A Story About a Driver and His Boss' New Red Car...

An interesting cultural difference... We decided to go to Chidambaram on a day trip, tearing ourselves away from this beautiful oasis, the Dune Eco Hotel. The drive would be close to 2.5 hours each way. Our favorite driver, Murugan, came to pick us up. As we were driving through Pondicherry, he stopped at an intersection and his boss, Udaya Kumar, approached us to discuss the charge for a day's car use and driver. We agreed on a price and left him there. Driving on to the outskirts of town on the only road out of town, we came to a complete standstill. We were blocked from the front and blocked from the back and couldn't even change our minds and turn around because of a concrete road divider.

It turned out that there were a group of local Tamils having a protest in the middle of the road. Their homes had been flooded last monsoon and the government wasn't doing anything to help them. So everyday they came here to the main road out of town and staged a protest for a couple of hours. We sat in the hot car for a while and then noticed that we were opposite an interesting looking Temple. So we went over to explore. Our driver abandoned the car and joined us. We had a nice Temple visit with blessings from the local Brahmin, made our flower offerings, and came back to the car to wait some more.

Finally we started going again. After about 5 minutes driving, Murugan again pulled over and in hopped his boss. He had crossed through town on his bike and made greater progress than we had. We took him about 15 minutes out of town to a car dealership where he was going to sign the papers for a brand new red Tata Indigo car, made in India. It would cost 500,000 rupees, or $10,000 US. His astrology said that the following day was good for buying the car, but he could sign the papers today as long as he did not take possession of it. He assured us that Murugan would pick us up in the new car on the following day.

When Murugan came in the new car the next day, it was adorned with its own garland and ribbons. There was kum kum on the exterior lights, the windshield and the grille. This car had been thoroughly blessed. That's probably the secret to being able to drive so maniacally and survive. The plastic bag seat covers were still on and would stay there until seat covers had been made for it. It had that new car smell and the red color was a novelty in India.

Murugan told us that he would drive the first 20,000 km and after that the other drivers would be able to use it. Obviously Murugan was the company's top driver. We liked him because he was a steady mellow driver and once we told him not to turn and look at us while he was driving, he quickly obeyed. And this car came with working seat belts! What a miracle!

Murugam

Here's the interior. Notice how the dash board was smeared with sandalwood paste and the driver's wheel had kum kum on it.

on board

Unfortunately the next day Murugan's grandfather unexpectedly passed away. So that was the last we saw of him and the last we saw of the new red Indigo. And the last we saw of a car with working seat belts.

A highway sign read: It is better to be patient on the road than a patient in the hospital. Good advice!

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