Please note: This column was first featured in The Goan on Saturday.
On a rainy Saturday, I set out with a friend to grab brunch at a not-so-nearby restaurant. I was going from Andheri West to Andheri East. Even if you’re not from Mumbai, you must have heard of the plight of travelling from one end of the suburb to another. But we were lucky to get a rick as soon as we stepped onto the road. Then what am I about to whine now? Let me narrate. We enjoyed a delicious and flavourful buffet at this newly opened Pan-Asian restaurant and were now heading back home. We tried to hail an auto, and another one, and another one until we lost count of how many rickshaws we pleaded to take us back home.
The little black and yellow buggies that zip through the traffic like busy beetles started acting very stubbornly. In a city that has more than 120,000 autos populating the suburbs, it’s a wonder how tough it is to get one. On the other hand, it’s just funny when not just one, but three to four autos stop in front of me when I am actually going to a nearby store to buy Maggi noodles, may be. And I politely smile, and decline a ride. Oh come on, it’s walking distance. But this was not! None of them were willing to take us. The moment I said, “Chaar Bangla (Four Bungalows),” he would nod and zoom away. After a good 35 minutes, our saviour arrived. As we settled into the auto, I started interrogating this driver on why none of the other drivers were taking us when we said Chaar Bangla.
It was around 4 in the evening, the time when most shifts end. And everything we faced had to do with the time. According to our autowallah, most of the rickshaws are not owned by the respective drivers. Each auto is driven by at least two drivers every day, and the steering changes hands mostly around 4pm or 5pm in the evening. That’s when the night shift begins. The reason this guy decided to give us a ride was because his shift was ending at 6pm and he still had enough time to take us to the West and return to the East.
Apart from this, at times it’s also about refilling fuel. This driver also mentioned that auto drivers turndown customers when they need to refill CNG, and angry commuters fail to get the point. My friend and I were all ears when he started giving us his point of view on the relationship between autowallahs and commuters. All I could do was exchange glances of guilt for saying bad stuff to this lot. This is however, not the first time I’ve faced such a scenario. During college days, it was very difficult to convince a cab driver to take us to Grant Road station from Sophia College. They would always refuse. So much so, my friends would ask them if they would rather prefer taking us to Dubai or London, maybe.
I think they refused because of the crazy traffic. Once you’re in it, you’re trapped. And who wants to get trapped on the noisy streets of Mumbai? Not even the autowallahs or the taxiwallahs.
Image courtesy: http://www.photo-street.com