Monday, December 12, 2011


Public transport

It was supposed to be one of those stay-at-home-feel-good days. Loosely translated to not going to school during the plus 2 years so that one could spend time with the FIITJEE packages and HC Vermas of the world. Or hope to. Unfortunately, one particular teacher had other ideas. A phone call around 9 am, a thinly-veiled threat and Lefty was in the white and grey garb, looking for a means of public transport to take him to the dear old alma mater.

Noida was different place from what it is now. The metro was yet to change the skyline (meaning the mater had to find other topics to write about in her blog). It also meant that auto-rickshaws plying to and fro from the several metro stations that have sprung up now were also few and far between. In short, it was the era of the cycle-rickshaw-walah. They would saunter unchallenged through the ample roads of the city, disregarding any signal that came their way and enjoying the upper hand when it came to bargaining with most hapless commuters. The disregarding signals holds true to this day, and sudden swerves and screeches can still be heard as drivers like yours truly overcome their inner desires to knock the rick off the road and if possible, off the planet, but the metro has shifted the balance of power to the commuter. Six years ago, or was it seven, one simply thanked one’s lucky stars if one got a rick and then prayed that drivers would not succumb to temptation.

And so it transpired that on that fateful day, my eyes lit up on seeing a rick approach as soon as I reached the crossing near our society’s gate. The lord and master acquiesced to my request of Sector-44. ‘Just you give me thirty rupees only’ was the legendary line uttered, one that I doubt I’ll ever forget. The niceties having been established, conversation flowed easily as we rolled along our way.

Like most of his ilk, the good fellow was the son of the soil. Unlike most of his ilk, he had a fascination for English and spent a fair bit of his time practicing how to speak the language. His opening remark to me, as we started along was- ‘Rickshay to aapne khoob liye honge, lekin aaj tak aapko koi Rickshaw-walah nahi mila hoga jisne aap se kaha ho Just you give me 30 rupees only’ (You must have taken many ricks, but you would never have met a rickshaw-walah who said Just you give me 30 rupees only). As the story often goes, he’d wanted to get some government job and had started learning English for the same. However, things didn’t work out and he came to the Capital where hum shaan se rickshaw chalate hain. The ride went from ‘Which class you read in’ to tales of the gent’s ability to fleece tourists thanks to his command over the queen’s speech, most if not all in English. Sooner than I’d have liked to, we reached the brick-red campus and it was time to part and return to the mundane everyday world of Physics, Chemistry and Maths.


Another day, another era. I was in the dry state, having come to visit Srishti as we’d wanted to watch the final Harry Potter movie together. The less said about that the better- the most exciting part about the movie was that we decided to sit on the stairs and watch it as our seats were that bad. Soon, it was time to go and this time, it was an auto-walah who was going to be the star of the story. As we made our way to the airport, he told me he had to stop for a moment at his house- would I mind? Ever the accommodating fellow, I found myself waiting in the auto in a narrow lane, while the fellow started a barrage of Gujarati underneath his balcony. There was some banter, something was thrown down at him and he came back, asking if I would mind changing vehicles.

Now, it often happens that one completes the journey with a different auto-walah and I expected something similar. In this case however, I was asked to sit in a white, obviously second-hand Maruti 800. Soon, the fellow’s wife and kid came down and joined us and the motley crew of 4 made its way to the Sardar Patel airport. Apparently, their mamaji lived somewhere close to the airport and they had an evening get-together planned. From an unsuspecting passenger, I was suddenly the unwitting extra member in a family trip. Phone calls kept coming on the way- ‘Yes, mamaji. We’re on our way. 10 more minutes and we’ll be there.’ The kid kept getting admonished- he had evidently not got ready on time. As we neared the airport, my erstwhile auto-driver asked me to pay a little early if possible, as this was his personal car and not a cab- a fine would be levied if it was found that he was using it for commercial purposes. We reached the terminal and I got out of the car and into the show-ticket-check-in-wait-show-ticket-5-more-times-before-you-take-off routine that is so familiar now. Somewhere not too far away, a dinner table was being set fo a family of 3 by their waiting mamaji.

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