The Ambulance Driver

Jugaads

I was eating some cashew nut macaroons at the Dhanalakshmi Bakkery in Tuticorin India recently.  The afternoon was hot as the passersby flittered here and there on a thousand unknown journeys in this Indian port city.  I gazed with a sense of wonderment from my bakery shop window seat at the complexities of life and the conundrums of daily existence.

I was lost in these musings and the crunchy sugary macaroon tip that hovers with sublime grace over the gooey cashew crumbs when I saw him go by.  He was singularly focused.  He wove through the street traffic like a magician appearing and disappearing behind this truck and then that cart of produce.

He pedaled his ambulance cart, a strange kind of tricycle with a caged space behind him for patients in desperate need of medical care.  They call these mechanical inventions jugaads in this part of the world.  They are real world improvisations, contraptions made of dreams and elbow grease and late night tinkering behind some corner store.

I paused in mid crunch, putting my macaroon down and simply staring.  The driver was intense.  He didn’t sit on the make shift seat; no, he pedaled upright with a sense of urgency as if the gods themselves had commissioned him to hasten to some wounded soul without delay.  He looked straight ahead seeing nothing but the imagined patient lying wounded or bleeding on some distant river bank or factory floor.

If I could have done so, I would have leaped from my seat at the bakery and rushed to follow him.  Where did he go?  What did he find?  I will never know.  But it was this frenetic scene outside the bakery where I sat nibbling a macaroon that I conceived the the story of the pearl diver out on a mission to save the world only to find himself the victim of love’s snares and foibles.

(P. S.:   Has anybody tried an authentic macaroon?  Tell me about it).

(Read the story in Teatime in Old Havana)