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Friday 8 April 2011

The “Lift” That Shook Parliament

As a child it was fun waving the thumb of your hand in the direction that you would want to travel and asking somebody for a “lift” and then enjoying the short ride as a pillion. Those were the times when the world around us was relatively less mechanical, less busy and more kind towards mankind. The result - eight of 10 times the ride was on.

Over the years, I first drove a bike and now commute by a car but whenever somebody asks for a “lift” a.k.a (also known as) “drop,” I invariably oblige their request and sometimes go out of my way to offer a “lift” if the person is known to me.

While giving “lift” has now become more or less part and parcel of my life, I still cannot forget the day October 9, 1996 and the “lift” that I gave. On that day as usual I was rushing to my office AP Times (a Daily Newspaper published from Hyderabad and now closed) where I was working as a Sr. Business Correspondent.

An old-man was waving his hand to get dropped and even as I was slowing my bike the old man literally fell on my bike thinking that I might not stop. His eyes were moist and with a feeble tone asked me where I was heading to. I told him that I am going towards the lower tank-bund road where my office is situated. He then asked me “can you drop me till Masab Tank (a stop mid-way).” I said “fine” and asked him to board the bike.

Barely after two minutes and after travelling a distance, I could hear the man weeping. I was not surprised but then asked him to control himself and tell me if there was any difficulty and let me know if I can be of some help.

The old-man said that his family has gone bankrupt because of his son taking a “LPG” dealership of a company which was nothing but a farce. He also said the dealership was bought with his lifetime savings and a loan taken by his son almost five years ago and today they are fighting with the company for re-fund of the dealership fee.

For a minute I was moved but then immediately sensed a “story” for my Newspaper. Without telling him that I was a Journalist, I asked him whether there are other parties who have been duped like them. The old man replied “there are 50 other dealers like us across Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and West Bengal and I am now going to attend the dealers’ association meeting and discuss further course of action.”

I then introduced myself and asked him if I can attend the meeting. The old man’s joy knew no bounds and my journey took his route. I told my Editor that I am following a good “story” and might return to work with the “lead” for the day.

The next couple of days was full of hectic activity (please see the attachments) and the “fraud” having the blessings of one of the MP’s from Orissa gave our budding Newspaper the publicity it badly needed.

With an MP being involved in the “scam,” there was big hue and cry in the Parliament and an enquiry was ordered to probe the fraud.

It’s more than a decade since I have left mainstream Journalism, but still I haven’t left my habit of giving “lift” to individuals.

I haven’t had any such experience in the last 15 years but definitely narrate this story to each and everyone who gets to travel a distance with me (I mean a lift) and that is the “price” they pay whether they like it or not.




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