Posts Tagged ‘auto rickshaw’

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image: johnnywitkowski

A few months ago, I got into an auto that was driven by an old man. After 20 minutes or so, he started talking.

“You speak very good Hindi. It is really good. Where are you from?”

“If you don’t mind, what is your religion?”

“I am asking because I’d like you to pray for my daughter whatever your religion is. I respect all religions.”

He went on to tell me that his daughter – her name means Beautiful – had a heart problem and needed surgery immediately. She studies in an elite college and the college administration managed to collect Rs.30000 from students. The college principal, he said, advised him to ask his passengers to help out. He went into a lot of details – about getting blood from the blood bank, the hospital expenses, when the surgery was to take place etc.

He spoke well and struck the right note: hopeful, humble. I remember thinking he’d be great in sales/marketing.

He pulled out a wad of thousand rupee notes and told me about a Tamilian woman, another Christian woman…passengers who took his auto earlier in the morning who were kind enough to help him, and he had asked them to pray for his daughter too.

I didn’t have much cash on me and I am wary of such stories. But there is always the chance that people are speaking the truth. So I gave him the money I had when I got off the auto. He asked me again to pray for his daughter.

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Last week, I flagged down an auto and it was the same old man. He didn’t recognize me and I didn’t ask him about his daughter.

After 20 minutes or so, he started talking.

“You speak very good Hindi. It is really good. Where are you from?”

“If you don’t mind, what is your religion?”

“I am asking because I’d like you to pray for my daughter whatever your religion is. I respect all religions.”

At first I thought maybe she is still ill because a heart problem cannot disappear overnight. Something told me to wait and listen. It was the same story that I heard nearly a year ago; the same sequence of events with no variations, a well-rehearsed story. And while he is very good at it, he had forgotten he had fooled me once before.

Once we reached my workplace and I stepped down, he pulled out a wad of notes and told me about a Tamilian woman, a Christian woman… Here, the story ended on a different note.

© Anuradha Prasad, 2016

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© Anuradha Prasad

Mayo Hall Junction

Mayo Hall Junction

The auto reluctantly came to a stop as the lights changed to red. I looked longingly at the empty stretch of road ahead of us, a rare occurrence.

“Earlier, we could simply jump the signal. But it is not that easy these days. You will notice that the auto drivers all slow down and look up and around to see if there is either a cop or a CCTV camera. If it is there, we stay put. Otherwise, we will be fined 100 Rs for each offence. It is hard to tell if the CCTV camera is on – it is switched on during peak hours in the morning and again in the evening. If it is switched off, you will see the traffic constable with his note book. You can take a chance and still jump the signal. He won’t be able to write the numbers of all the vehicles that jump the signal, just one of them.

We don’t have to worry about hitting other vehicles. There is no way we can pay for damages from our own pocket, so we tell them to collect insurance. We don’t even have to go to court most of the times. If there is no insurance, then a lawyer has to be hired and we have to pay for the damages in installments.

Toward Cunningham Road

Toward Cunningham Road

Last week, a car hit my auto. He was at fault. He pulled over and said he will pay for the dented bumper because he didn’t want the cops to get involved. As I walked back to the auto, the driver just sped away. I didn’t even have time to note down his number. I can’t afford to get it fixed. And here, I trusted the guy.”

© Anuradha Prasad

“Are you a Tamilian?” he asks in English as I fumble trying to speak Hindi. I tell him I am a Kannadiga.

“I can always tell. I speak seven languages.”

He starts with Indian languages and goes on to say Chinese, Italian, French…

Image: imgarcade

Image: imgarcade

“I used to drive the airport taxi. I have learnt from foreigners. They try to speak in our language but I immediately respond in their language. You should learn to speak other languages. It is not enough to speak only one.

I’ve received several overseas job offers but I say no because my family is here. I can speak several languages but I can’t read or write. Never went to school.

You should go overseas. You are still young. You should apply for jobs. How much effort does it take to simply apply for jobs? You never know when your stars will change.”

© Anuradha Prasad

“I like speed. So I started driving cars – Audi, Mercedes, Innova…you name it. But now that I have tasted it, I don’t want it anymore.

Image: Off the net

                      Image: Off the net

I fought with my employer. So stopped driving cars and started driving an auto. He had money and I didn’t – that is the difference. But it does not mean he can treat me badly. I could not put up with it.

I used to race my friend every morning. It was fun.”

He rattled on about the speed limits he broke, the best wheels for long drives and to drive around in the city. He didn’t think much of the Mercedes he once drove.

© Anuradha Prasad