If you ever wanted to grasp the tenets of social science, human psychology and disaster management, without actually going to college, then all you need is a ride on Gurgaon’s blazing black beauties – the shared auto-rickshaw called ‘Vikram’. It is a gift from Italy; with love.
At the end of World War II when most Italians lacked a mode a transport, Enrico Piaggio came up with the idea of a three wheeler for commoners. In the twenty first century India, visionary Rahul Bajaj introduced the shared auto as economical means of transportation. Fret not; Gurgaon will have Pod Taxis soon. Till then it’s ‘Jai Vikram’ for the cattle class commuters.
Going by their reputation, I was repeatedly cautioned by the husband and son to stay away from a shared auto. No matter what.
Because the infernal agony of finding space in the perpetually overloaded smoke spewing monster, reminds you of the erstwhile ‘fevicol’ advertisement. “Thoda adjust karo,” slogan is an awesome metaphor the Black beauties. A student from the north-east, a laborer from the east, a techie from the south and a trader from the west; all coexist in harmony reveling in the marvel called Gurgaon.
The innards of the shared auto are a place to savor, an assortment of aromas with an eclectic conglomeration of Indian diversity on the topsy-turvy roads. Once you are settled, there is no reason to sniff disparagingly as the black beauty ferries flatulent jerks, tipsy travelers, decrepit dudes and stinking souls. All with equal felicity!
The undulating ride can be a molesters dream come true. The damned potholes provide the adrenalin surge. With the predator and the prey snugly sandwiched, the black beauty expedition is an inescapable nemesis for single working women.
Even though the antiquated black beauties are synonymous with agony, they are the preferred mode of transport as they drastically reduce commuting expenses. So what if the black beauties create a dent in the veneer of sophistication for the residents with deep pockets? They can keep their BMW’s. And their Mercs. And their chauffeurs too!
The auto drivers of ‘Vikram” are an equally condemned lot. It is said that they fleece, they cheat, they over-charge and they misbehave. In short they are alleged to be ‘Haryanavi ruffians’.
One drizzly evening, when the husband was not in town and son had vanished with the car, I had to fetch test reports from the nearby nursing home. The idea was to walk the short distance, but the drizzle came in earnest. The husbands caution, “I will get the reports on my way back, don’t venture out in the rain,” did nothing to stop me. You know what? Rain does strange things to people; it brought the teenager in me. I did exactly what I was told not to. Simply, for the heck of it! Or was the writer in me looking for some adventure? I am not sure.
To start with, flagging a shared auto on the road is an art in itself. One has to shed all inhibitions, disregard the traffic mavens, and stand in the middle of the road for effective signaling. Patience, perseverance and providence, all help.
I was fortunate enough to flag an auto. And within minutes too! After promptly seeking blessings from all the God’s in the pantheon, I jumped in. I was fortunate enough to be the lone passenger.
On that particular day however, I realized that stereotyping seriously warps our judgment. Because my auto driver refrained from ferrying any other male passenger in order to make me feel safe. On reaching destination when I realized that I was short of change, the guy sheepishly said, “koi baat nahi madam, next time,” and drove off.