There was blood in his eye and murder in his heart. As I frantically tried to calm my friend down, the voice in the background droned on and on. The sun beat down on our backs, the car’s tyre remained persistently flat and realisation dawned that we were in the middle of nowhere. It had seemed like a good idea early that morning for my friends and I to do a road trip. After a stupendous breakfast at a restaurant on the highway, it seemed like an even better idea.
Five hours later, we were stuck on pile of rock masquerading as a road, with one blown tyre, the nearest village 8 km ahead, the nearest town, 16 km behind us.
As my friend attempted to lever the car up to change the tyre, an old man materialised behind us. Nodding his head sagely, he began. He had known all along this would happen. From the moment he spotted usat the top of the road, he knew we would have a puncture. And the fact was, we were going about the changing of the tyre completely wrong. Any idiot could see that the car had to be lifted much higher for a change to be possible.
Soon, a little group gathered. With an audience, the old man grew more eloquent. Wherever they are from, he told the women around him, they sure don’t know anything about the state of roads here. As the women nodded along and sent sympathetic looks in our direction, the car refused to move even an inch further up. By then, the blown tyre had been removed and we were trying to fit in the spare.
That’s when the old man had a brainwave. It was very simple, he said. All we had to do was lower the car again, prop it up on a big piece of wood that he was sure was around somewhere, and we would then achieve the height to put in the spare. Never mind that the 1,000-kg vehicle would crush his mythical wood like bhel puri under one’s foot. That, he declared, was the way to go about things, not this namby-pamby, wishy-washy, leveraging and toiling that we were indulging in.
As I convinced my friend that it was not a good idea to punch an old man on the nose (especially one apparently wounded in the leg but still incredibly sprightly), I reflected on the fact that the do-gooders of the world invariably enrage a large portion of the population. Is that because they are almost invariably right (as our old man was) or is it because, we all know that at some level, we have done it too, and enjoyed it?
That absolute pleasure of lecturing someone is exponentially increased when you don’t actually lift a finger to help – but still manage to attract an audience. I can remember many times when I have smugly told myself or others that I could have done something better, and that it was obvious to anyone that something was being done in entirely the wrong way. The nice thing about being on such a pedestal, is the amazingly blissful feeling it engenders in ‘being right’ – even if it is temporary.
One hour later, after surreptitiously following the old man’s advice on raising the car and successfully changing the tyre, we drove away. He was still nodding at large. If nothing else, we’d probably made his day.
Keywords: weekend column