Some would say that I have gone crazy over autorickshaws while some might go so far as to purport that I want to do a Ph.D. in the subject. But I feel that sometimes plain and unhindered observation gives you a profundity of knowledge and insight that even a degree would only theoretically claim to do. Add to the fact that there are such a multitude of vehicles flitting about on the roads ( even on the pavements as a matter of fact ) that I couldn't help but enumerate and curate the kind of autorickshaws that most arrested my attention. Here goes my list :
The Bride is not a regular sight and I consider myself fortunate to have taken a ride in this chariot of an auto. Well bedecked with sparkly lights such as those lit on Diwali, its ceiling and walls are bedizened with white and fluorescent bulbs in intricate patterns, some of which arabesque and some depicting birds. This auto is best ridden at night when one can see it in its full splendor. I actually requested the driver for pictures and managed to click a few for my albums.
This is the most common auto that nearly everyone, except those who have never stepped into an auto, ( do such people even exist?! ) must have seen or ridden in. This auto has its walls covered with posters of actors, most of them belonging to Bollywood beauties. I guess they are meant to be eye candy for the driver if not the passengers.
One day, my brother and I were running late for an appointment and started quarreling with each other. As if on cue, an auto appeared and without another thought, we hailed it and got in immediately, determined to reach our destination the soonest possible. Just as the man revved up the engine, music began blaring from the speakers. That’s not the wondrous part. Every driver listens to music; that is a given. But the astonishing aspect of this one was the ambience. It was not just the speakers that were effective (although the music was booming as if in a recording studio) but the choice of music itself that most took me aback. I had expected regional songs or old Bollywood numbers (of the time of one's grandparents') or at best, recent Bollywood songs, but never did I expect him to play the latest US top 50! My brother and I looked at each other, our mouths hanging open in surprise. All through the ride, we sat enraptured, singing the raps of Eminem and Snoop Dogg in our heads.
This may not come as a shock, for many people are spotted steeped into the pages of the daily papers but what was bewildering was that the driver was reading an English daily and that too none other than the Hindu! My respect for him instantly skyrocketed.
But then, considering the amazing stories of a rickshawwallah's daughter cracking CA or an autowallah's son being enrolled in the civil services, this should not come as that huge a surprise.
It was one of those days when I had taken a seat in a shared auto and had prepared myself to sleep. Hardly had I slept a wink when a jerk jolted me awake. The auto I was in was whizzing past cars, trucks and bikes. My eyes opened up a little wider. All the vehicles were mired in heavy unyielding traffic and could only take tiny steps forward but our Superman was weaving through the narrow passages between automobiles, making ways where none existed. He went right and left, and right and left, zigzagging and swerving with ease while we rocked on our seats, holding on to the handles for dear life. At one point, I actually pleaded him to go slow, citing the cliched phrase-’better late than never’. But the man was on a roll.
He gave me a funny look as if the word 'slow' didn't exist in his dictionary and continued with his stunts (probably inspired by action flicks). I think there was a certain moment when I was led to wonder if I was part of a fast-paced action movie while praying fervently to the gods to help me reach safely, even if an hour late. As if he had read my mind, the superdriver made a dashing halt, almost with elan, nearly throwing me out of the auto, kind of signalling that it was time for me to get out. I paid the money and quickly crossed the road. I didn't want to be in Mad Max's way.