Monday, June 1, 2009

Delhi’s Auto driver

The dark man riding the lime buggy, his life, his ambitions and the traveller. It does not take much for him to make people frown and it takes even less for him to give a reason for them to smile. His meter, which is much like an antiquity in the buggy, with the red lines make strange numbers that will never transform into reality.

A lemon coloured canopy and green metal frame form a community, unique to its existence that run through the arteries of India’s capital, Delhi. The auto driver of Delhi is a person who is known for charging abnormally high fares, rash driving and CNG. For a distance that is a stone’s throw away, they would charge you for hiring their Auto for the whole day. They leave no stone unturned in frustrating, harassing and causing delay to the commuter.

This is the story of Raman Chatterjee who came from Kolkatta for getting a room on rent as he had taken admission in a B-school in Delhi. Staying at his brother’s house in Laxmi Nagar, a trans Yamuna area, the struggle began from morning, when he needed to take an Auto to come to South Delhi, where his B-school was located. It took only two days for him to get frustrated with the life here that he told me that he wasn’t anymore interested in staying here. Now imagine a happy Raman was dissuaded to take admission by none other than a couple of Auto Drivers.

In terms of the spirit of the city and commuting, I often envy a Mumbaikar. I’ve stayed in Mumbai during my job training and I found the local train system the most amazing thing, even better than Delhi’s metro. Delhi’s Metro is like a palace where you’re tired by the time you take the token and sit in the train.

Coming back to Autos and Drivers, the lemon mascot gives surprise packages too. It is equivalent to the monsoons in India. On a hot summer afternoon when you’ve made up your mind and quickly done the Yoga-asana for increasing patience levels, you’ll suddenly find an Auto who’s willing to charge you by meter without a moment of argument. The best of the Auto driver comes, when he agrees to go places where most refuse, like Laxmi Nagar.

The trick to successful commuting in Delhi may lie with a dark man in the lime chariot; it also lies in patience, acting and decision-making. It is not always wise to show patience, sometimes an acting of angry commuter may melt the lime rider into taking you. The more aggressive riders acting smart can be told to simply “Get lost!!!” More importantly giving a few bucks more like a bonus, the way you get is also ok. In the end, the experience with the Auto-Wala makes you a good person manger.