05 October, 2009

Auto-pilot

It an unexpectedly pleasant evening. Awash with recent rain, resplendently green. The dust had settled down into smudges and everything seemed to be smiling. My grin of course had been wiped away after all the haggling with the auto rickshaw drivers. Could absolutely no one find it in their hearts to agree to go to Janakpuri? Could no soul be decent enough to agree to go by meter? Since when did 8:30 become so late that fellows would start asking for exhorbitant rates? Just as I was beginning to get Infinitely Irritated, Along Came Polly. No along came a Kindred Spirit (I just wrote Polly on a whim. Ha).  So. He agreed to:
  1. Go to my house,
  2. Via Mr. Co-Passenger’s house and
  3. Go by meter.
With a triple whammy like that, he obviously falls into the Kindred Spirit category (for definition, refer to Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery). However, flustered with the whole auto search and fail thing, I admit I muttured some “Aap auto waale kabhi bhi meter se nahin jaate” lines. Next I know, we had begun the long journey to the Faraway Land of Janakpuri  in absolute  silence and a whir of motion – he flew the rickety little triangle right upto Dhaula Kuan, where we hit the much dreaded, transportation nightmare - Perpetual Red Light.

Here, he turned around and nonchalantly said, “Toh kya bol rahe the aap auto waalon ke bare mein?”

“Err…yahi ki aap log meter se nahin jaate…” I squeaked because he after all was a Kindred Soul.

“Aapke haath mein kitni ungaliyaan hain?”

“Ek mein paanch.”

“Aur kya saari ek barabar hain?” (knowledgeable expression on face of a spider who knows the prey is oh-so-surely-entagled)

“Nahin” (foxed expression on face of a person who does not know where the conversation is leading)

“Yahin toh seekh hai. Sab ek barabar nahin hoteen. Ekdum se sab auto waalon ko achha ya bura mat boliye. Har jagah imandaar aur bemaan log hotein hain.”

Here the light decided to stop stopping us and we carried on in our motionic cacophony. I was quite startled by his sudden outburst (outburst is too strong an adjective, he spoke in a very mild, non-patronizing manner). Our next piece of conversation began at the Delhi Cantt light.
“Aap hi ki tarah ek madam mili then mujhe. Jyoti Madam. Rohini jaana tha. Tang ho gayeen theen. Koi bhi meter se jaane ko tayyar hi nahin tha. Phir mein le gaya unhe. Achhi dosti ho gayi hamari.”

(Here, I scoffed inwardly – “Is this a mujhse dosti karoge moment?” It wasn’t.) 

“Phir main unhe daily le jaata tha. Ek din Jyoti ji ne mujhe Pakistan mein driver banane ka offer diya. Mein tayyar ho gaya. Unhone mera visa passport sab banwa diya, mujhe ek Mohommaden naam tak de diya. Mein ghabraya hua tha par tankha achhi thi. Chala gaya. Plane mein baithkar. Wahan meri mano, sadak par laashein padi milti hain. Mera kaam embassy mein tha jo achha tha. Par wahan ka khana bahut kharab tha. Gandigi itni ki poocho mat. Aur har jagah maas. Mein thehra Hindu. Kaise khata unka khana? Chhe maheene maine dabal roti khakar kaate. Ek din mujhe teen ladkiyaan sadak par dikhin. Unke gaadi ka tyre puncture ho gaya tha. Maine unhe lift de di. Unka driver bhi Hindu tha, mere Bihar se hi! Sochiye! Bhagwan ke ghar mein der hai andher nahin. Bas phir, roz wahin, unhi ke ghar khana. Baarah sal kaise kate, pata hi nahin chala! Paise kamakar mein aa gaya wapas India.”

Reeling under the sudden turn of conversation and the socio-religious implications of this man’s interesting journey, we moved onto the next red light. For a moment I wondered if he was bluffing, cooking up a tale to make fun of the snooty girl who had defaced his kind. Then I shuddered at my cynicism (or was it suspicion?) and decided that even if it was a tale, it was keeping me hooked, so simply for its entertainment value, I should listen along. At Thimayya Park, he resumed: 

“Haan toh vaapas aakar maine auto khareeda. Paanch lakh ki aati hai ek. Pata tha aapko? Kaise pata hoga. (oh you poor richer-than-me kid sigh).  Phir bas dekhte dekhte ab mere paas teen auto hain. Ek chalata hoon, baaki chalwata hoon, achhi business hai.” 

Towards the end of the journey, he threw caution to the wind. He gave up on red lights and spoke irrespective of our state of motion. “Log ache hote hain, bure bhi. Bur ke bina humein ache ki kimat nahin pata lagti. Ek machli poore talaab ko ganda kar deti hai toh suna hi hoga aapne. Yahi taqleef hai hum auto waalon ki.”

We spoke of bribery and treacherous officials, potholed roads and karma, money and how daughters were a curse (that was his opinion). My dismal Hindi disallowed me from convincing him otherwise, which was thoroughly shameful. The journey ended (as do all journeys, which is rather depressing) and so did our conversation. He left me with a parting shot: “Logon mein burai nikaalna bahut aasaan hai. Achhai bahut hai. Bas use dhoondhna hamara kaam hai.” 

He had reached me home in record time, surprisingly decent tariff and sufficiently entertained. I realized, that all journeys, no matter how mundane they could be, become interesting.   

11 comments:

  1. what is this thing about my dismal hindi? dont make an advertisement out of the fact.

    anyway, moving on. the auto costs just 1.5 lakhs. its the license feee and bribes which take the cost upto the order of 6 lakhs.

    another auto fact. ye meter waale funde ki wajah se poocha maine aaj. the government fixes meter prices in such a fashion that a person has to drive 100-110 kms to earn something like 500-600 rupees. this is in delhi traffic. now if the auto is not owned, 300 rs of this amount go for the rent

    if the auto is rented for half a day (and 500 rs if for the entire day). now assuming that the guy drives by the meter, you can very well assume how much he has to himself after the price of cng and all. if their are traffic jams, then God save you from their temper.

    but all in all, its the conversation that matters. that too when you expected you had become incapable of them.

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  2. आखिर आपको भी बिहारी ज्ञान प्राप्त हो गया. वैरी गुड.
    वैसे 'डिस्मल हिंदी', गब्बर का नाम पूरा का पूरा मिटटी मैं मिलाय दिया.

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  3. hey... well... at least i face this meter issue only once in a while in bombay..which is just as well cause i'd probably get ripped off every single time...
    and i am thoroughly disappointed with your dismal hindi revelation.. i never thought anyone from our school could become anglicised enough to have dismal hindi...hmmm... i'd always thought hindi was never a problemfor you... i guess manorama di won't be too happy (oh..but she taught us... who taught you guys?)

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  4. Lovely.

    Other day, i happened to meet two helpful auto-drivers in bangalore. I didn't care how much they charged coz in the end, their conversations did make me believe that kindness still exists on the face of this earth.

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  5. Ok everyone has something to say about the Hindi. Superb.

    Nive, I can talk, but I can't keep up with my thoughts when its Hindi, I can't emphasize or put forth. I am an uneloquent mess. And Manorama di? You kidding me? She detested me. AND I was caught reading a novel in her class after which she simply stopped acknowledging my presence. Oh I can picturre her, that severe little bun, her specs on that very very round face :)

    Marvin, your in-depth knowledge on the subject of autonomics has everyone suitably impressed. I presume. He told me an auto was for 5 lakhs, the nitty gritty was lost to the speed and breeze. It was ironical that I had the conversation, what with your fascination for the auto fraternity.

    Ankit, arre Bihari uncle aaj kal mujhe bahut sources se Bihari gyaan prapt ho raha hai :D

    Prasoon, you ARE hellbent on seeing the good in the world na? It's so good. Someone needs to do that. Definitely!

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  6. Ni-ice. I love stories! :)

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  7. the point i wished to impress through the figures is how much extra you have to pay in the form of bribes. an extra lakh here and there is all fine by the gov agencies. not by the automen.

    and i have my conversations with my auto fraternity alright. but not when i am talking to someone else. i have got my priorities in order on that front.

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  8. the point i wished to impress through the figures is how much extra you have to pay in the form of bribes. an extra lakh here and there is all fine by the gov agencies. not by the automen.

    and i have my conversations with my auto fraternity alright. but not when i am talking to someone else. i have got my priorities in order on that front.

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  9. lol... and i was sleeping in her class under the desk to avoid detection..hehe..she was scary but no one could compete with trivedi di in hindi teacher scare tactics. anyway. its a nice post. reminds me of all my converstaions with auto/cab drivers, one of whom told me along story about his 11 children and the one daughter amongst them who got married and then got plump. hehe.. may be i'll put it on my blog some day.

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  10. Marvin: Yes. You have. "Impressed" the point.

    Nive: Oh dear how could I forget Trivedi di? She was TRULY scary. Thankfully never taught me.

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  11. talk about finding gems in a heap of garbage.

    ..makelovenotwar..

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