Well it’s like this: early in the morning I finish off my bath and my
prayers, paint a vermillion circle on ;my forehead, get into my yellow robe
and wooden sandals, tuck my astrological charts under my arm, grab hold of
my stick a regular skull-cracker–and start out for a client’s house. I was
supposed to settle the right day for a wedding; it was going to earn me at
least a rupee. Over and above the breakfast. And my breakfast is no ordinary
breakfast. Common clerks don’t have the courage to invite me to a meal. A
whole month of breakfasts for them is just one day’s meal for me. In this
connection I fully appreciate rich gentlemen and bankers–how they feed
you, how they feed you! So generously that you feel happy all over! After I
get an idea of the generosity of the client I accept his invitation. If somebody
puts on a long face when it’s time to feed me I lose my appetite. How can
anybody feed you if he’s weeping! I can’t digest a meal like that at all. I like
a client who hails me with, ‘Hey Shastriji, have some sweets!’ whom I can
answer, ‘No, friend– not yet·’
It had rained a lot during the night. There were puddles everywhere on the
road. I was walking along all wrapped up in my thoughts when a car came
along splashing through the puddles. My face got spattered. And then what
do I see but my dhoti looking as though somebody mixed up a mess of mud
and flung it all over it. My clothes were ruined; apart from that, I was filthy,
to say nothing of the money lost. If I’d caught those people in the car I’d
have done a job on them they wouldn’t forget. I stood there, helpless. I
couldn’t go to a client’s house in this state and my own house was at least a
full mile away. The people in the street were all clapping to ridicule me. I
never was in such a mess. Well, old heart, what are you going to do’ now? If
you go home what will the wife say!
I decided in a trice what my duty was. I got together about a dozen scenes
from ail around and waited for the next car. I’d show them a Brahman’s
It wasn’t even ten minutes before a car came into sight. Oh no! It was the
same car. He’d probably gone to get the master from the station and was
returning home. As soon as it got close I let fly a rock. I shot it out with all
my strength. The gentleman’s cap went flying and landed on the side of the
mad. The car slowed down. I fired again. The window-pane smashed to
pieces and one piece even landed on the fine gentleman’s cheek drawing
blood. The car stopped and the gentleman got out and came toward me, gave
me a punch and said, ‘You swine, I’ll take you to the police!’ I’d scarcely
heard him when, throwing my books down on the ground, I grabbed him by
the waist, tripped him and he fell with a smack in the mud. I jumped on top
of him at once and gave him a good twenty punches one after the other until
he got dizzy. in the mean-time his wife got out. High-heeled shoes, silk sari,
powdered cheeks, lipstick, mascara. She began to poke al me with her
umbrella. I left the husband and wielding my stick said, ‘Lady, don’t meddle
in men’s business or you may get a whack and a bruise and I’d be very sorry
about that.’ The gentleman found the occasion to pick himself up and give
me a kick with his booted feet. I got a real knock in the knee. Losing
patience, I struck out with my stick getting him in the legs. He fell like a tree
when you chop it down. Memsahib came running brandishing her umbrella.
I took it away from her without any trouble and threw it away. The driver
had been sitting in the car ah this time. Now he got out too and came rushing
at me with a cane. I brought my stick down on him too and he fell flat. A
whole mob had gathered to see the fun. Still lying on the ground the sahib
said, ‘You rogue, we’ll hand you over to the police!’
I wielded my stick again and wanted to thump him on the skull but he
folded his hands and said, ‘No, no, baba, we won’t go to the police. Forgive
I said, ‘All right, leave the police out of it or I’ll crack you over the skull.
I’d get six months at the most for it but I’d break you of the habit. You drive
along and splash up mud and you’re blind with conceit. You don’t give a
damn who’s in front of you or alongside of you.
One of the onlookers said, ‘Arrey, Maharaj! These drivers know perfectly
well they’re splashing and when some man gets drenched they think it’s great
and laugh at him. You did well to give one of them a lesson.’
‘You hear what the people are saying,’ I shouted at the sahib. He gave a
dirty look toward the man who’d spoken and said to him,
‘You’re lying, it’s a complete lie.’
‘You’re still just as rude, are you! Shall I have another go at you with the
‘No, baba, ‘he said humbly. ‘It’s true, it’s true. Now are you satisfied!’
Another bystander said, ‘He’ll tell you what you want to hear now but as
soon as he’s back in his automobile he’ll start the same old business all over
again. Just put ’em in their cars and they all think they’re related to the
‘Tell him to admit he’s wrong,’ said another.
‘No, no, make him hold on to his ears and do knee-bends.’
‘And what about the driver?’ They’re all rogues. If a rich man’s puffed up,
that’s one thing, but what are you drivers so conceited about? They take hold
of the wheel and they can’t see straight any more.
I accepted the suggestion that master and driver hold on to their ears and
do knee-bends, the way you punish little children, while Memsahib counted.
‘Listen, memsahib,’ I said, ‘you’ve got to count a whole hundred bends, not
one less but as many over as you like. Two men drew the master up by his
hands, two others that gentleman-driver. The poor driver’s leg was bruised
but he began to do the knee-bends. The master was still pretty cocky; he lay
down and began to spew out gibberish. I was furious and swore in my heart
that I wouldn’t let him go without doing a hundred knee-bends. I ordered
four men to shove the car off the edge of the road.
They set to work at once. Instead of four, fifty men crowded around and
began to shove the car. The road was-built up very high with the land below
it on either side. If the car had slid down it would have smashed to pieces.
The car had already reached the edge of the road when the sahib let out a
groan and stood up and said, ‘Baba, don’t wreck my car, we’ll do the kneebends.’
I ordered the men to stand off. But they were all enjoying themselves and nobody
paid any attention to me. But when I lifted up the stick and ran for them they all
abandoned the car and the sahib, shutting his eyes, began to do the knee-bends.
After ten of them I said to the Memsahib, ‘How many has he done!’ Very snooty
she said, ‘I wasn’t counting.’ ‘Then sahib’s going could be groaning and moaning
all day long, I won’t let him go. If you want to cake him home in good health count
the knee-bends, then I’ll let him go.
The sahib saw that without his punishment he wouldn’t get away with his life, so
he began the knee-bends again. One, two, three, four, five…
Suddenly another car came into view. Sahib saw it and said very humbly,
‘Panditji, take pity on me, you are my father. Take pity on me and I won’t sit
in a car again.’
I felt merciful and said, ‘No, I don’t forbid you to sit in your car, I just want you to
treat men like men when you’re in it.’ The second car was speeding along.
I gave a signal. All the men picked up rocks. The owner of
this car was doing the driving himself. Slowing dawn he tried to creep
through us gradually when I advanced and caught him by the ears, shook
him violently and after giving him a slap on both cheeks, said, ‘Don’t splash
with the car, understand! Move along politely.’ But he began to gabble until
he saw a hundred men carrying rocks, then without any more hiss he went
on his way.
A minute after he left another car came along. I ordered fifty men to bar
the road; the car stopped. I gave him a few slaps too but the poor fellow was
a gentleman. He took them as though he enjoyed them and continued his
Suddenly a man said, ‘The police are coming.
And everybody took to his heels. I too came down off the mad and sidling
into a little lane I disappeared.