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Earliest Memories - Part 17 - Taxi To The Station and Swift Justice

Viewed 373 times 2015-1-6 13:39 |Personal category:StoryTeller|System category:Life| Taxi, the, station, and, Swift

After a good night’s sleep extending to the early morning, the family of the little boy awoke to a bright day. After breakfast, the father set out to arrange a taxi to take them to the railway station. After scanning the neighbourhood thoroughly for an hour or so, he managed to find a taxi driver willing to make a run to the station. The vehicle itself looked run down and rusty. The driver asked for the details of the passengers and luggage to be carried.

“Only passengers, no luggage allowed,” he said.

The father explained that there would be two adults and two little children. The only luggage was what they could carry on them.

The taxi driver quoted a high price. The father remarked that it seemed rather high. 

“Saab (Sir)! There is no direct route, we have to take the long routes through many side streets and we still don’t know the condition of those. No guarantee when we will reach there. There is curfew on many roads, the police or army may not let us through,” he argued.

“Very well, I suppose I have no choice! By the way, I know the way and even if we have to make a detour I can guide you. If need be I have curfew pass that will see us through,” the father replied.

The taxi driver who was a long term local looked, sceptically, at the father. It seemed strange that this man, who did not look like a local, claimed to know the area so well. But he seemed to brighten up when he heard this man had passes to get him through streets under curfew.

“Aap police ki army ho? (Are you a police or army man?)” he asked looking very interested.

“Nahin, bas sarkaari kaam hai (No, I just do government work),” replied the father.

Now the taxi driver seemed more interested in the making the trip.

They brought the taxi to a nearby corner of their street and the taxi driver waited there. It would have been too difficult to turn back or make a U-turn on that street with the trenches.

The father went home and fetched his family. Again, they all said their goodbyes to the family of the house-owner. Again their grown son came to help with the luggage.

As they came to the taxi, the driver had a look at the family and luggage and shook his head.

“No, Saab, nahin chalega (cannot go)! I told you no ‘samaan’ (luggage). You have too much stuff,” he said.

“Arey Bhai (Hey Brother), don’t worry. It is all what can be carried with us. It will easily fit in the trunk. Just open it and you will see,” the father said calmly.

“No Saab! I cannot open the trunk. It is broken and will not close or work properly. There is only space for people to sit. I told you,” the driver sounded annoyed.

“Can you not try and open the trunk! It looks like it is not closed firmly anyway. Let us try and see,” said the mother. The father noticed that too and went to towards the trunk.

The driver suddenly ran over and blocked his way.

“No, Saab. Don’t open the trunk. I told you. I don’t want your fare. Just pay me for this short trip and I will go,” he said firmly, clearly upset.

The mother and the neighbours started to argue and debate with the taxi driver.  He looked furious.

The father calmed them down.

“How about I will pay you what you asked and a bit more if you try to fit the luggage in the trunk,” the father calmly offered the driver, as he patted his shoulder soothingly.

“No Saab, nahin bola tho nahin, bus (No Sir, when I said No, I mean No. That’s enough),” the taxi driver put his foot down.

“OK, we will do it your way. OK, we will not put anything in the trunk. Is it OK if we sit and carry the luggage in our laps? Will you then take us?” replied the father evenly and calmly, “Let’s go!”

The taxi driver quietly agreed.

The mother seemed a bit surprised and asked the father, “Why can you not make him open the trunk? After all we are paying for fare he asked for!”

“Look, we are lucky to get him to go. These are not normal times and he says there is a problem with the car trunk. Let us work with the man and go,” insisted the father. It seemed the mother was a bit disappointed at the father taking the side of the taxi driver against her. However, she kept quiet.

The children and the mother sat at the back. The children sat on the bags of supplies. The mother held the radio on her lap. The father carried the food and sat in the front seat next to the driver. It was a tight squeeze.

They went to the station through a long-winded route. There were a couple of places where they were stopped by police and army check-posts. The father’s curfew pass saw them through without much fuss or detailed checking. They made it to the railway station.

Swift and Brutal Justice

They parked a little distance away from the entrance. They all got out slowly. Since the father did not have exact change to give the taxi driver he asked him to accompany him to the ticket counter or food stalls, from where they could get some change.

The father asked them to wait until the taxi driver parked his taxi in safe spot. He too got out and accompanied them into the station. There were police and army personnel in large numbers everywhere around the station. Many military trucks were arriving and leaving with soldiers in them.

The father went to purchase some tea at the food stall for himself, the mother and the taxi driver. He paid with a big denomination note. Then he got the change he wanted.

He remembered: The mother stood in the line at the ticket counter. The children were set down next to it with the luggage. They started to play. The taxi driver stayed near the children.  He was chatting with a couple of hangers on. They all talked to the little boy and girl. They asked them questions about themselves. They asked them to sing, hearing the little boy hum songs along with the radio that was blaring all from the food stall. The little boy readily obliged. His sister was shy. The men then asked her to sing or do something. The public announcement system and radio were constantly on listened to with great interest by all there. There was constant news about the war and the battlefronts.

The father came over and paid the taxi driver and gave him his cup of tea. He took the money and tea but stayed put there. He was still talking and chatting to his friends. The father went over to the ticket line. The mother wanted to go and rest sitting next to the children, but the father asked her to remain in the line. He said he would go and check on something and be back.  He went over towards a group of uniformed military police in their jeep, just outside the station. He exchanged a few words. They then huddled around him. A couple of them went away. They returned soon with a serious expression. They all talked in low tones for a little while. Soon they dispersed.

The father went over to the ticketing line. He asked the mother to call her kids over to her.

He remembered: The mother called them loudly to come over. They were talking and playing with the taxi driver and his friends. They all looked at the mother and father in the line.

The children stopped their play and came over. Their luggage was left behind, right next to the taxi driver.

As the children came near their mother, she reached out and pulled them to herself and squatted down, hugging them.

Suddenly about a dozen military police closed in on the taxi driver and his friends. The men were shocked and tried to move and resist, but it was no use. They were dragged over to one side and the beating started. It was brutal.  Their clothes were mostly ripped and searched. Many small arms and items fell out from their pockets. The men stood no chance. One tried to resist and was stabbed by a knife wielding army man. All people did not seem surprised at the scene. The mother covered her children’s eyes.

Soon the bloodied and beaten men were taken away somewhere.

“Kya hua (what happened)?” someone in the ticket line asked the father of the little boy.

“It seems they were enemy agents, supplying guns and explosives to saboteurs and other agents,” said the father.

He had quietly suspected something was not quite right in the manner the taxi driver resisted in not opening the trunk. He had become more suspicious when he heard the dialect and language he had spoken to his ‘friends’ who were hanging around and playing with his children. He had spoken of his suspicions to the military and railway police which had gone and checked trunk of the taxi. They had found a stack of firearms and explosives hidden in the trunk, under a false floor. They realised they could have well prevented a deadly attack on the soldiers right at the station, that day.

Justice was swift and brutal in those times.

 

To Be Continued

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)


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