If I had to ask you to write a story about what happened this morning, my question would be 'Why did my mother stare in disbelief when autokkaran K. Ramesh came knocking on our door today?' Let me tell you what happened. It all started last night when I took an auto home from Besant Nagar. I paid the autorickshaw driver the bargained Rs.60 and entered my parents' house. No sooner had I set the bags down than I realised that I had left my camera behind in the auto. I raced to the door but the auto had already left. We went back to Besant Nagar auto stand scanning every passing auto frantically for one that bore a 'Jesus' sticker at the top of the windscreen and a picture of MGR at the bottom. Predictably enough, we drew a blank. With little else to do, we left word at the auto stand and lodged a detailed complaint at the Mylapore police station.
At this point, I'd like to tell you a little bit about my camera. It was claimed to be the world's smallest camcorder at the time of its launch in March 2005. Its high street price, when I checked at the start of this year, was £500. It was perfect for the sort of fly-on-the-wall documentaries I was starting to make. I had bought it after much deliberation and so was understandably upset on losing it.
Which is why when Ramesh came knocking on our door this morning, my mother could scarcely believe her eyes. She followed me down to Saravana Bhavan where I had gone for breakfast. As if our reaction on receiving the news was not confirmation enough, I gave a detailed description of my camera which left Ramesh in no doubt as to who it belonged to.
He told me that a couple that had got into the auto after me had claimed the camera theirs. And that he (Ramesh) had refused to part with it as he wasn't convinced that it was. He did not budge despite repeated threats from them. He told me that he had left it at home as he didn't want to be carrying it around and risk losing it. We drove all the way to Sholinganallur where I was further confronted by his wife. If the owner has lodged a police complaint, she told me, then the police will be after us. Fortunately, there was some footage of me in the tape in the camera and I played it back to her. And she too was convinced about the ownership.
Ramesh would not accept my small token of gratitude and I had to pry open his fingers and thrust the rupee notes into his hand. Later we went to Mylapore police station to withdraw my complaint and the Inspector was full of praise for Ramesh. You should have seen him beaming, his eyes glistening with pride.
Madras autos, like the city itself, have had a lot of bad press. But incidents such as this prove that there's still plenty that is good about them.