Every Thursday morning we have our marathon training at Powai (an upscale suburb of Mumbai). Since it is a few kilometres from my house, we normally carpool. It was my friend Clyde’s turn. At the scheduled time at 5:50 am he picked all of three of us (me, Rahul and Hiten). Clyde was driving a Wagon R, slightly old but still in a good condition. We reached in time and after the customary warm up exercises, ran for a couple of kilometres on a steep slope. Post running, we had a 45 minute stretching exercise. The whole workout had exhausted all of us and we were waiting for the session to end. After the exercise ended, followed by a short prayer, we all headed towards Clyde’s car. We were about to pull the doors and collapse inside, when a worried Clyde shouted, “Guys, I have a flat tyre.” The front left tyre had a similar condition like ours. All exhausted and shrunk. We all looked at each other’s faces, and were waiting as to who would take the lead. From everyone’s faces, I could make out that none of us knew how to change the tyre. But who would confess? Looking at our worried faces, our coach, Vijay sir came towards us and confidently said, “Ismey kya hai, stepney lagado” (what is to be so worried about, put the spare tyre). Vijay sir confidently removed his jacket and helped Clyde to pull the spare tyre from the trunk. Following his lead, all of us got into action. We first tried to remove the nuts of the punctured wheel. Taking the spanner Vijay sir started working on it. Little did he know that the nut was as stubborn as us while doing those crunches with a twist. It plainly refused to budge and after intense efforts Vijay sir started sweating. Taking pity on him, Clyde came forward and said “Sir, main karta hun( Sir, let me try)”. Applying the full force of his 250 pounds, he turned and twisted the spanner but alas there was no change. Since I had seen many drivers change tyres standing on the spanner with one leg and applying pressure, I too tried to do the same. With one hand on the bonnet, and one leg on spanner, I rose like a titan only to slip and avoid falling flat on my face. I was not the sort who would give up so easily, and I tried again. This time the nut must have taken pity on me and somehow loosened itself, and taking lead from my expertise, relentless efforts of each leg followed and we got all the nuts off. Now it was time to fit the jack. Hiten lifted the jack from the boot confidently and by the time he reached the front tyre he was completely unsure as to where the jack was to be fitted. Once again Vijay sir came to our rescue and guided Hiten to the correct placement. Having seen how the jack was placed, all of us started giving expert advice, “Areh thoda left, thoda right” and finally it sat in a position to everyone’s liking. Rahul prodded, “Chalo abhi jack uthao” (now raise the jack) and the car started rising little by little, until there was clear space for the tire to be pulled out. We pulled out the flat tyre and felt a sense of relief, as if we had won the Iron Man competition. In all this chaos we did not observe a well dressed man, who was standing with his hands behind the back and paying full attention to all our activity. There is something about the people in India, about their curiosity. They have all the time in the world to watch others’ miseries. This man was no different. I casually asked him, “Kya hai bhaisaab?” and with a smirk on his face he asked innocently “Aap log pehli baar tyre change kar rahe ho ? (Are you guys changing tyre for the first time) I angrily replied “Kyu?” and with a sadistic smile on his face he said  “Yeh jack galat lagaya hai, kabhie bhi toot ke neeche aayega”( this is the wrong way to fix the jack), hearing this Clyde hastily came forward and said “ Can you help us, we are doing it for the first time” Till now the man who was enjoying all the fun, scooted away saying “I am getting late for office”. Now we all looked at Vijay sir. Keeping the air of authority, he meekly replied “Areh koi nai, lets lower the jack and raise it again”. Feeling frustrated all of us got back to the drill and after lowering it and raising it for a few times we could finally get the position of the jack straight. Inserting the spare tyre was the easy part. Once the tyre was fixed we all heaved a sigh of relief. Vijay sir took the jack and spanner and was about to put it back in the trunk when Clyde in a surprised voice shouted “Guys, where is the punctured tyre?” and we all looked around but somehow it had disappeared. Clyde angrily said “Please I am in no mood for any of your silly pranks”. Looking at our sombre faces, he judged that we could not have hidden it. At that moment Rahul who had bent down to search, victoriously replied “It’s below your car bonnet, I can see it” In all our excitement instead of pulling out the punctured tyre, we had let it sit below the bonnet. Clyde got into the driver’s seat and drove in reverse hoping to lift the tyre from front, but it was stuck in such a way that it moved along with the car. Finally we decided to pull the tyre from the front. All four of us bent in front of the bonnet and tried to pull it……Vijay sir was prompting us “Kheecho, kheecho” and like a disciplined army, with all our strength, we pulled together. The tyre came out with a terrific swoosh followed with a big thud of the front bumper which had ripped off. There was Pin drop silence….and I burst into laughter…and everyone except Clyde joined in it. I put a reassuring hand on Clyde’s shoulder and said “Don’t worry man, it’s ok, bumper can be fixed easily” I once again requested all “Let’s lift the bumper and fix it, can someone find where the screws have fallen off?” and instantly Clyde shouted in a stern voice “Guys please don’t touch my car” and he lifted the bumper with both his hands and put in the car from the rear side. Half of the bumper stuck out like a sore wound. The boot door could not be shut and there was no place left for anyone to sit. Realizing the awkwardness, Clyde said “You guys take an auto” and he raced off…..That was the last time Clyde ever gave us (or anyone else) a lift.

When I narrated this incident to my friend Jigness Patel, he said “Areh Maniss bhai this is nothing, my car battery had died down and I asked my friend Exide Laga du?”…In an authoritative voice he told me “Ek side kyu, dono side lagado”