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If you have ever been in Delhi and you want to travel, it’s rare thing to miss the green Delhi autos with yellow hoods that swim around the city.
I am a single woman in this city and I owe no private vehicle, not even a bicycle! So Delhi autos have been a constant companion for the past 12 years. I have seen them going from petrol to CNG, from bargaining to meters and then how the metros made their business dip.
So, welcome to NCR, where you end up calling the auto rickshaw drivers, ‘Bhaiya.’
So if I am at Dilli Haat and have to come to Lajpat Nagar (which I frequently do) this is how it goes, “Bhaiya meter se (Bhaiya, let’s go by meter).” Then the Bhaiya will say, “Madam rasta jam hai, 50 mein jayenge!”(Madam the roads are jammed, I will go on a fare of Rs. 50). I being the regular commuter raise my voice with authority, and add, “Bhaiya meter se chalo, Rs. 40 mein,” (Let’s go by meter its Rs.40).
So you haggle and struggle till Bhaiya gives up or you do. And trust me it’s an everyday scene. Oh! Not just this, even if the meter is staring at you the autowale bhaiya will still ask you, “Meter se chalna hai kya (Will you go by meter)?”
That’s Dilli meri jaan for you. Yes, there is the extremely efficient metro that runs through the city. Yes! We Dilli walas love it, it has definitely made our lives and pockets easier, but they take us to the definite stations and Dilli has so many roads and gallis – if you understand. So, the autos become an essential part of your living and at times the autowale bhaiya becomes your Messiah.
Don’t believe me? Try coming back home from any place a little late and most Delhi autos refuse to take you because “Rasta ulta parta hai (I have to take a U-Turn),” and he has to go home. Sometimes even when you offer to pay more, the autowale Bhaiya might just refuse. Though now there is a law that after 9 pm an auto driver cannot refuse to drop a woman, if he does, she can call a help line number. I have never used that number, so the benefits of using it are something that remains to be seen personally.
There is another very special feature of the autowale Bhaiyas. They stand at any railway or metro station and the moment they see you, they all surround you to ride their rickshaws. Now, if you are a normal person like me and have no hope of paparazzi chasing you ever, this moment of these ten men trying to get your attention can be the alternative. Of course you being the star have the right either to choose one or just get irritated. But this is the closest to ‘being mobbed’ one can experience.
Gurgaon has these pink hooded autos. They are ‘specially for women’ autos. They only drive the women folk. I often used them. But here is a word of caution if ever you are on your way alone, and the driver says that “Aur ek sawaari bitha lete hai,” (Let me pick one more passenger) please refrain from doing so. Even if he says that he will take lesser fare, because you never know whom he picks and why.
Delhi is a harsh place to be. Autos are something you cannot avoid. You have to learn to deal with it, or get your own vehicle. Delhi teaches anyone one thing, the art of thriving. And if you don’t learn, you will go home a bitter bird. This city will teach you to test your own vocal chords, patience and your nerves. If you learn, you win and life takes you to greener pastures.
Surviving the street life of Delhi is an art of letting go and holding on. With beggars painted with tears (I have actually seen it) at red lights to road rages you will see it like no other city. But baby, you still got to show what you are made of.
Delhi autos are something you can hate or love, but can’t ignore. If you cannot beat them join them. You are the madam ji for them and for you they are the eternal autowale Bhaiyas. I learnt to thrive with them. It’s a necessity, for the intense travelling I do in this mad city. As the song says, “Yeh Dilli hai meri jaan, yahan ishq mohhabat aur pyaar.”
Choose to thrive. I did.
Published here earlier.
Image source: flickr, for representational purposes only.