An Encounter

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It was with utter disbelief that I gaped at that huge piece of heavy metal crashing into the side of my tiny, sleek beauty’s bonnet, and pushing it with great force out of its course. My ears with reluctance recorded the loud sound wave that the collision had created.

‘What! An accident? Is it really happening?’ – these words cruised through my head. My entire body, however, acted with restrain. I was in full control of the steering wheel as I brought my petit car to a stop at the first possible instant.

All the while I was keeping an eye on that ugly metallic giant that crashed into my car. After throwing the driver’s side mirror of my car flying skywards, it moved away from my car, sailed across the wrong side of the road, and was halted on its movement as the front wheel on the driver’s side fell into a ditch by the roadside.

I opened the car door, got out hurriedly, barefooted, and stepped on the tarred road that had started to cool down. The time should have been around four–thirty. It is just the time at which the doctors’ large-sized cars, announcing the self-flared status of the inhabitants, whisk the roads of the Central Hills as they rush for private practices.

And, the blue-cross sticker gazing at me from the windscreen of the metallic giant with one of its feet in the gutters announced that the proud owner of him was a doctor, indeed.

I walked towards the car that hit mine, in an excited state, as I did not know what to do next – this being the very first accident that I have experienced, let alone be involved with.

 I approached the front door on the left side of the car, and tried to open it. It got opened, and the one in the driving seat of the metallic giant looked at me with shear disbelief. I pointed my finger at him, and told, ‘It’s your fault.’

The stout man with jet-black dense curly hair, seated on the driver’s seat of the metallic giant, got down from his car, barked at me irritatingly over the hood of his car, saying that the accident was caused by myself trying to turn my car to the right without having the signal lights on.

He then fully ignored me, told the people who had by now gathered around us, what exactly to be done to raise the wheel out of the gutter, and got back onto the driver’s seat to manure his car to bring all the four wheels of it to the same level.

I now thought he was going to disappear with his car, and I hurried back to my car, fished out a pen and a notebook from my briefcase, and noted down his car number.

Before, I got down from the car this time, I put on my pair of heels that used to give me an additional two and a half inches. I had a crude feeling that an extra two and a half inches would be of some help in trying to deal with the man who knocked my car.

I walked to his car, and told him that it was indeed his car that came from behind and crashed onto the side of my car. I also told him that I did have the signal lights on announcing that I was going to turn right. And, under no circumstances, however, he could come from behind and hit my car as he had hit it on the right side of the bonnet between the front wheel of the car and the headlight. I said all these in a raised voice. 

He now got down from his car, walked around his car by its rear side, and approached me. He raised his right fist, shook his fist at me very close to my nose, and said something in his mother tongue in a very threatening manner.

At this point I did something that surprises me even now when I reflect upon it. I raised my right hand slowly, held his threatening fist that was wavering close to my nose gently and firmly, brought it all the way down without leaving my hold on it, and let it go when his fist had reached the minimum possible level.

He offered no resistance. He was rather shocked - it appeared. He asked me, as I was taking his fist downwards looking straight into his eyes, if I was going to hit him.

When I let go of his fist, he took a few steps backwards, turned, and addressed the people who were watching us, ‘Did you see? She was going to hit me. Did you see that?’

He now ranted and raved, walked up and down, and sideways. All the time, he was telling in his mother tongue that he had never seen a woman like me. He also said he could not do anything to me because I was a woman, and it would have been altogether a different story had I been a man.

He said this over and over again. He appealed to the people around us to witness for how I did not have my signal lights on when I turned my car to the right, and how I was trying to hit him. The crowd was watching, and had not taken the side of anyone of us yet.

With an animal instinct, I sensed what he was trying to do. His car, the metallic giant with the blue-cross on the windscreen had already announced the people around us his status. He was neatly dressed with a tie, and was holding a moderately sized cellular phone on his left hand.

My car was a petit Maruthi, with only ‘Save the Environment’ sticker on its rear screen of glass. I did not own a cellular phone to carry it about. And, I was dressed fashionably, but only comfortably.

I understood that his chances of getting the people to witness for him were much greater than mine, unless I did something at once.

So, as he did, I also addressed the people, and told them pointing to the blue-cross sticker on his windscreen, ‘Look. He is a doctor. See how he lies even though he does a respectful job as a doctor.’ I continued, ‘I had my signal lights on when I turned to the lane on the right, but he came so fast that he crashed into my car. He knocked my car coming from behind, which he should not do.’

 

*     *     *     *     *

 

Now, he put the matter of the accident aside, and started to stress on the point that I did not behave like a woman. He told the people who had encircled us that he had never seen a woman like me, and asked them if they had. He asked them if they thought my behaviour was fitting for a proper woman.

I tolerated his ravings, as I did not know how to deal with his unrelenting assault on my character. At one point, I thought I had enough of him talking about me not behaving as a ‘proper’ woman.

I approached him with definite steps looking straight into his eyes. I could see his whole body becoming very receptive to my approach, may be because he really believed that I could hit him.

When I was quite close to him to talk into his face, I put my hands into the pockets of my wrap-around, slanted my head, and told him still looking straight into his eyes the following:

‘I am an engineer by profession, and I work in an environment full of men. In my job I have to deal with men all the time. As a matter of fact, I have to deal with men like you as well. So I have developed a personality to deal with men like you. The issue here is not whether or not I am a proper woman, but the accident. So, please get on with it.’

At this juncture, two moderately well dressed gentlemen appeared on the scene, and one of them whispered into my ears with reverence, ‘He is a Doctor.’

I looked at him over my shoulder, and told him ‘So am I.’ It was no lie because I hold a doctorate degree in my field of study. Nevertheless, I told I was a doctor because I wanted that doctor-talk to stop. I wanted us to get on with the business of the accident.

It was however practically impossible to get anywhere with the business of the accident with the Doctor, as he was constantly at his cellular phone either taking calls or receiving calls. Whenever I tried to talk to him in between his cellular phone calls, he barked a ‘shut-up’ at me, and dialled another number.

When he was not on his cellular phone, he went about telling everyone how he had never seen a woman like me, and how I was about to hit him. In the rest of the time, he went on repeating how properly he would have dealt with me had I been a man.

Now, it was my turn to look in bewilderment at a man of such character. He was abusing me all the time, but telling that it was I who did not behave proper, that was, of course, as a proper woman. 

After hearing him for a while, I burst into a loud laughter. I threw my head backwards, and laughed. ‘You are one of the most interesting characters that I have ever met,’ I told him chuckling, ‘I would like to write a story about you.’

Instead of taking it as a complement as I would have done, he flared up again. He came close to me, held his face close to mine, grounded his teeth, and hissed some incomprehensible words at me, further amusing me.

Time was passing, but none of us, his friends, wife of one of his friends or I, were able to get a word of business to pass into his ears over his excited self.

His friends and I talked. I told the Doctor’s friends, ‘Why don’t you go and bring the Police? We can then settle the matter.’ They told me, ‘You are both highly educated people. You should solve this matter in style, not by involving the Police in it.’

They asked me what I wanted. I said that I really did not mind, also I know my husband would not mind, paying the bills of getting our car repaired ourselves. But, I would not leave that place when he, the Doctor, kept on repeating that it was my fault that he crashed into my car coming from behind. 

 

*     *     *     *     *

 

I now thought it would be better to get my husband to the place of accident as we lived quite close to the place of accident. I thought that I could ask him if he wanted to go to the police over the accident.

I also figured out that it was my gender that blocked the Doctor who, as I found out from the wife of one of his friends, was a VOG, where G stands for gynaecologist, in a nearby hospital. The presence of my husband, I thought, might remove the gender block, and we, rather they, the men, would be able to talk business.

I then asked the Doctor if he would let me call my husband on his mobile phone. He said, ‘No, for the way you behaved, I would have nothing to do with you. I will not permit you use my phone.’

One of the friends of the Doctor, blushing, rushed to his car and brought his mobile phone, and helped me call my husband. I told my husband that I had met with an accident, told him the location of the accident, and asked him to come to the scene of the accident as soon as he could.

We then simply waited for my husband to arrive. The Doctor kept telling his friends, ‘Let her husband come. She does not know anything.’ I ignored those comments.   

My husband came. The Doctor told me to tell my side of the story first. I told him briefly what happened, took him close to our car, and showed him where the Doctor’s car crashed into my car. My husband asked me what I wanted to do about it. He wanted to know if I would want to call the Police.

I told him that he himself could decide on that matter, as I had no firm opinion on what we should do. I told him what seemed impossible was to make the Doctor to talk about the accident.

Then my husband approached the Doctor and his two friends. They talked and talked and talked. I stood far away from them in order to prevent the Doctor from drifting on to the topic of my gender once again. End of a very lengthy talk, they decided to part with each of us paying for our own repairs.

One of the two friends of the Doctor produced a paper from his file. It was torn into two halves, and two copies of a letter of mutual agreement reached were prepared by my husband in consultation with the Doctor’s friends, two very decent gentlemen, well experienced with the ways of life, but appeared to be not so very highly educated as the Doctor and I were.

I signed both the documents first, and then the Doctor was given the documents. He signed them both, handed over my copy to my husband, and then both of them shook hands with each other with the display of mutual respect.

Looking at which, I laughed. I laughed because I thought the Doctor should be shaking hands with me not with my husband for it was I who signed the document.

Seeing me laugh, my husband prompted me to shake hands with the Doctor. I approached the Doctor, and offered my hand. I was of course having a lot of fun by now. The Doctor said, ‘I really do not want to shake hands with you.’ Saying this, he took my hand that I offered him.

What started out as a handshake was slowly turning into the Doctor squeezing my fingers together, while grinding his teeth. I was amused. I told him with a broad smile that I also knew to do what he was doing.

‘Shall I repeat the same,’ I challenged him. In reality, of course, my hand was very small against his broad palm, and there was absolutely no way that I could wrap his fingers together in my hand, let alone squeezing them.

Hearing what I said, the Doctor went another round of squeezing my fingers – harder this time. My husband’s eyes watching over this silly game were filling with concern that I could see, and he acted quickly and pulled my hand out of Doctor’s hand.

I was of course still laughing, even though I was starting to sense a slight pain in the fingers, particularly in the finger on which one puts on a ring even though I had no rings on my fingers.

The Doctor, appearing to be still very unhappy about the way he dealt with me, told me, ‘I must tell you one thing - that no respectful woman would behave the way you do.’

I told the Doctor, ‘You need not bother about that.’ I then put my right hand around my husband’s waist, and told the Doctor, ‘Here is my husband, who loves me as I am.’

As I finished saying that, the Doctor walked towards me, and put his hand around my neck, as if I were his long time friend, whisked me to a side in no time, and whispered into my ears, ‘He may be able to deal with a sour woman like you, but not me.’

He now turned and walked briskly towards his car and got onto the driver’s seat. My husband and I shook hands with his friends, and the wife of one of his friends, and got into our car. His friends and the wife of one of his friends got into their cars. We all parted away from the scene of the accident. So were the spectators.

  My ring finger sending small pulses of subdued pain kept reminding me of the whole episode until the morning of the day after. Then, it became an old story – but a funny one, indeed.

 

*     *     *     *     *

 

The accident was by no means a funny one, as we found out later from the ‘bass’, who repaired our car. He had told my husband that the car that crashed into our car must have come with a tremendous speed.

‘However,’ he had continued, ‘fortunately for the Madam, it was the front wheel on the right side and its sub-axel that had taken all the impact of that deadly blow.’ 

The damage to the sub-axel was so severe that the car had to be taken to Associated Motorways’ workshop in Colombo for finishing touches. It cost us a total of about Rs 20,000/= to get our car back into shape, now with a new sub-axel for the front wheel on the right side.

It nagged us for a while that, had we gone to the Police then, the Doctor or his Insurance Policy would have paid the Rs 20,000/=, not us. As the months passed by, however, we thought less and less of the accident and of the Doctor and of the Rs. 20,000/=.

One day, about eight or nine months after the accident, we received an email from another Doctor, who was a research-collaborator of my husband. The end of the email read like this. ‘I saw your VOG friend involved in another accident. This time he had rammed into a lorry on his front.’

‘The driver of the lorry wouldn’t be another “improper woman”, I guess,’ I told my husband. He said, ‘Too bad for the VOG that women don’t drive lorries in this country.’  

- Nov 2003

 

 

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Uploaded on January 01, 2007