Thursday, 28 June 2012

THE AUTO CHRONICLES






Life, I have realised, is just like my daily ride to work in an auto-rickshaw. Some days are good, some are so-so and some days are really quite ghastly. And if you are still trying to decipher my meaning and scratching your intelligent heads…all I am trying to say is my journey in the auto is very similar to the journey of life. Up and down it goes the same as those little vehicles driven by mostly nice people and then sometimes very rude and nasty people.


Mostly I dread the little things with the very obliging drivers who are convinced that they are indispensable, but then I do admit I can’t do without them, given the peculiarity of my situation. The freedom from the stress of driving my own vehicle is too addictive. And so I leave myself at the mercy of the advice spouting, sometimes polite, sometimes horribly foul-mouthed, spit-sprayers many a times. (What a spray they can spurt!)

Whatever the pros and cons, the one hour or so that I spend with the Auto-rickshaw drivers on a daily basis has taught me a thing or two about life as we all know it.

Many of them are bored and tired of driving those bone-crunching, spine-breaking vehicles and love to chat about their lives. The roads, the traffic chaos, the thoughtless and indifferent drivers who get their licences by bribery and the corrupt cops are our main topics of discussion. And then the chat and bashing up sessions veer towards where they were born, their hometowns, their wives and parents, their children, their education and so much more.

There are those who study and drive part-time to earn a little extra cash to fund their studies, though there are also many whose main job it is to drive the rickshaw. I have met some rare ones who having retired from other jobs and hating to sit at home, pass their time driving hired rickshaws. Almost all of them have one thing in common …they want and ensure that they earn enough to make certain that their children are educated and well-placed.

Vijay from Aurangabad who goes to college in the morning, drives an auto in the evenings and prepares for his public service examination late night; the 60 year old something who drives in the night so that he is free to look after his grandchildren in the mornings so that his daughter-in-law can go for her government job, and the young newly-married one whose wife is a teacher in a school. Many of them are very forward thinking and modern and are trying their level best to not get embroiled in caste biases, religious differences and familial superstitions.

But then light doesn’t exist without dark and the good without the bad. Some of them are really mean and daylight robbers who want to make a quick buck by cheating their customers by fiddling with their meters or demanding more than is their due.

Though I myself have not yet come across anyone who is a real Good Samaritan, I have read about drivers who have displayed great honesty and integrity in returning precious belongings forgotten by their customers, that too after much diligence and perseverance in locating them. (Try tracing a stranger you have met for only a few minutes in a modern city).

Then there are those who go out of their way to help on their own initiative in crisis situations. Somehow, our media fails to give any coverage to such acts of valour and unselfishness, concentrating instead on the morbid and gory details of death and pain.

So what’s the connection between my auto rides and life you ask? Well, just as my experience in an auto-rickshaw can be anything from pleasant to horrible, each day of my life presents itself with unforeseen difficulties which seem insurmountable at times and on other days, time goes by like a song. A song you want to hear again and again and yet again. Only, does it happen so?