My Grandmother, mom, elder brother and myself with 4 suitcases, 2 pillows, Diwali Sweets in eversilver (the word stainless Steel was unheard of in Indian Middle class families of early eighties) cans and a solid iron trunk. All of them packed in an autorickshaw to go to Railway station for my Uncle’s wedding. That’s my earliest recollection of my first autorickshaw trip.
I still can’t fathom how we stuffed all of that into that small rickshaw till date. To make matters worse, I vividly remember my Grandmother telling the rickshaw driver that we are getting late to catch that train. What transpired in the next half hour and 15 kilometers is the ride to hell and heaven and every temple known to mankind until then for the whole family. Never again that sentence will be uttered to an autorickshaw driver in our life especially when you are sitting in one and have to go through Indian traffic! Forget James Bond and Jackie Chan! My hero is that autorickshaw driver who brought that vehicle without making twenty tumbles in spite of the luggage and non-stop yelling from my Mom screaming “Rama Rama”! Glad that the driver thought my mom was trying to control the 6yr old in the vehicle.
From then on, the autorickshaw’s became a part of my life. Taxis are for rich people. For a middle class family, Auto(rickshaw) it is! The sound of it’s engine meant there is a guest coming to your home. The ceremony of “Tipping Negotiation” with the autorickshaw driver can put any Harvard class in negotiation to shame.
“Madame..we need 20rupees more than Meter!”
“You think you can steal from a poor old teacher ?”
“Why would you say that Madame..it is legitimate tax ?”
“I told you I will only give you Meter Rate. We should send every one of you to China”
“Madame..in China..everyone gets paid the same..i don’t have to drive an Autorickshaw”
The above cycle of negotiation over 20rupees (50cents) will touch upon socialism, communism, democracy, current government, caste bias, route analysis and eventually will end up with my mom paying that extra 20rs after half an hour. Sometimes a crowd gathers around to see the show with enough inputs from the crowd members to argue especially about the “Luggage” charge.
Autorickshaw is the silver yellow lining of every Indian middle class family. Without them, we would be robbed of the memories and adventures of growing up!
What’s your rickshaw story ?