for the short ride across the valley from Panniar to my new abode Gundumallai bungalow on Surianalle Estate with my meagre possessions following on a tractor trailer. My very limited assets, following the grand dinner in Panniar having left me with not so much as a drop of alcohol and consequently no bottles which needed to be transported, having become that much more skimpy.
Contrary to my expectations (hope?) the dinner which had been planned with the intent of buttering him up, having been partaken of and digested, was never mentioned or spoken about so that Clyde’s attitude towards me was in no way different to the way he dealt with the other three SDs under his wings. Which in short meant that to keep us on our toes, every once in a while each one of the four of us would get bollocked, shouted at and would be taken to task for some slip-up or the other. My conclusion after a couple of weeks on Surianalle was that Clyde, while he desperately wanted to convey the impression of being a slave driver, was a bit of a softy and actually fun to work under, more so since one had to constantly be on the alert to expect the unexpected.
Instructions to the assistants and feedback exchanges with the PD were on almost a daily basis whenever he decided to go around ones Division on his bike which, to be able to transport Clyde’s bulk up those steep and uneven inclines and narrow mud paths, had been modified with a reduced gear ratio so that the fourth gear on his bike had the pulling power of a second. The upshot of the modification being that whichever corner of the Division one was in, Clyde’s arrival would be heralded by the deep throated thumping beat of his bike struggling up the slope, which thankfully gave one sufficient time to start looking busy.
While the almost daily interaction was on a one-to-one basis, once a week on the Wednesday all four assistants were required to attend a formal meeting with the boss in the main office. Which is when, subject to the PDs mood, we’d all be at the receiving end of a collective dressing down. Though to be fair to the gentleman, while this was rather infrequent relative to the kick in the butt, there was also the occasional pat on the back.
This was during one of the Wednesday meetings when we four assistants and the boss were huddled together in Clyde’s office that his “little” boy Andrew, after a rather hesitant and discreet knock on the office door, stuck his head around the corner to announce to his Dad that he was off to Munnar and that could he please borrow the car. The request having been acceded to with a rather dismissive wave off the hand, Andrew disappeared. About an hour later with us still in the midst of the meeting, back he came. This time the knock on the door was a lot more hesitant and was accompanied by an even more discreet cough.
Clyde looking up and in a rather curt voice shot out a:
“I thought you were going to Munnar.”
“Yes I was but can’t go because the car broke!”
“What do you mean the car broke?”
“It did. It broke near the Lower Surianalle factory.”
“I don’t understand. Appu you and Gurrinder please go down to see what Andrew is rambling on about.”
Hopping on to our respective bikes I followed Appu who had Andrew on his bike, holding on to Appu’s torso for dear life, trying very hard to not slip off the seat which, considering that he was plonked on the bike with only one third of his butt actually resting on the seat while the major portion of that rather large anatomy was spilling out to smother almost the whole of the of the rear mudguard, was in itself a major feat.
Approaching the road out of the estate which skirted the Lower Surianalle factory, from far off we could see Clyde’s Ambassador on the short concrete culvert bridge over the stream at the bottom of that steep incline. Getting closer what we saw was that while the rear tyres of the car were sitting on the tarred slope, the front wheels were on the culvert and that the front bumper and the number plate were resting on the concrete. What was most odd was that the middle portion of the vehicle, the body, was also resting on terra firma. Closer inspection showed that the central portion of the chassis of the Ambassador was bent in the middle at an angle of about 20 Deg. How on earth could that possibly happen!??
Yup! No two ways about it. The car was definitely ‘broke’!
While Appu and I were scratching our heads trying to figure out this VERY strange ‘aftermath of a self inflicted accident’, the explanation which came tumbling out of Andrew’s mouth helped us piece it together for us to understand that this “little” giant had gone streets ahead of his Dad who had ended up with only the gear lever in his hand while his progeny had done the impossible by actually managing to “broke” the car!
It was the same story all over again. One which could be archived as being a Lawrence family exclusive! Following in the footsteps of his Dad, believing himself to be another Nigel Mansell clone, our ‘little’ friend had obviously come hurtling down the very steep slope for the car to literally take off and become airborne. That extremely short flight must have ended with a VERY hard and bone shaking four point landing which, most unfortunately for the would be pilot, was on a rather awkward 45 deg angled landing strip . The result was right there in front of our eyes.
While Andrew headed back to face what must have been an intense Clyde-special hurricane, Appu and I got down to the task at hand with the planters ‘can do anything’ attitude coming to the fore. A couple of heavy duty jacks, a sledge hammer, welding equipment, the factory fitter and blacksmith along with a sufficiently large gang of helping hands having been sent for, a couple of hours later with much shouting, struggling and hammering away at the chassis, the crash landed aircraft while still sagging in the middle and looking decidedly unhappy was, in a manner of speaking, back on its four wheels. Just about enough to be in a state where it could be towed back to the factory to, the next day itself, be loaded on to a lorry which would deliver the would be aircraft to the PDs favourite “Super Specialty Hospital” which had the full case history and were past masters in reviving and bringing Clyde’s accident prone patient back to life – TVS Motors in Madurai.
The accountants and bosses in TVS Motors Mudurai must have just loved Clyde ‘Nigel Mansell’ Lawrence Esq. Not difficult at all for anyone to imagine just how they must have rubbed their hands in glee whenever informed that a vehicle ex Clyde Lawrence had arrived in their workshop. As to what the Agents in Cochin would have been rubbing is a different matter altogether!
Poor “Little” Andrew who was simply not fated to make that trip to Munnar!