A government official, I had been transferred to Goa from Kochi in October 1977. After our belongings had been forwarded in a lorry, I set out for Vasco, Goa, in our Ambassador car with my wife and two sons.
By 3pm, we were some 35 kilometres from Karwar, Karnataka, where we had to catch a ferry. That’s when I heard a clank from my car’s bonnet. I figured something was wrong with the engine, and driving further may cause the car to seize up. The highway was secluded and there was no habitation nearby, only forest, but I stood there, waiting for help. Soon enough, a family travelling southward halted. When I told the man at the wheel, a doctor, what the problem was, he warned us that the area was notorious for thieves. He offered to take my wife and sons to Mangalore with him, but I thought that would only make things more difficult for us and declined. So he drove away.
After another hour of waiting anxiously, a fully-loaded lorry appeared. The driver started my car and listened carefully. “Something’s wrong with the bearings,” he said. “Keep your car in first gear and start moving.”
“But what if it breaks down?” I asked. “We’ll be stuck.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll be right behind you, driving very slowly.” “But won’t you get late?” I asked. “Let’s get going,” he insisted. Driving slowly and gently, we reached Karwar in two hours. There, the lorry driver, whose name was Shetty, guided me to a small workshop and oversaw the repair work.
I offered Mr Shetty some money but he politely refused to take anything. When I asked for his address, he simply took down my phone number and said he’d get in touch with me. Though he never did so, I’ll never forget his warm words: “You were from Kerala, another state, passing through my state. I only wanted you and your family to be safe.”