License to Kill

April 26, 2024by Rajeev Hora0

In the wake of his unexpected accomplishment, YT didn’t quite mind the sporadic curses emanating from the pillion quarters.

A Kalbaishakhi (KB) developing silently on a North Eastern horizon and thereafter taking over the entire sky with vengeance within minutes, is a sight to see and experience. These squall-like storms generally strike in the late afternoons with thick, dark and ominous clouds. Sometimes accompanied by a high wind speed, they can cause sharp torrential rain and thundershowers. Well for one, you don’t want to be caught napping in a KB.

More than one KB in a day at the same geographical location is a rarity. Having one in the morning hours is equally unusual. An unusual day in 1984 it was therefore indeed. KB had written off one full morning detail at the Hunter OCU (Op Conversion Unit) in AF Station, Kalaikunda, on the outskirts of Kharagpur. Pilot Officers (an extinct breed today) TG and YT had accordingly found their names removed from the flying program.

A mini blessing in disguise it was for TG. He had saved up enough money to buy a brand-new Bajaj Chetak. The scooter had duly arrived a few days back. However, it’s usage outside the campus was restricted, as TG did not yet have a driving license (DL). The nearest RTO office was in Midnapore district, some 25 km away. The DL business at the RTO’s office could only be done on a working day. The unexpected morning downpour had provided just the right opportunity for attending to this legal requirement.

TG announced his intentions in the crew room loudly, “Hey guys, I am driving out to Midnapore for my DL. I can do with some company. Anyone wants to come along?”

YT busy updating his logbook, looked up on hearing this open offer. He also belonged to the generation of “direct bicycle to jets”. This lot had missed out on the interim stages of riding a bike or a four-wheeler and had a lot of catching up to do in life. He mused inwardly, “Having a driving license in advance wouldn’t hurt anyone.”

Wanting to be heard over the crew room chatter, YT said aloud, “TG, I am game. I will come along and make an attempt for my DL as well. Only condition is that you will have to teach me how to ride on the way. That is just in case, some ‘stickler to rules’ insists on me taking a driving test. And by the way, I don’t even have a learner’s license.”

TG acknowledged, “Done YT. It is just an hour’s drive. More than adequate to hone up your riding skills. And don’t you worry about the learner’s license. Even I don’t have one. I know someone out there who will waive off this requirement for us for a small fee.”

Before long, the two were on their way to Midnapore in their uniforms covered with service-issue rain capes. Lovely, lush green fields along the way and a light drizzle spraying across their faces, the duo felt a picnic-like feeling. Long stretches of wet empty roads served as the ideal driving school. A new kind of instructor-pupil relationship developed. “Clutch, release, race” interspersed with “Brake, reduce, clutch” and the occasional, “Watch out!”. The lessons continued.

By the time they were about a quarter of an hour away from the destination, YT had been launched solo. He landed back confidently at the roadside Dhaba after a small circuit on the side lane. Now that the training issues were behind them, the two strode confidently into the RTO office premises. The agent promptly contacted them and started taking them through the red tape.

A form here and a signature there and another one there. By the time, they reached the end of the chain to deposit the license fees, it was already time for the treasury to shut down. As luck would have it, YT’s application form was progressing slightly ahead and was accepted by the Treasury official just in time. Unfortunately, TG’s application was stuck outside, and he was politely told, “Sir, you please come tomorrow.”

TG had never been surprised this way. His requests changed to protests, and protests to threats. He felt extremely cheated and muttered a flurry of local expletives. The result was that any remote possibility of the Treasury guy relenting, vanished immediately. Hands folded in defiance and a stoic gaze into infinity, the official’s pose was an ultimate embodiment of positional power.

As a last resort, TG barged into the RTO’s office to complain. The staff lounging outside told him. “Sir, Boss-man has gone home for his meals.” Not to give up so easily, TG found out that the RTO lived close by and landed up at his residence unannounced, with YT in tow.

The RTO, a decent bloke who did not take offence at his meal being interrupted, said, “I am so sorry Sir. The Treasury guy is from a different department. He does not report to me. Jokingly, we call him Kuber (the God of Riches). He calls his own shots.”

TG finally got the message that the game was up, well at least for the day. As they prepared to set course back, the agent came running and handed over YT’s brand-new Driving License. A thrilled YT could not believe his luck but was sensitive enough not to express his glee beyond a point.

A role reversal had now taken place on the ride back. YT had the coveted DL and the legal right to occupy the driver’s seat. In the wake of his unexpected accomplishment, YT didn’t quite mind the sporadic curses emanating from the pillion quarters.

For some unknown reason, a decision was taken to route via Kharagpur. Just as they entered the city, an over-thrilled and complacent YT failed to spot an old man crossing the road. TG’s loud and striking caution of, “Watch Out!” came in rather late as did the evasive action. The old man had been hit nice and proper and was lying comatose on the ground. The bleeding from his mouth made quite a scary sight.

YT and TG gathered themselves and wheeled the scooter to the side. Before they could help the unfortunate man, an excited crowd formed up around with the alacrity of a mushrooming nuclear cloud. TG a hardcore Bengali himself, knew what a charged-up mob could do in such a situation. While TG engaged the ‘appeared to be logical’ component of the gathering pack, a guilty YT had absolutely no clue how it was panning out. The language was totally alien to him.

A sensible looking man in his fifties pulled TG to the side and whisperingly told him something quite animatedly. At which, TG literally pulled YT towards the scooter. A quick kickstart and TG whisked away the scooter towards the airbase, leaving the chattering crowd behind. YT, relegated back to the rear seat once again, enquired “What did that man say to you?”

Looking back that there was no one following them, TG revealed, “Oh, he told me that the old man is not seriously hurt. Just a couple of broken teeth, apart from the shock. A trip to the local dentist will do him just fine. But meanwhile, the mob fury is building up. They have been held back so far, only because of your uniform. I suggest you leave immediately. Don’t worry about the old man. I will ensure that he is okay.”

YT and TG reached the mess without any further excitement. However, their driving exploits of the day became the crew-room talk for the week. The scooter had been damaged a bit but not YT’s reputation one wee bit. In fact, to his surprise YT discovered that there was a new-found respect for him in aerial combat from his opponents.

After all, as he cheekily boasted in Bond style, he had a brand new “License to Kill”!

Still holding on to the derivative of that DL and the guilt of not being able to help the old man,
Yours Truly (YT)
Horax (Casper)

Postscript: Before you wonder any further, TG is my good friend over the years, Tapas Guha. Forgot to mention the bit, where he bluffed his way through a toll checkpoint in the same journey by showing his flying wings (on the khaki uniform) to the policeman saying, “We are from the flying squad.”

So much so, for a Happy Pilot’s Day!

First published at seekmediation.com (http://mediation.com) on 26/04/24
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