Having gone to school with 9 members in a 4 seater auto-rickshaw(Auto in short) for 4 years, I know what a typical Auto is like. It has three wheels and a black leather cover atop its chassis. Modern autos have a button whereas our school auto had a hand lever which had to be pulled, cussed at and pulled again to get the engine started. Some autos have a small wooden board of width 0.4-0.9cm in addition to the cushioned seat. People like me can barely put their hands on it, it is so thin. The autos also have a leather sheet hung on the sides which drivers claim will shade the passengers from rain. In fact it neatly creates a way for rain water to come inside the auto and the passengers are drenched in water mixed with dust on the sheets which were cleaned at the time of India’s independence. Almost every auto has film stars’ pictures on the inner sides with their names or funny quotations. The side view mirrors in most of the autos have a sensuous lips symbol on them. And the most priced possession of Hyderabadi autos is a stereo player which plays the awesome-st songs ever composed. With those high-fidelity speakers and the super-increased tempo thanks to the intelligent player, the songs will surely bring a change in your mood. I bet.
One bad day, I had to take an auto to some place X in Hyderabad. I could have taken a city bus but then I should know how to cling to a bus in motion by means of a rod. Sadly I don’t. So I walked out of our office and saw someone heading towards me with his hand pointing to me. Did I do something wrong? Then I heard his shout-“Auto madam“. The term ‘Auto madam’ sounded funny. It didn’t sound as ‘Auto? Madam’ to me. It sounded as ‘Auto madam’. It was funny and misleading just like Aishwarya Rai singing ‘Auto auto wada..nuvvu automatic wada..’ in Robot. As I am very smart, I understood what he meant and told him my destination with some landmarks.
He: Bait (Sit in Hindi)
Me (thinking – How do Madam and “Bait” go together? Is it not “Baitiye“?)
Me: (Pointing to an electronic device so new that it can be put up in Industrial fair as an exhibit)Is this meter working?
(He gave me a nasty look as if I had asked him to give away his salary. Then he started speeding from that place with a nod.)
Me: Okay bhaiyya, How much do you want? (I had no other choice!)
He: You tell me madam.
Me (thinking – Why does he really want to know?)150
He: Give 250. Come sit.
Me: 250 is too much.
He: Madam, I have to come back alone.
Me (thinking – Did I say Mars/Saturn instead of X?)
Then I lectured him about the latest report of census taken in X, how likely it is for him to get another passenger from that area and made him agree to come for Rs.240. I know I will not and cannot become rich by saving that Rs.10. It is a matter of prestige and victory of good over evil.
Hyderabadi auto drivers are very talented and unmatched. Our auto traveled with the speed of light. It managed to get into any gap in between two vehicles however small it was. The driver kept me entertained with popular songs like pakistani ghazals and remix of Raja’s ‘jabilli kosam ‘in some alien language. He noticed that I was not able to talk over phone and increased the volume so that I will have a reason to hang up. How understanding he was! He made sure he hit at least one pedestrian on road and made me learn one more cuss word. After reaching the landmark, I made him stop the auto just a few feet from there. He charged Rs.10 for that extra distance, took Rs.250 which he first quoted and fled from that place in triumph. He thus taught me a lesson not to be lazy – I should have been active and should have walked to my place from that landmark.
I turned back with red face only to see him bargaining with someone and they immediately gave in. Smart people know it is no use bargaining with auto drivers. I am having second thoughts about my profession now. Why not buy an auto-rickshaw for myself and sit outside a SW office after the company shuttles leave?