If you come to think of it, there are a lot of elements that are unique to India alone, things that a foreigner from other parts of the world wouldn’t recognize the essence of or connect with unless they have lived in our culture for a few years and grown to despise and love them. From sitting in dingy by- lanes drinking tea out of earthen cups or cooking entire meals in mustard and coconut oil, to the kids trying to dupe you into buying unusually bright strawberries in cheap plastic boxes while you wait in a traffic jam. The list goes on, and can perhaps be continued in a different post, the discussion here is about how the auto-rickshaw is the most all-encompassing symbol of India. Yes, the auto-rickshaw that you will find in almost all cities in our country, that very public transport that you share a love-hate relationship with. Of course, the bigger question here is how did we all ever become friends with them? Maybe because it is a microcosm of all Indian energy.
1. Too many people can fit into a disproportionate space. 3 kind hearted souls in the back with 2 people boasting of a high metabolic rate on their laps + at least 1 braveheart in the front= 1 entire Indian family and a stingy neighbour. (Our country’s population in relation to its geographic capacity, if it were a person, would not have a right to judge an auto rickshaw. Yes, we could do with some family planning to say the least)
2. No auto-wala has ever obeyed traffic rules. But. Must. Pick a fight with other vehicles. How many times have you nervously waited inside while the guy dives out of the rick and looks for bricks and damaging substances to throw at car windshields because it happened to cut past it? (Of course it is never India’s fault, it is always Pakistan who fired first, or China who sold us cheap phones and let’s not forget Sri Lanka who cheated in the Test Match; and our forever-favourite USA who sends its skimpily clad tourists to our beaches, they were literally asking to be raped.)
3. As the list is in no particular order, I would like to mention here the ever-refusing auto walas. Kings of the road, the auto rickshaw gets to decide whether it would oblige you enough to give you a lift. You can curse whoever and as much as you like, but you ain’t getting on till you get a side/backward approving tilt of the head. (India, much like the auto rickshaw, will also do as it pleases. Wish to get work done? No, you wait. Or bribe someone. Or you just wait. Switzerland wants to invest? Hold on for a while till all the political riots kill each other out.)
4. Of course, the pollution. Ever noticed how all auto-rickshaws make the darnest of loud noises as they seem to “cruise” past by you? They are loud, crass and the smoke they emit would have been Hitler’s god-sent. However, those inside the rick remain blissfully oblivious. (This connection isn’t difficult to get; it is indeed a long standing Indian tradition being faithfully passed through generations – keep your home clean and your neighbour’s entrance dirtier).
Concept credits – Salik and Disha