In the final year of my schooling, I decided to join a ‘coaching’. The only decent coaching I, along with my friends, could find was about 8km away from where we lived. So we decided to commute to the coaching by the cheapest means of transport we could find – auto. It’s basically an Indian transportation trademark for people and has the capacity to carry 4 people excluding the driver as per specs. But coming to the ground level where things happen for real, the autos that carry less than 11 people excluding the driver are termed as ‘vacant’. Anyway, my discussing it here won’t change the fact nor will it greatly change your perception of the ‘Indian-jugaad’ system, so I will continue with my story.
When you travel a mile, your mind travels a hundred. It was during this travel to the Coaching to study my most dreaded subject – Chemistry that I let my mind wander far from the incomprehensible reactions in the Chemistry book.
There are some little moments in your life which you can’t ever forget –
What’s on the Indian roads? Cars, pedestrians, bikes, trucks, buses, autos, cycles, traffic lights, policemen, holes and cows. Now, of these all, the only one entity you can’t regulate are the cows. And there are a lot of them.Our auto sped towards the Civil Lines, Allahabad.
The weather was pleasant, just the way I loved it. I watched the grey clouds coming together as a cool wind blew at my face to my immense delight while I half-hung from the back of the auto. Suddenly, I was thrown inside and managed to crash with all my might into my friend sitting beside me.
The auto had come to a screeching halt. Fearing an accident the passengers craned their necks to see what lay ahead. The sedan before us blocked the view and the panic increased. The auto driver got out and went ahead while my friends and I speculated about what could have happened. The auto driver returned in a few seconds, laughing. We inquired but he only started up the auto as the sedan before us had moved towards left and sped off. Our auto followed and then we finally saw what had caused a break in the traffic of the city.
A new-born calf, probably not more than a few days old, stood paralyzed with fear in the middle of the road staring at the vehicles around it and emptying its bowels.
If you’ve ever been on the road you simply can’t not hate traffic lights. Now, let’s not being a debate here. I know they are the great saviors of humankind who could otherwise have wiped off a half of themselves merely by road accidents and all the other good they do which I do not care about as long as they do not stop annoying people who are in a hurry. But they won’t, you know it, and thus, no debate.
No we were not getting late to Coaching. But it’s a pre-installed feature in the Indian folk that they want to reach their destination fast and we were not grown enough to have removed that feature from us. So, we cursed our luck when suddenly as we approached the crossing, the light went red. Now for 90 seconds we would be without the constant wind which came when the auto would run. A curse in the 40 degrees plus summer afternoon of Allahabad, it can easily blow the lid off any decent man’s kettle.
But we couldn’t do anything about it since the authorities had not found it debatable while putting on the traffic lights. So, we waited.It was only when I got bored with staring at the long stream of vehicles behind our auto, who were trying to overtake as many vehicles as possible before the light went green, when I felt that it was time we moved. I turned and looked at the timer, a few seconds to go, and it was an instant relief. The light turned green.
No vehicle moved till the old couple had crossed the road.
Sitting at the back of the auto is a most delightful experience if you can ignore the bumpy ride. You get to watch people and vehicles falling behind and the road that keeps extending from underneath the auto tires like a carpet which refuses to cease. And then, you can also look into the eye of the people driving behind you till they creep out. And the icing on the cake is when you can hang at the back of the auto and enjoy the winds and scenery rushing by. Much fun!
Well, I’ve always been a back-bencher and it feels rewarding to read something like, ‘the classroom is dumb till the back-benchers join in’ on the social sites.We were at Alopibagh, famous for the temple of goddess Alopi. Once upon a time it was on the bank of river Ganga but now is the major auto and bus stop after crossing the Ganga. The autos will stop here even if you don’t ask them to. And people will get down even if none had asked the driver to stop the auto.
Our auto stopped. And the back seat gave a perfect view of the approaching vehicles, the people moving around, the auto drivers beckoning potential passengers to their auto and cows moving about between the stationary autos.It was then that an Ambulance came to a brief halt behind our auto which was blocking its way.
It didn’t honk, maybe because it wasn’t in a hurry. Our auto driver lazily moved the auto to a side while I observed the ambulance. Beside the driver sat a tired looking man, possibly a doctor by the looks, slumped in the seat with his shirt wet with sweat. The ambulance was one of the government emergency service ambulances which one could avail at a short notice.
Clearly, this one was returning after a job done.
I stared at the man beside the driver. He stared at me, too tired for an expression. Our auto started speeding and realizing the essence of time, I put a thumb up with a big smile to the man. He grinned happily and waved me a goodbye.