Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Auto wallas in Pune

My first impression of auto walas in Pune dates about 25 years back when I took Konark, the train that connected Bhubaneshwar to Mumbai, and reached Hyderabad sometime at 12. This train would then deposit us in Pune past midnight. It was my first trip to Pune and I was all set to get fleeced off (the norm with me) but the chap took me home took the straight and narrow route, was honest to the core despite knowing that I was a first timer to Pune and took exactly what I owed him. For years I told that story to many people because the auto walas lived up to that reputation. It was only after those early years that the texture changed and well, we meet all sorts these days.

So the young kid who picked us up today was a maverick and one could tell by the way he overheard our conversation and butted in helpfully with his ideas, spoke out of turn, drove rashly, asked us to take the longer but faster route and finally agreed to our suggestion. At a traffic signal he waved to four of his friends who were on two bikes and stopped for a moment after. Turns out that his friends were all going to Bahubali and would he also come? He declined and we were on the way. The camaraderie was obvious and I know many, including me, who would have ditched the ride and gone off to the movie. I told him I could take another rickshaw if he wanted to go, but he said he'd rather earn a couple of hundred here rather then spend four hundred at the theatre. Hmm. Smart chap. He told me that he and his friends had all had a good time swimming in the river in the morning and he had his fun for now.

In the evening we found a different cup of tea. Unlike the brash young kid who took us straight to our destination we found a religious looking, bespectacled man who asked us an extra thirty bucks for the long ride. We agreed. And then he took us on a wild goose chase, telling us that he was taking us through less crowded areas etc etc and suddenly landed up in the street next to where we had been some twenty minutes earlier. When I asked him why he had done that, he had little to answer - possibly hoped that we would not know. One was that we relearned the lesson about judging books by covers and secondly, the fact that these chaps were not going back to their old ways. At least not all of them surely.

Why autos? Because the Uber guys have a horrid way of calling up and saying they are somewhere closeby and it takes forever to tell them the directions. So sometimes it seems simpler to get into an auto and head off. Its also more dramatic.

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