It is quite amazing the things you can hear from Three Wheel Drivers if you just listen to what they have to say. All they need is a sympathetic ear and it is nearly impossible to get them to stop talking. I have had quite a few conversations with them over the years, and while I usually prefer a nice quite ride (yes I see the irony) sometimes I get stories. I decided to write this one down because first, it is interesting, and second, you can often tell the pulse of the city by talking to Three Wheel Drivers. They are the corpuscles that carry the oxygen the city needs to survive. Now there’s a metaphor for you.
This is what he told me, paraphrased and translated to English:
“Sir, this is a Buddhist country, but I tell you the things that happen here are not Buddhist at all. Whether you are Buddhist or Christian or Muslim hanging a board around your neck that says what religion you are is useless. You need to have it in your heart. In your heart!
“If you travel down this road during Poya you will see a hundred Dansals. But what use is that if you don’t do anything good on other days? If I see a beggar I will give him 10rs. Whatever he does with it is not my business. I do it for merit. I keep the Dhamma in my heart.
“One day I was taking a hire into Kellaniya. There were 8 police men on 4 motorbikes. They had a row of Three Wheelers stopped. My light was not working properly so they stopped me and were writing me a ticket. Then a big vehicle (SUV) sped down the road and the police man tried to stop it. It swerved around him and stopped. The window was rolled down and a man asked why they were stopped. The policeman showed them the speedgun; they were speeding. The men in the vehicle were drunk. The driver said to the policeman: “You f**k. Do you know who I am? Do you think you can do anything? Do whatever the f**k you want and let’s see what will happen.” Then he sped off. Now there were 8 policeman and 4 bikes. I expected them to call it in or race after them but nothing. Sir, there are 2 laws, one for politicians and their friends and one for other people. What can we do? You know now policeman get commissions for traffic fines. They get 20% per fine, and they fine about 100 vehicles per day. They only stop bikes and three wheelers because they can’t stop the big business men. What is the point? They don’t have Buddhism in their hearts. What can the rest of us do?
“Sir, you work in an office. You associate with the same group of people, but me? I meet people from the highest to the lowest level. I used to work in Dubai, but you know, I learned so much more about life after running this three wheeler. You won’t believe the type of people I meet. Especially the women.
“One day I got a call to a residential area. It was a very rich place. The lady was nice and polite on the phone. When I came into their driveway she was carrying a Pomeranian and wearing tiny shorts and a strappy top that hid almost nothing. Now what am I supposed to do sir? She said to wait for her while she gets dressed and she came back down in a skirt that was too high and a top that was too low. She then lifted her leg and put it on the bar in front. What am I supposed to do sir? I am married and I have a kid but I am still a man. Every time I look in the side mirror I see her leg raised up and I miss the traffic. People in buses are craning their necks to look. People are overtaking the vehicle and slowing down to take a look. She really was very beautiful. So I stopped the three wheeler and told her: “Miss, would you mind putting your leg down and sitting in the middle please?” She then started shouting at me sir. In the middle of the road! She said even her mommy and daddy don’t tell her what to wear. Who am I to tell her these things? Now what can I do sir, I am also a man. I told her I can see her lifted leg in the mirror and have trouble seeing the road. You know what she said sir? She said “Never mind Uncle, you can look as much as you want” Sir, she was about twenty two. If it was someone bad driving her she would be kidnapped and never seen again. This world is changing sir. Even this country is becoming very bad.
“The older women are worse. They are about 45. They leave their homes in the morning and go meet younger men, like van drivers and such. They drive around and meet them at hotels and have fun. Later they fix their hair and makeup and ask me to drop them at some place. They then get picked up by their husbands in their cars and kiss the man and the kids and drive off. But they treat me well. Sometimes they give me an extra 100rs or buy me food. For some of them I write down their phone numbers and times that I drop them. You never know when you might need it.
“Anyway sir, I can’t tell some people these things because they won’t believe me, but this is how the country is. I will tell you more stories if we meet again. Call me when you need me to drop you and I will come. Alright sir, goodbye sir. Goodbye”