A white cat, an autorickshaw and a life lesson.

Life lessons come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes it runs across your path and bring your autorickshaw to a screeching halt. Yes, this happened on a trip to Mumbai – the city that never sleeps and, come to think of it, doesn’t much like stopping either. While I was on my way to a friend’s apartment at Versova with a couple of girlfriends, a cat crossed our path. And the driver stepped on the brakes with all his might.

We looked at each other in bewilderment. Then at him with judgement when he told us that he wouldn’t move until someone else went ahead first. He didn’t want to bring bad luck on himself. For the uninitiated, it is considered inauspicious to carry on if a black cat crosses your path; the only way to avoid the impending doom is to let someone else take on the burden by going ahead before you. Yes, we are rather generous like that.

Our bewilderment and judgment soon turned to amusement as we pointed out that it was, after all, a white cat, not a black one. We even tried to appeal to his reason by wondering out aloud if a white cat crossing our path could bring good fortune. But the auto driver wouldn’t have any of it. He stayed put, till a man on a two-wheeler cruised ahead (with no helmet on; impending doom alright).

Our journey that night amused me. I even laughed at the madness of it all. But it didn’t take long for me to open my mind. Not to the superstition, but to how easy I found it to judge the auto driver. He probably lived in a tiny room with five other people, barely made enough to eat for the day, possibly had a family to feed in a far away city, and was totally within his rights to do whatever he could for his peace of mind.

After all, rationality in the face of struggle isn’t particularly easy. It isn’t even easy for my well-off friends, who comment ‘amen’ on Facebook or forward messages on Whatsapp to exactly seven people to avoid seven years of bad luck. Then why should it be easy for him? Clearly education doesn’t seem to have anything to do with it. We would much rather be careful than rational, follow age-old traditions than not – even the most evolved of us. Then what business did I have judging him?

It took a cat and an autorickshaw ride to teach me that lesson. They taught me to open my mind and see my everyday world with new eyes, with more tolerant eyes, perhaps. And all this, as I walked into my friend’s apartment with my right foot forward.

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Text by Tintu Saleem
Photos by Sukrit Nagaraj
Edited by Tanmay Degwekar & Priyaneet Singh
And a big thank you to the cat owners Divya Ramesh & Deepak “Chuck” Gopalkrishnan

9 Comments Add yours

  1. Jumana Ali says:

    Very well written Tintu.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tintu Saleem says:

      Thank you. Loved writing this one. It’s fascinating how your mind works in the traveller mindset. Loving the journey.

      Like

  2. wilmerdon says:

    Hilarious, witty and short. Just the way I like to read posts 🙂
    You know, in Turkey in the countryside/small towns people will knock on wood (table,etc) with their knuckles if anything surprising or a favorable news is announced (My father grandpa lived to be hundred. My brother narrowly missed an accident. My niece won a scholarship. etc.,)
    I found that hilarious and played plenty of pranks! Soon I was telling everyone made up stuff all the time 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tintu Saleem says:

      Haha… sounds like you had some fun. And yes, all cultures seem to have these superstitions. We seem to have internalised them now. I like the harmless ones. It is fun questioning their genesis 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This was quite heartwarming, and equally gave a few things to think about. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tintu Saleem says:

      Thank you Zeeshan. Happy to know.

      Like

  4. I’m glad you wrote this. It is indeed very easy and has become a habit to judge everyone from the comfort zones we are in. It requires one to step into another’s shoes to know why they are what they are. And why they think and behave the way they do. Glad that the white cat taught you this lesson while everyone else was busy shooing away bad luck. Now wasn’t it good luck for you? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tintu Saleem says:

      Well said Rekha 🙂 It was quite an experience. I love it when everyday things get me thinking.

      Liked by 1 person

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