Coming across people who display courage and confidence during difficult situations is rather rare. When we do come across those people, they remain etched in our minds. One such person was Hariram, a young auto-rickshaw (auto) driver in Chennai, whose daring prowess I had the privilege of witnessing from close quarters: the passenger seat of the auto.

In September 2015, a few months before the famous Chennai winter floods, torrential rains flooded the city one evening. At 5 pm, there were reports of heavy rainfall, and after having helped other employees find their way home, I was the last to leave around 6:30 pm. Those days, I took autos to commute to work, I usually paid Rs. 100 for the 4 km distance. When I tried to catch an auto, it was already raining pretty heavily.

First Auto Driver: Sir, these are some heavy rains, I am going home.
Second Auto Driver: Sir, I can’t make the trip, please excuse me.

Fifth Auto Driver: Sure, I can take you home. But I will charge you Rs. 200.
Me (who usually refuses to pay even Rs. 120 on principle): Most certainly. Thank you for agreeing to take me home.

We traveled a kilometre onto the main roads, when we saw a stretch which was flooded. At the traffic signal, a couple of guys stopped us, and said “You cannot go ahead, the stretch ahead is flooded.” My auto driver replied that he was going to go ahead anyway. The guys weren’t too happy that their advice wasn’t being heeded: “If you want to be foolhardy, please go ahead. I can guarantee that your vehicle will get stuck in the waters.”

Without paying any attention to them, my guy proceeded to go forward. “Sir, if proceeding further is a risky proposition, I am perfectly okay with turning back”, I told him. “Sir, you please sit back and relax, trust me and let me do my thing”, he assured me. And then with all his focus and skill, he revved the engine to its maximum power, and proceeded to wade through the flooded section – 10-15 seconds of extreme intensity – water entering the autos with great speed – a high-decibel sound produced with the combination of the engine at its highest speed brushing against a lot of water. Something you see in the movies and TV, but don’t quite expect to be a part of in real life. And he came through successfully, without the auto stopping in the water! I couldn’t contain my amazement.

Me: “That was totally awesome! I’ve never seen anything like it!”
Auto Driver: “That was nothing. All in a day’s work.”
Me: “What is your name, Sir?”
Auto Driver: “Hariram.”
Me: “Tell me Hariram, when those gentlemen cautioned you, what made you eschew their warnings and proceed nevertheless?”
Hariram: “Sir, I knew that I had the skills to pull it off. They didn’t know this. When we are sure about ourselves, we must back our skill and ignore the words of naysayers”

One of the most profound lessons I’ve heard in a long time.

Me: “Well said.”
Hariram: “That said, it is necessary to have the skill as well as the execution capability before taking such a position. In this instance, I knew that I had to rev the engine to its fullest speed, and maintain it there – if I slipped momentarily and the engine stopped, I cannot start the engine again, and the vehicle will indeed not start.” 

The rest of the trip was uneventful, but I was engaging Hariram in conversation the entire time – I wanted to take advantage of whatever little time we had and successfully picked his brains. When he dropped me home, I gave him a 500 rupee note and asked him to keep it. It was his turn to be shocked – he did not expect this. “Hariram, this is but a small compensation for the skill you displayed today. It was a privilege to have taken the ride with you as well as listen to truly beautiful words of wisdom. Thank You.” 

Image Credit: OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

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Prahalad Rajkumar

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