered to Rs. 30 one way, unless traffic unusually held up.

She used to earlier walk down the way more often than take a cab, to and from the station. Since a year, however, the cab rides had begun to happen almost daily. The pressure of work had increased considerably. The non-academic burden of clerical work had all the college teachers reeling under considerable stress. By the time Anita was able to wind up and leave for home, she had no stamina to walk even a few steps. She began to daily take a cab from outside the college gate to go to the railway station.

Just like Anita, several other teachers who took a cab to the station from the college, always invited other teachers or students waiting outside for a cab, to hop in when they hailed one. Almost everyone followed this courteous gesture. Even students sometimes did. A cab could seat four and the full fare had to be paid anyway. The metered fare of Rs 30 was, sometimes, even shared by the passengers.

Anita had been teaching in the same college for 18 years. The warm and amiable person that she was, it was no surprise that all her students had a ‘friend’ in her.

The other day, Anita hailed a cab and looked around to see who else she could ask to hop in, as several students and teachers were headed to the station at that hour. It was about 3.00 in the afternoon. She found two of her students near the gate, headed towards the station. She beckoned them to join her and they gladly hopped in. They chatted about this and that, all the way. “You are our most favorite teacher”, they had echoed in unison.

While alighting at the station, before the other two girls could open their wallets---Anita gave the fare to the driver and got down. The two students murmured a ‘thank you’ and a ‘bye’ and walked their way.

The next day too, Anita had the same girls as her co-passengers in the cab. As Anita was about to give the money to the driver, the girls too opened their wallets, but Anita firmly said:“No! It is ok. I was going to take a cab anyways…” They happily smiled; thanked her and left.

The coincidence became almost a daily ritual. Anita would take a cab and look around to see who else was waiting for a cab and found them near the gate. During one of their rides, they had mentioned that their last lecture got over by 2.45 pm, and soon thereafter, they too headed towards the station before the trains got super crowded in the evening hours. Very amiably, whenever she saw them, she would tell them to hop in. After more than a month, their protests became firm that they wanted to pay, but Anita never did let them pay.

All three of them chatted, laughed and bonded over the 5-minute ride.

One day, after more than a month and a half since the coincidence had become a ritual, as Anita was paying the driver, one of the two girls spoke up: “Ma’am, please… DO not pay every time. We too want to pay, please. This is not fair!”

Anita was touched by their thoughtfulness.‘After all, Rs 3o is not a big amount for anybody these days. I must let them feel good too’, thought Anita to herself.

Yet, Anita replied: “It is ok, Purva. No issues. As it is, I was going to take a cab.”

Purva, while holding money in her hands, refused to yield: “No Ma’am, today you will not stop us. We will pay. Please…”

The cab driver looked bemused, but waited patiently. He was used to this kind of give-and-take, while picking up passengers to and from the college.

Anita gently smiled at their insistence and relented: “Ok, dear… You pay today.”

Both the girls stepped out of the cab, gave money to the driver, and said ‘thank you’ to their teacher and walked away. Before Anita could collect her belongings and step out—the driver, with a quizzical expression, held before her two 10 Rs notes in his hand, which the two girls had handed to him.

Anita sat staring at the two notes for a couple of seconds, puzzled.

They had paid ‘their’ share and left!!!

Dr.
Navniit Gandhi is an academic since 25+ years; a feature writer (300+ articles), and has authored 10 books. Her 10th and most recently authored, published and launched book is titled: NOT MUCH IS AS IT SEEMS Her write-ups can be read at navniitspeaks.wordpress.com
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Express your comment on this article

 
Soja
Monday, March 11, 2024
The ending was unexpected! I thought the girls were feeling embarrassed about the free ride (literally) and wanted to make amends! I’m curious to know whether the teacher continued to offer them free ride after this incident.

ABC
Wednesday, January 17, 2024
Ha ha ha….. Its funny ending. Nicely written. As I was going down while reading I was expecting that girls would pay full fare but surprised to see that they left the teacher to pay “her” share to taxi driver.
Actually, it used to be very common in Bombay to share taxi fare from Churchgate station to Nariman point office complex. I used to work in Bombay long back and used to share the fare.

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