In yellow and black, these snorty looking 3-wheeled menace-on-the-roads, have always kept me at a safe distance. The public transport system (more specifically, the state buses and autorickshaws) is not something I prefer to use unless of course there's no other alternative.
I remember an incident back in my school days. I used to go to tuition classes on a two-wheeler. One day, I had a flat tire. I had no option but to take a bus. I went to the bus stop, waited for 5 minutes, no sign of the bus, decided to walk to the next bus stop, instead of idling away my time in the bus stop. Waited again for 5 minutes. No sign, walked again....My destination was a good 5 km away. And believe it or not, I walked it up! Can't wait for nothing. Not even a bus.
Coming back to the topic of the snorty-looking mean-machine on 3 wheels (what they call 'autorickshaws', or 'auto' in short), here's a brief description of how it looks to me (or others who see it in my perspective):
- It has a rod for a starter, that you pick up from the floor to start the engine (The auto driver pulls it up in a jerk, my biggest fear is, if it'll come apart)
- It has a handle like in a scooter, to steer the vehicle in any direction you want to (literally 'any').
- The clutch is on the handle, just like in a scooter, to change gears (top speed of 30-35 km, but most of them try to push it to 50 km, when you can hear the engine screaming at the top of its ummm.....voice?)
- It's got a balloon-shaped horn on its side (that rather looks like a big belly, ready to belch that loud 'paum-paum'!)
- The engine is too loud for my liking (funny spluttering sound at that!)
- It runs on diesel or petrol...not sure (But it leaves a trail of smoke and smells rather of kerosene!)
- It has a blunt nose with a head lamp fixed to it (It looks like someone punched him real hard on the nose)
- It has a glass window pane in front (so the driver & the unfortunate passengers can see where they are actually headed!)
- It is closed behind with a small window opening (perhaps, for passengers to see if the cops are chasing them?!)
- It has a driver's cabin with a single seat, separated by 2 or 3 horizontal bars from the passenger area (Wish it was sound proof as well, so the passengers would have been spared the needless chatter with desperate-to-make-small-or-idle-talk auto drivers!).
- The passenger area usually accommodates 3 people (in regular autos - there are bigger ones too). But I've seen autos plying school children to & fro the school carrying at least 8-10 children at a time in regular autos!
- When it's raining, 2 flaps drop from either sides at the pull of a rope (so the slush is not in your face...some innovation, I must say!
Apart from its funny looks, it feels funny riding on it as well. Here's why:
- The driver navigates the auto like it's a tiny tricycle in the middle of heavy traffic (and you can't hear anything else but your heart exploding in your ears).
- Autos can really ride bumper (read: auto's nose) to bumper (read: butt of the vehicle in front)... And if I was the 'sitting duck' inside the auto, I would close my eyes, feeling like I'm underneath that 'butt', and hoping that the driver wouldn't drive so close.
- The ride is normally bumpy. When I was pregnant, I thought I needn't have to wait all of 9 months and bother going to the hospital - what with all those jerks, the baby would have jumped out anyway bawling "what the hell"! (Would the baby then get auto-citizenship and a free ride for the rest of her life?! Well, I would have refused it, considering the ride in an auto is a rather unpleasant one!)
- There's more, but I realize that this post is getting longer than I'd expected, and as usual, I'm losing my patience.
And did I tell you, I once went walking all the way to my friend's house for lunch, bcoz I didn't have the patience to wait for an auto! That was quite a distance to cover on foot, especially for someone who doesn't normally walk even if it's a place just walking-distance away!
But mind you, if there's an emergency, none of the autos seem to stop for you, inspite of putting your hand out, your belly out or your whole self in the middle of the road, risking your life...all for a funny ride in a funny looking auto!
While we're still dwelling on the subject of "auto" here's something funny:
When I was in Bombay I had to depend on the local trains and autos to take me to office and back. In autos out there, there normally is a small message written in the passenger area in hindi which reads - 'Fuck-the theen pravasi' ('th' as in thirst), meaning, 'Only three passengers' in marathi, and on partial translation means something different all together! F*** the you-know-who! OMG!!