Mumbai’s Autorickshaws And Their Evil Quotient
by Tejas Nair
Lately I have been relating autorickshaws with my girlfriends because both have mastered various ways of rejecting when it comes to me requesting to ride in them or them riding me, respectively.
It is a well-known fact that if you are to hire an autorickshaw to your workplace, you have to deal with at least 4 to 5 of them, if not more. 2 of them who will actually take you to and fro, and 2 to 3 of them who will reject you. Rejection, if it’s related to love or sex, can be easily dealt with, but when autorickshaw drivers reject you, it’s like the end of the world. And the way they reject you by slowing their vehicle a bit, glaring at you like an imaginary humble wolf who requests its prey to be his dinner, and then suddenly hitting on gas when you utter your destination as if it is located near a palace of hell, is heartbreaking. And you can do nothing about it.
If you are travelling in a vehicle that is not an autorickshaw, you can observe how the only people even slightly safe on the road are the only people riding in one. (Lets not consider the ones where five people are stuffed by its greedy driver.) They drive like gangsters with no knowledge about lane discipline and/or traffic rules, and even if they have any, they seem to ignore it. We all know that they talk to you like they are doing you a favour.
Wherever there is a scuffle in a traffic jam, you know who to expect as a participant. Whenever there is an ugly brouhaha in the middle of a traffic-less road, you know who to expect. Whenever there are shots of expletives being fired, you know who to expect. The driver, in his ubiquitous uniform with a triangular badge attached to his khakee shirt’s pocket, will be seen in front of his three-wheeler. And the looks in the faces of those hapless customers sitting inside his vehicle are worth peek-sneaking.
The main reason why these auto rickshaw or just rickshaw or auto or rick drivers are errant is that it is just a secondary job that most of them take up to be away from their nagging wives. Although it doesn’t suppress the fact that there are far too many whose livelihoods depend on it. I feel bad for such drivers who I am also dragging into this post, collectively.
Once when I was talking to a close friend about how Engineering is not what we expected it to be and that our future is filled with darkness, he had suggested we buy two auto rickshaws and ride them to college, and on the way, ferry passengers. Since we would be plying on a single route, we would be refusing one too many rides to people who want to go to a location that does not fall in our route, automatically qualifying ourselves as ideal auto rickshaw drivers. This was four years ago, and last week when I decided to take it up seriously, I read the news about how auto rickshaw permits will be now only given to Marathi-speaking individuals. I cried.
No, I know Marathi, but unfortunately I am not well-versed with Marathi curse words which I figure is the most essential thing if one aspires to become an auto rickshaw driver in Mumbai. And even if I manage to learn a few, I would be straight disqualified, because I don’t know how to make those weird, cringe-worthy faces while uttering them, and I don’t chew tobacco or betel nuts or mava. I suggested the idea to a good Marathi friend of mine, but he’s currently busy earning tenth of a mil a month by serving as an Uber driver. So I am trying to be more friends with him.
If all auto rickshaws are recalled from the roads, then I believe things will be much more cooler on the road, at least for a few months before the rickshawallahs/taxi drivers union’s strike brings them all back. However, things look so bad for these examples of arrogance now that cab services like Uber and Ola have entered turning the market, they are sure to kick the bucket. Conclusively, the auto rickshaw business in Mumbai may go for a tumble because no one wants to ride in it nor does anyone care about it.