Indians have a love-hate relationship with the auto rickshaw. The love comes from the incredible convenience afforded by the 3-legged black-and-yellow creature. In just about any city, one can very easily hail an ‘auto’ (as it is fondly referred by most Indians) and be on your merry way to whichever part of the city you wish to go.
So where does the hate come from? It’s complicated. In several cities, it has become routine for auto drivers to demand a fixed (marked up) fare even though the city regulations expressly forbid it. This is particularly annoying to visitors or residents who are new to the city. Due to the peculiar (or, as some detractors might say ‘insidious’) curvature of the auto’s front, a skilled auto driver (believe me, they all possess this skill!) can weave in and out of the narrowest gaps in traffic. The end result is that they are a major source of traffic problems. Years ago, I used to think they were the sole cause but I now believe that SUVs like Toyota Innova and Mahindra Scorpio are bigger culprits.
My personal tryst with autos began in 1983 when we had moved to Vizag from Bokaro. On some popular routes, the Vizag autos even had a per-passenger fare in order to maximize their fare. In the 80’s, I don’t believe these autos even had meters installed but it might have changed now.
I expect this to be a living breathing post so I will be adding more anecdotes and media pertaining to autos. For starters, check out this short video of a Good Samaritan auto driver helping out another auto whose engine’s potency has been adversely affected. Sunil (our driver) tells me that this towing (really “pushing”) technique is not uncommon.
My friend Soumya (who returned to India from America 8 years ago) sent me the following picture of Vicky Baba’s auto in Bombay. Some sixth sense seems to have alerted him to the fact that someone was taking a picture of his beloved dhanno (name of Basanti’s horse in the timeless Bollywood classic Sholay). Soumya writes an interesting and witty travel blog at http://soumya.org.
Apparently Soumya and I are not alone in our fascination with the Indian auto rickshaw. Priyanka Khot from Delhi waxes eloquent on “the first love of her adult life – my hero – the Auto-Rickshaw in her blog post I Miss Auto-Rickshaws.
Stay tuned since this is merely the beginning of The Auto Rickshaw Diaries.