Tuesday, March 2, 2010

the unpredictability of events and a serendipitous outcome

I wish to share with the reader an experience from yesterday.

I returned from Polonnaruwa on Sunday evening, with my usual stock of newly milled rice for my customers. I drove back alone and was home about 11pm. The next morning when I backed my pick-up truck to unload, I noticed a diesel leak under the bonnet and it was dripping drip drip!

Yesterday, being Monday was my delivery of produce in Colombo, and if my vehicle was not functional I was having a nightmare of how I could meet my commitments for the day after that I had promised on the assumption that I would sell!

I first went to the mudalali from whom I buy spares for his advice. He looked under the cab and said that my fuel line had punctured, possibly with the vibration of the gear box that is tethered to the side of it. I then went to a local shed and asked the mechanic there to look at it and he also confirmed the scenario, and said it will have to be solded in brass but he does not do that sort of work. I asked him for advice as to whom I should take this vehicle not knowing what amount of work was involved and how long it would take to effect the repair.

He pointed to a garage close to my farm and said that the mechanic there does these patches. Once I got there, out came a person in a beared with a cigarette stuck in his mouth who I could not imagine could help me in the slightest. A scrawny slightly built man who would me more at home in Dambana than Kirimetta. He was already assisting some other motorist with another problem, but promptly left that task, and came over to me and checked the problem, and asked me to bring the vehicle into his driveway. He works at home! I have never been to him and I guess he did not even know that I was a half a km up the road from him.

He got under the vehicle with a couple of spanners, and there were no hoists here. He then managed to remove the whole fuel line within minutes and proceeded to check where the fuel leak was by blowing into one end holding the other tightly shut with his thumb to determine where the leak was by putting some spit where he thought the tiny hole was. He then proceeded to get a brass rod and put it into some solvent, before lighting up the arc lamp and asked me to help him hold the fuel tube while he soldiered right around. He then checked if this was all correctly sealed, by blowing air and putting the tube in water to see if bubbles came out.

Once he determined that was OK he put it back, and I forgot to tell you that 3 fingers in one of his hands had been severed so he had that disability to contend with too, and asked me to start the engine. He got under the cab and determined there was no leak, told me the work was over and I was good to go.

I asked him how much for the effort, he said Rs 150 (about $1.25) for the work of the best part of 90 minutes. I told him he was mad and gave him Rs 300.(baas unnahata pissuda)

I was only 90 minutes late in leaving on my sales round, and was able to successfully complete my daily routine, and able to send the promised funds this morning from the sales I had made.

In the US this would be a minimum US$1000 repair with the vehicle out of action for a few days, and a tow truck required to move the vehicle to the repair shop, as a fuel line leak is not one to mess around with driving, a risk I had to take.

I was just floored at the total non plus attitude with which this mechanic did this job as if he had done thousands of such repairs, which no doubt he must have! I was even more amazed when he told me how much he wanted for the work.

I want to share with my readers this short story, to remind them of people who still live in SL with such amazing abilities and attitudes as well as the versatility of the local mechanic to use common sense to perform a technically difficult repair. I also forgot to mention that he put a rubber washer between the pipe and the bracket so that it would not result in the shuddering from the vibrations which contributed to the hole in the pipe. That to me is common sense which a trained mechanic in a recognized garage would not do, as they would only do what is prescribed and not one that requires common sense. They don't note why the original leak had occurred and take steps to reduce the likelihood of recurrence.


Kirigalpoththa said...

I think we need similar commitment and drive from all of us just like that mechanic..
Thanks for sharing the stroy!

Anonymous said...

Rs.150?? i'm clueless when it comes to car repairs..just replaced the brake pads and it cost me about $300..i'm just throwing it out here for comparison or contrast..

George said...


Some years ago, I was staying at the Culture Club hotel at Dambulla. They had a "greeter", an older guy with a flowing beard who looked like a hermit or a guru. I thought he may have been a village vedamahattya before taking up the job at the hotel, but was surprised when he told me that he had been a mechanic.

Going by your description, the greeter may have returned to his old occupation!

Var Fernando said...

Knowing your desperate situation, the mechanic could have stung you for 20 times more, but he didn't. It's uplifting to hear this story of the man whom greed could not conquer.

Thank you for writing about this great man, for these poor honest souls must be our role models, not the sports stars or film stars.

Too bad you didn't take a picture of the man, would have been great to put a face to the story.

Rajaratarala said...

i was a little embarrased to ask him to pose for a photo and did not want to take one without his knowledge. One must respect such people and be mindful of their feelings too.