As I stared at the deserted auto stand, my hopes of reaching home started to fade away. In such scenarios a mobile phone can come to your rescue as you can:
- Ask your friend to come and pick you up from that unknown place.
- Call up city taxi if you are in a big city.
- Just dial some random number and pretend to be busy because the entire world is taking a lot of interest in your plight (laugh a lot while talking over phone – present a rosy picture).
Having represented category 3 on numerous occasions, I knew the standard procedure. I dialed the only number which never disregards my calls – my bank’s IVR service. While I keyed in all the personal details which no one ever cared to ask before I opened a bank account (a big thank you, big thank you), I espied a solitary auto at the stand suddenly emerged out of thin air . Ignoring the apathetic look on the driver’s face I climbed in as the IVR pronounced – ‘and your available balance is….’ An adrenaline rush swept through my veins and my hands trembled with trepidation, and all I could hear was 1000 bees buzzing in my eardrums – he started the engine. My available balance remained a mystery and I disconnected the call.
Demonstrating a combination of salsa and jazz moves he took a swirling 180 degree turn while I clung onto the nearest handle available with an identical posture – we kicked off the ride in grandiose style. My entire body was bouncing like a boiling egg except my eyes which were fixed at the meter witnessing an epic display, I am sure all privileged auto commuters will be able to visualize that. Meter readings do not follow any particular pattern; they generally defy all the laws of arithmetic progression.
The road looked a little unfamiliar after a while and I realized that I am on a city tour. Needless to mention here that this was not my hometown as there is no provision of a longer route here. There is only one road and an auto ride wouldn’t last for more than 5 minutes. I was seething with indignation, but decided to be pragmatic and defer the fit of fury till I reached home. I was counting on a group of backstreet boys who used to grace the road in front of my house the entire day and incidentally I knew them – you just messed with the wrong guy, dude; a vengeful smile descended across my face. I stopped the auto few meters away from my house exactly where those backstreet boys were standing; an animated discussion about Salman Khan’s latest action flick was underway. The total fare came up to 150 rupees as per meter reading combined with that complicated calculation which would have made Einstein stammer for sometime.
Backstreet boys sauntered towards me. I smiled at them, rolled up my sleeves, and asked the auto guy to come out. They smiled back and nonchalantly walked past me, I was on my own as the auto driver came out. He was 4 inches taller than me and definitely 50 lbs heavier. I bravely faced him and said “I am giving you the money just because you burnt fuel, I am a man of principle; but god is watching you” blatantly passing the buck to God to settle the scores on my behalf as god looked down from heaven and exclaimed “dude???” He looked at me in bewilderment and returned 50 rupees out of that 150 and said “keep it, keep it, but from next time make sure you don’t say left and right without knowing where exactly you are.”
Tampered meter is an integral part of an auto ride but the situation can be lot worse post midnight when you find yourself stranded on the road, as the friend of yours who was supposed to drop you home after party is currently in the loo making an important announcement “eureka, eureka, I think I have just invented steam engine!!” Now the following image will illustrate the entire process that is instrumental in such path breaking inventions.
Heaven will shed tears when you face those oppressive auto drivers in the wee hours when they exhibit certain traits of underworld dons and can quote any figure that pops up in their minds. Everything depends on their immediate requirement, it can be a new mobile phone although at times they might take your mobile to save everyone from the hassle. It is advisable to part away with your mobile phone in such scenarios and just pray to god that they don’t take a liking for your sartorial choices.
Most of the airports have banished auto rickshaws, so the obvious choice there, for people like us, is city taxi. And while we roll down the window and ponder – this is actually quite cheap, the cab driver smiles – you just paid 3 times more than what you would have paid for auto fare. However, they are not banished from railway stations and will never be, and a myriad of autos near railways stations is a testimony to that. You will have a similar experience like the one you had in the previous scenario. If you have prior cardiac ailments, please take the support of something before you initiate the process of negotiation, as the amount which will be hurled at you could possibly send you to the abyss of eternal darkness; this activity is definitely not for the faint hearted.
In spite of all these, we do enjoy the ride. On a late summer night when that fragile vehicle picks up speed and gentle breeze dries your sweat; and you look up and see those ignored, neglected street lights for the first time which always blazed that beautiful stretch of road. And as “pardeshi pardeshi” plays on that broken FM, you lean back on the seat, take off that mask of false pretense and ask the auto driver “increase the volume a bit.”