Sunday, February 13, 2011

Cockroaches on Mumbai roads-our very own autorickshaws...

What do I miss most when I travel abroad?You will be surprised ,its the cockroaches on the Mumbai roads-our very own autorikshaws ,auto  or ricks as we prefer calling them .Autos have always fascinated me .They just spill over and crawl all over the city roads like cockroaches and there is no pest control to take care of them!We all have a love - hate relationship with them ;when you are not in them,you hate them and when you are personal-transport- challanged and have managed to convince one of them to do your route,you love them!!

The interiors of autorikshaws is a subject in itself for serious research.They can sport a Raja babu style dhinchak interior or a simple,no frills attached interior.

Attitude of auto drivers however is directly related to its interiors.If you spot a rick with the driver's body leaning out of the rick waist up from one side and feet jutting out from the other side,Himmesh blaring loudly on the stereo you are forewarned ..stay out!! If  you have no choice,then give instructions,sit in the centre,grab your puja ki maala and chant away with your eyes wide open and feet ready to jump out in case of emergency.Do not forget to thank your stars in case you reach safely.They will protect you the next time over too.

If you have a chhora Ganga kinaare waala for a driver,you will be entertained with Bhojpuri music,his take on various topics ranging from potholes on the roads to rising petrol prices to politics in his 'desh' .If you are a patient  and an interactive audience,you might be promptly handed over the last one rupee generally not meant to be returned (chhutta nahin hai!!)

If you are not jinxed as I definitely am,you will succeed in flagging an auto in Mumbai almost as soon as you step on the street but God forbid if you are jinxed,live in the wrong locality,wrong direction,are seeking a rick at wrong time of the day,or simply do not catch the auto driver's  fancy,you have to be patient,very patient..and wait for your turn and your rick.Someone will take pity and oblige.

Having said that,there are a few tips and ideal passenger behaviour if you need autos for your daily commute:
1.Practice meditation daily.
2.Do not look guilty or apologetic if you are heading for a 'generally rejected' route, instead,
3.Project positive body language,smile warmly,greet,try to be busy on phone,pretend taking down notes on paper and just hop inside.After travelling some distance,if asked,gently break the news.Please  note that this trick does not guaruntee considerate response from the driver and you might be in for a rude shock,a sudden jolt and halt of the rick in its tracks almost as if the machine also protested violently saying,"Are yoy crazy? Juhu at this hour??I am not budging mate!!"
4.Remember,dialling RTO helpline does not HELP.I have, in my frustration have pretended to lodge a complaint sitting in one such auto while the driver gave me impatient ,'kahaan kahaan se aa jaate hain' kind of looks from the rear view mirror.
5.In case of the above,gather your leftover dignity and step down when told .One good thing about Mumbai,no one has the time to notice your humiliation.
6.If you are constantly being overlooked,ignored or rejected by the rikshaw drivers,change residence!Its simpler.
7.If you are a regular autorikshaw user,by now your bones are already loose in their sockets.You must be already trained to hold your joints by tightening all your muscles after taking a deep breath and continuing to do so till you reach destination and that is when you heave a sigh of relief and gently release your tension mental as well as physical.
8.Keep your cool when you see your rick  driver extend his leg outside to touch a neighbouring running auto,he is just saying hello to an old friend .
9.Keep a doctor's checklist ready for reference,you will need..
     -orthopaedic surgeon for your rattling bones,
     -physiotherapist for strained muscles and ligaments,
     -chest physician,
     -cardiologist and psychiatrist for those heart- in- the- mouth moments,(pun intended)
      -dentist after those over the speedbreaker jolts when your lower jaw drops and then crashes against your upper jaw leading to cracked tooth syndrome.
10.Suppose your auto topples over,do not panic , come up slowly and emerge out of the  'open to sky' side of the auto so people can see you (you will be surrounded by a whole lot of them by then) ,give them a 'thumbs up' and you will be extracted within no time.
11.If you have nowhere to go with your girlfriend / boyfriend,try an autorickshaw...they are relatively  safe .There is just a  little risk of the auto driver looking through the rearview mirror ,but then ,who cares!!!!

Long live, Mumbai auto! 


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