“Crown Theatre” He said getting into an auto. The auto driver starts moving and turns on the charge meter.
But he interrupts the driver and asks “How much?”
“Give me what is in the meter” Said the Auto Driver
“But this is a return route for you” He said “You would have gone back the whole way without a passenger if I had not got in”
The auto driver stopped the auto which had already started to move and he turned back
“How much do you want to give?” He asked
“I don’t know” he said “You tell me, it is your auto”
“I told you and seems like you are not happy about it”
He looked at the auto driver “I don’t want to tell an amount”
“And I don’t have time to bargain” Said the driver and paused and asked him “Are you ashamed to mention a very small amount?” and laughed
“I will pay the meter charge” He said after looking at the Auto driver for a while
As they started moving again, the auto driver asked him ”So Sir, you live abroad?”
“Yes in the US” he said
“Good, do you come to Kozhikode often?”
“Once in every two years, getting leave is a big issue in the US” He said “and flight tickets are very expensive”
“Oh! So you have to make sure you don’t waste anything right” said the Auto Driver
He remained silent as he was not sure if the guy was making fun of him.
“What is your name?” The driver asked after a while.
“Ravi” He said “And you?”
“Is this your Auto?”
“Yes and No, it is my uncle’s, but I get to keep all the money” He said “But I also pay for the insurance and the maintenance work.
He did not ask anything more but a few minutes later Moideen asked “Would you have been happy if I told you to give me only half the meter charge?”
“Sorry” Ravi Said “I did not really mean to bargain”
“No I am ok, because for you I am good”
“Why for me?”
“Because I am the guy who takes your mom for her routine checkups and other errands” He laughed. “And she always pays me much more than what the meter shows” He laughed again. “Always” He repeated
The Auto stopped near Crown Theatre and the Moideen looked at the auto meter and said.
“They will only be happy if I give you a discount. give me anything you like” He smiled warmly
Ravi took out a few hundred Rupee Notes and paid it thanking him and apologizing at the same time. Moideen thanked him and got in his auto and drove off.
Ravi looked at the auto speeding its way through buses and people like it was Moideen running and not his auto.
How many people like Moideen is he indebted in order to chase his dreams. He owes much more to many more people for the life he lives. There are no rights or wrongs, there has never been, but every now and then life gives him messages to be thankful for everything he has in life. If he had not got into that auto, he would have probably never known anything.
But this is an important aspect of the fabric of life in his hometown Kozhikode, people are there for each other always and they recognize each other’s help. He thanked every Moideen who has touched his life and helped him in unknown ways.
He slowly walked towards Crown theatre to spend the next two hours inside the theatre, not watching the movie but remembering the several moments of life he has spend there. When he and his dad came there in the seventies to watch Bruce Lee’s ‘Enter the Dragon’ more than seven times. Standing in the line during college times to get a ticket for many jam packed movies like surrogate woman and Noble Lady aiming to see some uncensored pieces. And then he remembered about the countless times he has waited by Mananjira catching his connecting bus home as he came home from his school in Meenchanda.
He stopped in front of the theatre and looked next door at the Town hall opening memories to the various literary and political events and book festivals that he witnessed and heard several heavy weights talk about what is happening around the world. The town hall that encompassed the heart beats of his progressive home town. He looked at a poster on a nearby wall, a familiar face who is standing for the election, an old acquaintance from his student activism days.
He walked towards the ticket booth and said “One Balcony”. He took the ticket, paid and spent a few minutes in the open area in the first floor watching his beautiful town smiling back at him. He felt the breeze telling him “Nice to see you back enjoy your memories”