Scenes from a Bangalore Auto

The title of this post is a clear allusion to Billy Joel’s favourite Billy Joel song: Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.

I took an auto-rickshaw to go visit a friend’s house late last evening, and the auto driver was in a jovial, conversational mood. Naturally, therefore, he began voicing his grievances. I wasn’t too interested in spending time on my phone (something I usually do in auto rides), so I lent him my ears – to listen, to respond, to chime into the conversation when our grievances matched.

He started off by telling me how he missed speaking Kannada with his customers, an issue that I’ve heard several auto drivers talk about. He brought in a unique perspective though, and wondered why native Kannada speakers weren’t encouraging individuals to learn the language. When I suggested that this was perhaps conversation that took place privately that he was unaware about, his grouse was that it ought to be a conversation that took place publicly – that recognized that the language was in decline and was being used in a limited way in the biggest urban city in the State. Encouragement, he claimed, was more effective when it was publicly called for – when there was a public account of how the Government and prominent private personalities speaking up about the issue, and clamouring for their voice to be heard in their own language. Something he told me was that there was this old video of Robin Utthappa and KL Rahul (both cricket players who play(ed) for Karnataka, and grew up in Bangalore) speaking in Kannada that did the rounds frequently on WhatsApp groups he was a part of – just to recognize that they knew the language. He wondered whether there were similar videos of Dravid speaking in Kannada in interviews, or at school functions, or even with other national personalities speaking the language.

We then moved to discussing my profession: the Law. One thing he wondered was why I needed to go to Law school to practice the Law, and what knowledge I gained by spending 5 years in another State other than my own. I have a very eloquent answer for this I couldn’t quite translate to Kannada, but I didn’t have an answer for the first part: which pointed to a more systematic question about why University education mattered, and why we ought to pay money for it. He answered it for me himself: the exposure it provided.

That concluded a rather eventful, enjoyable conversation – not because there wasn’t more to talk about, but because I reached my destination.


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