They are a breed unto themselves. Almost as if they are superhuman. So we got on our thinking caps and invisibility cloaks and set out looking for the various kinds. We found 11.
The ‘I’m-on-a-sofa’ driver
We’ve all seen him. He’ll be sitting comfortably with one leg tucked under his bum or a leg slung casually over the steering handle. Laws be damned. What we wondered most was how they would react in an emergency. Unless they caused it!
This is the category that most of us have encountered, and hate the most. They’re like stuck gramophone records (or stuck in a loop for the millennial!). They have a standard answer to any question…
Will you go from Pashan to Shivaji Nagar? No.
Will you go from Pashan to Aundh? No.
Will you go from Pashan to Baner? No.
Will you go from Pashan to Pashan? No.
Will you go home? No. Oh, well!
There’s no cure for this guy. What’s worse is, we’ve noticed this illness to be contagious. You just have to hope that someone who isn’t infected comes along sooner than later.
So this guy is usually inspired by Meena Kumari movies! He’ll whine endlessly about everything. Here’s a real conversation I recently had with a Whiner…
“Will you go from Bavdhan to Pashan?”
“I’ll charge you Rs. 20 more.”
“I don’t get return fare.”
“You have a meter. Use it.”
“What good is the meter. It’ll show a fare and you’ll pay it. But I’ll have to come back empty.”
“So are we riding or what?”
(Grumble, Grumble) “Yes.”
(At this point, I did a little dance in my head!)
So the journey starts. About 100 meters later, I point out that his meter has probably suffered a fit. It’s convulsing. Numbers are dancing. Before making this observation, I ensured that I had not partaken of any banned substances that morning. I remembered I never do. Clear as day, then, that the meter was on its own ride. Of course this took the whining to a whole new level…
“Now how will you know how much to pay me? I will be in a loss.”
“I’ll pay you Rs. 10 extra. First off, it’s your meter so your problem, but I’ll pay you extra anyways.”
“It’ll be Rs. 20 extra.”
Here we go again…
I won’t get into the rest of the conversation. It lasted the remainder of the 4 km. And it wasn’t an unforgettable one for good reasons. I paid Rs. 10 extra and walked away. I believe he grumbled on for another 5 minutes. But then he would have even if I had paid Rs. 20 extra. And yes, he did get a fare back right outside where he dropped me.
These are the true blue Punekar rickshaw-wallahs. They’ll take a nap whenever, wherever. Sometimes even when they’re driving. Just kidding! But seriously, these guys will be sleeping at a rickshaw stand (pun unintended!) and you will be stranded hoping an awakened-soul rickshaw driver comes along. Alas and alak!
Murphy’s Laws are eerily accurate. Just when you’ve had a harrowing day and want nothing more than some peace and quiet, you’ll engage the most talkative of all of Pune’s rickshaw drivers. It’s no point plugging in your music. They will talk over it. And they’ll give you a guided tour of your route as well. The same route you’ve been taking for years. Enjoy it. There’s nothing else you really can do!
Do you like being insulted? Do you like being spoken down to? Do you like being given the feeling that you are indeed a burden on this earth (notice the subtle translation from Hindi!)? Then you must find yourself a rickshaw-wallah. He will happily oblige. And all the while, he will refuse to ply the auto. So you get the benefits of two in one. (See above!)
Michael Schumacher or his brethren must have an online course somewhere only for Rickshaw-wallahs. How else can you explain the lot that zips past you leaving nothing but a streak of black smoke in their wake? These are the lot who are oblivious to others’ well-being. Speed-breakers are nothing but minor bumps on their quest for whatever time record they are seeking. I’m pretty sure Bernie Ecclestone saw these guys in action and thought that F1 is a pretty tame sport.
Word of caution: Pray you don’t get one of these guys after a late night binge unless you want to see everything you consumed in front of you again. #Serious.
The exact opposite of Mr. Pilot. And Mr. Murphy will surely strike here too. You will get a slow-moving rickshaw when you need Mr. Pilot. You will not be able to coax him into driving faster than 20 kmph. You will be able to do nothing as cyclists pass you by. You should really make the most of this opportunity and turn this ride into a mini-vacation and watch the world go by. Literally!
The Lost Souls
Not figuratively, but literally. They will have no clue where they are and where they want to go. So you suffer with them. At times, this is mischief so they can take you for a ride (you know, more than what you wanted to go for!), and if they sense that you are as lost as they are, we just hope you’re carrying enough cash! Generally, this is a driver who isn’t familiar with your part of town. What he’s doing there is anybody’s guess. If he doesn’t ply, he’s a No. If he does, he’s a Lost Soul.
All the ladies have experienced this one. Sudden adjustments of the rear-view mirror… unnecessary twists and turns… constant turning to ask where you want to go. These are the signs. They will also try to request that they can take a friend along. “I just have to drop him down the road,” he’ll say. Don’t comply. Don’t let him get away with his lecherous intentions. Tell him to keep his eyes on the road and just drive. And if it gets too much, take him to a traffic cop.
None of the above
About 2-3 times in our lives, we will ride with a rickshaw-driver who is honest, not a lech, will say Yes to take you where you want immediately, will charge by the meter and drive normally following all traffic rules. He will not talk unnecessarily, won’t try to take you for a ride and he won’t be rude.
No they aren’t Unicorns. They exist. It doesn’t have to be a cold day in hell for you to find one. But they are rare. Yes, I have met some such. Keep looking.
Disclaimer: The above is meant to be a piece of satire. Please don’t take it seriously. Don’t burn any buses because we wrote ill of auto rickshaws wallahs. Ok?