Monday, 25 October 2010

AUTOmatic….for the people

Now it takes all sorts of auto wallahs to make a world. From the James bond ishtiyle auto driver, to the venerably mustachioed auto uncle, who dropped you home from school in the evenings, and secretly smuggled weed to the senior students. However, the auto drivers in this city, are, to put it mildly, a class apart. No, maybe that was too mild. The auto drivers in this city are freaking weird. Well, what else would you be if you chew through twenty packets of gutkha a day?

But the auto drivers here, at least they’re smart(er). I have been a victim to their smartness. And while I have publicized the rather salacious tale of the one auto driver who was so pleased at giving a pretty girl a ride, he couldn’t stop talking about it…this tale is slightly different. And it does not feature a girl. I know, I know…but it is interesting.

So, it all happened the day before yesterday when I got off at the unholiest of stations in the country, Varanasi Cantt. Me, and three of my friends got off the train, and did what you would instinctively do after getting off the train. We shriveled our noses in disgust. And, following that, we looked for an auto driver. Strangely though, the plethora of options that are normally available were, in this case, reduce to absolutely none. And as a matter of fact, this, rather coincidentally, was equivalent to the amount of luck that we were having…absolutely none.

So, after a night of facing an irritated Bihari uncle, defending a young girl and her mother, and watching a fat guy almost get punched in the face(yes, my train journeys are ALWAYS eventful) I had to contend with some fruitless hunting for an auto.

And just like in National Geographic, I hadn’t gone far when the solution confronted me. Now, the solution was in the form of a scrubby, rather bedraggled looking fellow. What in Charles Dickens novels would be called a ragamuffin, and in Arundhati Roy novels a tatterdemalion. Thankfully, as I am not a big fan of either, and find both somewhat pretentious and overbearing, I will directly get to the point. The point being this idiot had the audacity to demand 120 rupees for the ride from the station to our respective hostels.
When we asked him if we had stupid written all over our faces, he just gave an indifferent shrug, and spat into a corner. And bargaining was to no avail either. The guy said the rates were decided and more importantly “sarkari”. After the CWG disaster of 2010, this term has come to signify activities that are disdainful and pathetic, and I asked him angrily if that meant that Mayavati herself decided the rates.
So, we decided to find another, and while his price of Rs 100 was not exorbitant, it wasn’t exactly bargain basement either. But the auto ride was smooth and uneventful. And so secure were we in our little cocoons of self absorbance, we failed to realize just when the driver stopped, and rather rudely, asked us to get out. At the gate. At LANKA.
After it had sunk in(took around 15 seconds for me), we were flabbergasted. And words could not explain our dumbfoundedness. We aksed him what the hell this was? What sort of game did he think he was playing? Above all, if this was BHU, wtf was Lanka? And, hypothetically, if anyone says BHU, I mean anyone…does he wish to be dropped off at Lanka? Wouldn’t he have said Lanka then?

But our driver was cool as the proverbial cucumber, and told us, in a tone that implied f off, more than anything, that BHU means the BHU gate, and if we wanted to go inside, we should have specified INSIDE BHU, nothing more nothing less.

And as we gritted our teeth, and paid him his 100 bucks, I realized we had learned an important life lesson today. BE SPECIFIC. Or carry a gun. Whichever suits you best.

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