THE AUTO TRAVAILS OF AN UNFORTUNATE TRAVELLER..PART -1
DISCLAIMER: All characters appearing in this work are ENTIRELY fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Any claims of resemblance may be reported to the writer "personally"...:-)
For the sake of this story, I'll call the lead protagonist Yours Truly, and while we are at introductions, it is also worth bringing to your attention that Yours Truly would have preferred a life of blissful anonymity, but she had to eventually bow down to intense public demands...
When I first heard this story, a favorite dialogue from F.R.I.E.N.D.S popped into my head, where Phoebe tells Ross, "Everyone has a thing..Yours is Divorce!" Well, Yours Truly has a thing too..Of all the weird things on this beautiful planet of ours, her thing rides on three, unnaturally small, toyish wheels, coloured straight out of a child's coloring book in Yellow and Green, and in Yours Truly's words, driven by the most "devastatingly devilish, cunning, money-minded thugs"..If your brain has not formed a picture of this "thing" yet, a mild clue might help..We are talking about Auto Rickshaws..How something as insignificant as an Auto could trouble my dear friend goes beyond me. So I thought a short account of some of her rollicking experiences might clear the picture by some small factor..
Many might wonder why Yours Truly still depends on an Autorickshaw for her conveyance, when she is more than capable of driving a car (Believe me, SHE IS!)..The story of her driving license augurs another catastrophic story, worthy of a whole new post! Coming back to the matter on hand, it all began on an innocent March afternoon, when, in a hurry to reach someplace, Yours Truly stood on the roads of Delhi, on the look out for an Auto..Fifteen minutes crawled by with no luck, she was on the verge of giving up, when a bright looking auto whirred past her. She stuck out her hand and hailed it down. As a rule, Yours Truly always studied the driver's face before making the deal..In her words, "It helps to know beforehand if you are being robbed...Again!" In this case, she seemed to have a winner. The driver was an old man, sweet looking, with a picture of some Gods on his dashboard. When she was convinced he couldn't fool anyone, she boldly approached him. Before she could pronounce her destination, the driver did a quick double take, took a look up and down the road and mysteriously blurted out to her in an animated tone, "Madam, get into the auto quick! There's an auto strike today. If anyone sees me driving, they'll beat me up..!"
Yours Truly stood dumbfounded. She was quite convinced that she was being aired on a Candid Camera TV show. Even as she struggled to find a voice to argue, her mind was airing videos of the deserted look the road had work a few minutes ago. Was there really an auto-strike? She did claim to be a well informed person, but this little news item seemed to have skipped her view totally. The driver politely intruded her thought process with another mysterious glimpse down the road. "Are you coming or not? Do you see any other autos??" He exclaimed. Scared by the possibility of being stranded alone on the road, she got in gingerly and said, "Bhaiya, meter pe chalna.." Sweet driver immediately turned on the meter and said, "Madam, there are a few good auto drivers left, who genuinely care to serve the humanity..Why will I cheat you? Of course meter pe chalenge.."
Your Truly took a sigh of relief and sat back.
All was fine, till half way through to the destination, she glanced at the running meter. To her naked eye, there seemed to be an aberration. The usual slow and steady meter seemed to be running away miles like the clock she often saw at the bottom of the screen in an F1 race. She gulped and took a quick swig of water before taking up the issue with the driver. Mustering energy to make her voice reach him over and above the clutter of the auto, she practically shouted, "There's something wrong with the meter! Its showing Rs 36 for a distance that takes Rs 12!" The driver ignored her. Years later she realized that what the driver had done at that moment was probably Lesson # 1 of PR Skills.."IGNORE THE PEOPLE"..
Yours Truly tried not to show her exasperation as the meter ran away to infinity. When she finally arrived at her destination, the meter showed an astounding Rs 41.80, instead of the usual Rs 12.40. Planning her tactical conversation in her mind, she slowly turned to the driver and said, "Ohk, so clearly, your meter has been tampered with. I am not paying you a penny more than Rs 20.." The driver gave a hurt smile and replied with a cliched, "The days of doing good and expecting good have simply gone..Here I am, a poor, old Auto driver,going against my entire community, so that I can serve humanity for good, and you are blaming me of fraud? I am hurt by your insinuation!" And as if the scene was not dramatic enough, he got out of the Auto and summoned a few more people, mumbling and rambling all the time about the insensitive Gen-X. Unable to take the pressure of the eyes boring down on her, Yours Truly reluctantly drew out the money from her wallet and handed it to the driver. As he drove of, Yours Truly swears till date, he looked at her in the rear view mirror and gave a fatuous wink and a grin, before going of in search of another victim, another innocent, unsuspecting soul to rob him of the luxury of travelling without being looted..
Later during the day, Yours Truly exhausted all her resources to find out about the Auto Strike..She was only short of calling up the Press Trust of India (PTI) and inquiring of them personally, when she realized the blatant truth..Needless to say, there was no strike that day..
When Yours Truly narrated this story to me, I was quite literally rolling on the floor with laughter. But she, on the other hand, seemed genuinely worried. It turned out that this incident, was just the beginning of her Auto Woes..And for the next 2 hours as she told me about her unbelievably amusing incidents, I managed to convince her to sign a contract with me, allowing me to publish her "sad-but-true" stories. So those of you who enjoyed this small anecdote, stay tuned..There's something funnier coming up!! Till then..Travel Safely....And stay away from the AutoDriver who claims there's a strike! :-)
PS: Picture Courtesy Annual Design Exposition of the Design Programme, IIT Kanpur..Couldnt find anything funnier! ;-)