A rick in time… is quite unheard of
The meek may inherit the earth, but the roads shall still belong to the auto driver.
For those of you who are fortunate enough to not know what it is, an auto, a.k.a. an autorickshaw, or more lovably, a ‘rick’, is a three-wheeled taxi you find all around India, unless of course, you are in desperate need of one, in which case you’d have better luck finding ice cream in an active furnace.
It generally has a yellow tarpaulin hood on top and an unpleasant hood up front in the driver’s seat. In a society where daylight robbery is categorically banned by law, these citizens try, more or less successfully, to fill the void.
Ricks are a boon to society… in theory… because theoretically, it aims to alleviate the problem of public transportation… in theory. In case you missed the subtle hints I’ve dropped, let me reiterate that the ‘boon’ part is merely theoretical. You gotta love theories. In principle, the forlorn traveler finds an unoccupied rick and uses the all-too-familiar hand gesture to flag it down (the gesture being a folded fist with the thumb sticking out in the direction of intended travel). The rick actually stops on the first try, and the forlorn t. is so used to ricks stopping so easily that he doesn’t reel over in the middle of the street clutching his chest. No, instead, he nonchalantly gets in and informs the smiling driver where he wants to go. The driver turns on the meter, finds the shortest route to the destination, drops the passenger off, pockets his fee as shown in the meter, hands back the change, and the commuter walks away thinking, “Oh, God. Ricks are the greatest invention since sliced bread…” And then he whistles the tune to “It’s a beautiful life” as he disappears off screen, an obvious happy camper.
Now what’s wrong with this scenario?
EVERYTHING!! Now, I have nothing against fiction, mind you. As a matter of fact, most of my friends are fictional. But this scenario’s so far fetched that even J.K. Rowling’s going “Yeah, right!! Give some goddamn credibility to the story, mister.”
The ideal rick, like most theoretical concepts, is an illusion. Here we find yet another situation where theory is practical ONLY in theory.
Even the basic premise of getting a rick is a task by itself. Now, these three wheeled contraptions are not exactly what you would call ‘scarce’. In Bangalore, you can, in less than fifteen minutes, locate an empty rick; the real trouble is finding one that goes your way.
You see, a Bangalore rick is like a train. Once set in motion, it does not deviate from its set path. More often than not, the drivers already have a destination in mind, such as his in-law’s house, or a bar, or his dentist’s office, or god-knows-where. If it so happens that the prospective passenger asks to go somewhere ON this route; if at all there is no need for the rick to go out of its way, then the driver may drop him off… for double the legal fare, at times. And this is if he is in a charitable mood. A safe protocol would be to unobtrusively determine where the driver is going before you make your own destination clear…
You: Hi, nice weather here. Where are you off to?
You: Do you have somewhere particular to go?
Driver: What?? Where do you want to go?
You: Where do you stay, sir?
Driver: What do you mean?
You: I mean… you may be going home, which is perfectly fine. Nothing against that. Hey, man needs to go home, right? Where is your home? And are you going there right now? If not… that’s cool too. You can’t ALWAYS be going home, can you? You’d have other places to visit too. You’re a busy man…. I can understand. If not home, then where would you be going?… Or just give me a hint… Which direction are you headed? Maybe you are off to the…
Driver: Hey, mister. What are you blabbing about? What do you want?
You: Listen, buddy. Don’t take this the wrong way. I just need to know where you’re headed… If you can…
Driver: Why do you want to know where I’m going??
You: Well… you see… I…
Driver: Look, this is how it works. YOU tell ME where you want to go. Understand?
You: Errr… yes…
Driver: Fine. So… where do you want to go?
You: Ok. Take me to the Forum mall…
You: Hey!! Where are you going??? Come back here!!
…resisting the temptation to blow up these vehicles had better pay up in the afterlife, because it doesn’t seem to be paying off in THIS life.
Hmmm… Maybe this method won’t be too much of a help, after all. But none of this worries me. Sure, I have to waste roughly an hour just waiting before I get a rick back from work every day, and sure, I’m tired of haggling over the fares, and sure, I get so edgy I often kick the first thing that crosses my path (which reminds me…. sorry, John. Nothing personal. Hope your leg’s fine now), but at least I’ll be rewarded with eternal salvation for resisting the temptation to blow up these vehicles… I will, won’t I? It had better pay up in the afterlife, because it doesn’t seem to be paying off in THIS life.
Like I said, all these don’t bug half as much as the arrogance and the I-own-everything-on-the-road demeanor…. It’s almost as if they inherited the roads… as if they are beyond the law.
Their plan seems simple. Own the roads – Hell, people will HAVE to use them. No matter which company or industry grows or sinks, people will have to use roads. Everyone makes their mark… somewhere… The ricks have decided what they want. They’ve marked their territory, – peed on the roads, so to speak.
Not all of them are this bad, though… During my 4 year stay in Bangalore, I have personally encountered seven auto drivers who did their duty without cribbing, bargaining, being rude, being offensive, or driving rashly… Of course, there is a chance that I was merely dreaming then…