I’ve graduated from the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) and the institute has been successful at doing what my father could not get me to do for almost 17 years at school i.e. getting me to step out of my house in public transport. I’ve enjoyed numerous rides in the largely crowded Delhi Metro. The institute is located near The Hauz Khas Metro station. The JNU campus happens to be nearby. During my brief stint at the institute spanning 8 months and 22 days, I’ve had the privilege of traveling through public transport. Traveling using public transport allows you to be independent and at the same time allows you to think and act with a lot of maturity.
The moment you step out of the metro station at Hauz Khas, there’s a desperate crowd of auto drivers breathing down your neck and asking: “Kahan jaana hai?” (Where do you want to go?). Once you board an Auto- Rickshaw you’d reach IIMC in a matter of minutes. 12-15 minutes to be precise, but you need to be careful as there are a lot of people who have this habit of spitting paan while driving an expensive car, say Skoda. Auto drivers too chew paan and spit it while driving. Trust me, these paan eaters would paint the entire city red one day if they get an opportunity.
Traveling in an Auto-Rickshaw is an adventurous experience and all one needs to do is to make and follow a simple rule i.e. just keep your head down and stay out of everyone’s way. You’ll find frustrated people, quite a lot of them on The Aruna Asaf Ali Marg, desperately trying to jump the red lights that come in their way.
Moving further, there’s one more difficulty that is bound to show you its head if in case you plan to take an Auto-Rickshaw and that happens to be the fare which is charged by Auto-drivers. Once, hurrying to make it to the first class on time, I refrained myself from boarding a bus and boarded an Auto-Rickshaw instead, which was followed by an everyday tussle of an average Indian guy: Bargaining. Well, there’s an age old saying in Hindi which is ‘Aate daal ka bhaav pata hona’ and my experience with an Auto driver at Hauz Khas reminded me of this phrase. Sometimes I get a feeling that bargaining and reaching an equilibrium is an art in itself and one needs to master it in order to survive in a city like Delhi.
Now, I get to travel in an auto-Rickshaw much more frequently. I’d like to quote one more instance where I met an auto driver who resembled popular Pakistani singer Atif Aslam. Well, that is what I felt. And then, we stuck a heated conversation which went as follows:
Me: JNU East Gate tak ka kitna loge? (How much will you charge till the East Gate of the JNU?)
And he, in the most nonchalant of voices replied:
Driver: 70 rupaye (70 Rupees)
Me: Bhaiya metre se chalo (please use the fare machine to calculate)
Driver: Kahan jaana hai? (Where do you want to go?)
Me: JNU East Gate jaana hai. (I want to go till the East Gate of the JNU).
After he agreed to use the automatic fare machine, I boarded the Auto-Rickshaw and we again stuck a conversation. This time around, he asked me what I did (My profession) to which I nonchalantly replied: I study Advertising/PR at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) to which he replied: Achcha, Patrakaar ho. (Now I get it, you’re a journalist). I’d be lying if I say I was embarrassed. I just didn’t propel the conversation any further and replied: Haan (yes).
Well, to top it all, I’d just say that traveling in an air-conditioned sedan is a luxury in itself and it gives you a lot of pleasure, but traveling in an Auto-Rickshaw is also an enriching experience in itself. There’s a certain sort of magnetism that pulls you towards an Auto-Rickshaw and while traveling in an Auto-Rickshaw, you’ll get to understand the “aate-daal ka bhaav”.