It can cause your eyeballs to pop out or widen them up. It can cause you to jump off your seats. It can shake you to the core. It can give you a bounce. It can cause you to clench the very next person or object tightly.
What am I talking about?
Well I am talking about a bumpy auto ride, here in India.
An auto-rickshaw is a motorised, three-wheeled vehicle for public to hire(in South-Asia). This is how Google defines auto-rickshaw. But there is more to that. The Google people forgot to mention how an auto-rickshaw is the most airy, most fascinating and most eventful public transport driven by some of the most “well and truly able drivers of India who are opulent with all the competence needed for driving”.
Today, to visit the City Zoo, I had no other alternative but to choose an auto-rickshaw to reach there. I pushed myself in and braced myself for a ride to be remembered.
First I, who is accustomed to commute by scooty, painstakingly walked up till the main road to catch an auto. I stood in a cool shade to shield myself from the scorching sun(it is November here but still the afternoons burn like a furnace! Climate Change Catastrophe, I believe! )
I extended my right arm to its full- length, waved the palm up and down in quick succession as if dribbling a basketball and shouted, “Auto, auto.” The very first auto that passed by, stopped. Goodness gracious! I told him where I had to go. He didn’t open his mouth(probably because of the betel leaf inside it) and quickly gestured me to sit on the seat at the back. So I sat. “Ghrrr ghrrr”, the engine groaned grievingly. Then after a while, “vrooom!!!” the engine let out and ‘took-off’.
The ‘able’ driver, with his one leg on his seat(yes, you read that right), drove sinously, without finding any need to blow horns where required. I, dumbfounded in the backseat, gripped the driver’s seat from behind as hard as possible. My head oscillated to and fro as did the auto.
At every junction,he roped in more passenger, even more than that could normally(not perpendicularly….sorry bad joke) be accommodated.
How? Here is an imagery-
Imagine an auto. In the front, there is a driver with his leg astride the steering. He is sandwiched by one passenger on each of his side. These side-passengers have one of their legs dangling out of the auto. They have as little portion of their pelvic girdle on the seats as possible.
Behind, there are four passengers, barely having any space to sit comfortably(say 25 cms of space/person).
Having roped in enough passengers, the driver showed-off his unparagoned driving skills again. Mindless of the traffic, he drove with I-am-the-owner-of-the-road attitude on his mind. Then came a speed breaker(which is made to slow down vehicles). How dare it stand in the way of a never-stopping or never-slowing-down driver!? Here’s where the driver flaunted another trick. He simply brought the auto to the sidewalk and then, with a high level of mastery, avoided the speed breaker and crossed it in no time. Me and my fellow passengers oscillated again.
A moment later, when things had started appearing smooth, another auto-rickshaw just avoided colliding with ours. They both exchanged fierce glances but said nothing(thanks to the betel leaves in both of their mouths).
The city zoo approached nearer. But the driver stopped 500 metres before the main gate and said,” Yaha tak 20 rupay, main gate tak 100.(I’ll charge you 20 rupees till here and 100 rupees up till the main gate )” Can you believe it? My wish to see the animals in the zoo had cooled down maybe because I was watching the most fascinating of them right in front of my eyes. However, I didn’t argue as the Human in me refused me to do so and stepped down then and there.
With my excitement diminished, I proceeded towards the zoo.