Luck by chance

He was heavily drunk. We drove at a crazy speed with me shouting at him to stop.

It was the first time I was invited for a UN conference at Bangkok, more than 50 years ago when I was in the prime of youth and just starting service. I was certainly worried about succeeding in making an impressive presentation. But what was more scary to me was how I would manage the trip all alone in a place where most people in those days knew only Thai.

At the Bangkok airport, I got into a taxi (as specified in the instructions to participants), and told the driver to go to the Indian Embassy. There was no acknowledgement from him. Within minutes, I sensed trouble — he was heavily drunk. We zigzagged at a crazy speed with me shouting at him to stop. Suddenly, the vehicle came to a screeching halt on seeing a young girl with torn clothes dash across the broad road.

I could not fathom what they said to each other but soon he started the car with her sitting in the front seat. She  was speaking while crying profusely and covering her torn clothes with her hands. I was sure she had got into a scrape and had somehow escaped in time. The driving became less fast and crazy.

I was relieved and glad when I was dropped — after what seemed ages — in front of a large building where I heard a few voices in Hindi. Terrible things could have happened to me but for that girl — my saviour — whose presence for at least some of the way helped so much. More than a car crash, the drunken driver could have taken advantage of me, but stopped himself in trying to do his duty to protect a local young girl.

Another time, I was stuck in an elevator in a posh hotel in Manila for about half an hour with a young man who looked anything but decent and polite. In such a situation, one can only hope for the best. You can’t even kill yourself for there is nothing in the elevator or your handbag (unless you have a bottle of poison). I need not have worried so much though — I told him so many jokes that he started laughing until the elevator started working, without saying a word. I couldn’t fathom whether he knew English or not, though most people in the Phillippines speak English.

There was a time I played and enjoyed badminton in the Raj Bhavan courts in Trivandrum, about 2-3 furlongs away from the Golf Club. One day, walking back from there to meet my husband in the Golf Club, I noticed that there was a man following me from a little far back who seemed drunk. I hastened my pace and so did he. There was nothing I could do on that lonely, uninhabited (in those days) road.

But lo and behold, I found a tiny tailor’s shop with one dim light just a turn away. I ran to reach it and caught hold of that old tailor for dear life (literally). While he wondered what was happening, the drunkard moved away, knowing his chances of getting a good prey had diminished. I had overcome indeed, in all the three cases, but perhaps because of good luck only.

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