When the scorching sun and incessant honking is increasing your irritation levels, it seems a victorious start to a polluted morning when the autowallah agrees to go by meter. Once you are in, it is almost like you can judge the speed by their age and their style by a set of certain attributes. Just like a million others, I too am dependant on the Capital’s public mode of transport and it is insightful to see the myriad of colourful public servants.
While tackling their attitude and negotiating with them appears like an ordeal, it is not such a bad ride after all! Let us have look at the 3 wheelies…
Considering himself to be a distant cousins of Michael Schumacher and his auto a smaller version of Aston Martin, the Speedster (usually the younger one) makes you reach your destination within a span of minutes. Restless and fidgety at any and every traffic light, he finds it hard to remove his foot off the accelerator. It’s miraculous to see him zip through the streets from in between beast-like DTC buses.
Slow and sluggish, the Sloths make you feel as if you could walk faster than their vehicle. It is awkward to see men on cycle peddle their way ahead of you. You even stop feeling the breeze on your face and start perspiring instead! To add to your torture, the sloths would never have adequate gas in their vehicle. Giving way to every possible means of transport, these drivers make you feel as if it was their hidden desire to make you late for office!
The Stable will be steady not fast, calm and not hurried. Cautious about the traffic, these middle aged drivers are the best out of the lot. More often than not, they are the ones who keep their auto clean and maintained. With earphones plugged in your ears, these guys make you feel as if you are in your own car listening to your choice of music.
The Music Junkie
Then there are the Music Junkies, with properly installed FM installed music systems and blaring speakers at the back, playing songs of the 90s at deafening volumes. To your surprise, they would occasionally end up asking you your choice of station. Adorning their vehicle with fluorescent plastic flowers and little streamers, they make their auto a walking-talking disco station!
As their name suggests, these chaps are extremely talkative. If not to you, the passenger, they would engage a fellow autowallah in a jolly conversation at a traffic light. Their variety of chats would range from complaints about the government system to the popular CWG games. Or perhaps, boredom has crept into their lives to such an extent that they are curious to know about your life, what you do and where you work.
In the heaviest of jams or the emptiest of streets the Honker would never stop honking. They are under the impression that honking would clear all the jams or solve all the problems of their lives.
The Bollywood Buff
The most common are the Bollwood Buffs. You are never startled to see the old fashioned Shilpa Shetty and the muscular Salman Khan staring at you through heart shaped frames on the rear view mirror. Aishwarya Rai on your right and Madhuri Dixit on the left give you company and make sure that your journey never becomes lonesome.
You should always be wary of the Snapper. Grumpy as they look, either they would refuse to go blatantly on your face or snap at you for mere existence on the face of the earth. Full of anger and annoyance, these auto drivers have a perpetual frown.
Easy to comprehend, the Addict is addicted to tambakoo, beedi or paan. These substances give him the right kick to do all-day-long monotonous driving. You see him halting often, to either light a beedi or roll the white substance on to his hand before consumption. He is also seen spitting out of his auto leaving a dirty red mark on the clean roads of Delhi.
During the tormenting rains or just a general breakdown, the Helper is always available at a fellow autowallah’s disposal. By placing his butt at the edge of the seat and jutting his left leg out to push the auto ahead, the helper always lends a helping hand. Sometimes, he even takes the passengers of an auto that has broken down in the middle of the road to their destination.
The Change-in-hand man
This autowallah always has change for a fifty, a hundred, a five hundred or even a thousand! He is truly a saviour in disguise.
Mr. Know-it-all knows Delhi at the back of his hand. He knows all the shortcuts and takes detours showing you the hidden narrow lanes of the Capital. Having been in the city for so many years, you end up being potrayed like a fool in front of him!
On entering the Fanatic’s auto, you get immersed in the aroma of incense sticks. He is a true devotee of Shiva, Durga, Krishna, Hanuman, Sai Baba or Guru Nanak. After receiving the auto-fare he usually closes his eyes and performs a mini ritual that lasts a few seconds to thank his chosen god or goddess for this blessing.
The advertiser is the autowallah whose auto is full of all sorts of advertisements. From sex clinics to various Babas who correct your future, all the unusual advertisements of the world find a place in his auto.