Last Saturday I went to the other side of town, to Malleswaram. On the way back I could not find a bus so I had to take an auto. I live in south Bangalore and the distance is quite a lot. It was a long way home and as it happens under such circumstances, almost inevitably, the auto driver and I got talking.
The election fever has overtaken us all and so I asked him if he would vote. Yes, he said. We got talking about political affiliations. To my surprise, he said he would vote for the AAP. As I recall, I think he got Kejriwal’s name wrong (I think he said “Aggarwal” – but that is beyond the point because he was aware of what had happened in Delhi). We, the urban elite, have always thought of AAP as a mostly urban-upper-middle-class phenomenon so that conversation was a myth-buster.
Anyway, towards the end of the ride, the driver mentioned that he was cautious about opening up with his passengers these days. Considering that we had just had a long conversation, I found it a bit odd so I asked him why. The other day, he recalled, an incident happened when he dropped a lady at Malleswaram. I asked him further. “Well”, he said, “she got talking just like you. About life, social issues, politics etc. And when she got down, she asked me if she could take my picture. I was hesitant but she took one and left”.
The lady was a journalist. The auto driver claimed that she asked him questions, got him talking and recorded the conversation without telling him about it. A few days later (or the next day, I do not know) an article was published with his name (and he claimed it carried his picture too) in Bangalore’s Deccan Herald. “My friends saw it and they were laughing at me. I kept telling them – I never said all that”.
I told him, in a way that he could understand, that for a journalist to do that was wrong. He didn’t need much convincing – he already knew that. More than the quotes, which he said weren’t true anyway, he was hurt by the fact that his name was published in a newspaper without his consent. “But I don’t want to do anything about it”. I told him that I can take this up with Deccan Herald. He agreed but later he added, “Sir, I just don’t want my name anywhere”.
I went home and searched for his name at Deccan Herald’s website. I found him quoted in a story, just as he had mentioned. I did not find his picture there (thus, I can’t say if Deccan Herald carried it in the print version).
The next day, I posted a series of tweets – some of them mentioned his name and the link to the article. I was wrong to do that – in my bid to highlight the lapse of ethos, I committed the same mistake I accuse Deccan Herald of – quoting the auto driver despite his reluctance. Moments later, I deleted those tweets. I have taken care not to mention his name and the article link on this post.
What I did was though was this: I tried to contact the author of the article on twitter. I haven’t heard from her. Maybe I will. I also tagged Deccan Herald’s twitter account on my tweets about it (those tweets that I decided to keep) and somewhat conveniently, I haven’t heard back from them.
Apart from the obvious lack of ethos evident here, my only question is this — would this journalist dare do the same thing if she met, say, a CEO of a company? Or anyone who held more influence than our auto driver? Someone who won’t be as helpless and won’t hesitate to go public about it? Would she record the conversation without telling, snap a picture when done and then run the story despite knowing that it is not OK to do it?
Because out there, an auto driver doesn’t want to ever talk to journalists.