You know your day is going to be good when your auto rickshaw-wallah is a happy person too.
Luckily I found a rickshaw as soon as I got out of my house this morning. The auto-wallah was quite an interesting fellow, after agreeing on taking me to my destination he turned on some music on his phone. For a moment I thought he was actually listening to Teejan Bai, the curiosity in me took over and I asked him if it was a Mahabharata recital.
“This is a story of a brother and his sister,” he said smiling. “Rakhi-bandhan ki kahani hai,” he added. I asked him if he has a sister, for Raksha Bandhan is around the corner.
“Yes, I do, but she is at home.”
“Where is home?” I asked.
“Bareilly,” he informed me.
Gauging my interest in his life, he proudly announced that he had recently purchased the auto rickshaw for 3 lakh. And then there was no stopping him. Like a kid, who had recently been gifted a toy house, he explained every new feature on his auto rickshaw to me.
“They have even made arrangements for recharging a phone,” he excitedly unplugged the socket, and while opening another box showed me the several chargers that came with the auto. “Sawariyon ke phone bhi charge kar sakte hain,” he suggested.
“How did you like the auto, madam?”
I was thoroughly impressed by the clean, comfortable seat and his enthused self, so I too went on and on praising his new purchase.
By now I had started noticing a few new arrangements, “Aha! There’s a bottle holder too!”
“That one is for me, this other one,” he pointed towards the one next to his seat, “is for the fire extinguisher. They have even given us a first-aid kit,” he certainly was a proud owner.
“Arrey, bhaiya, meter bhi toh naya hai!” I said excitedly. The meter was a bigger highlight for me. The new meters come with a GPS and have what they call a ‘PANIC’ button for the ‘safety of women’. “This came with the auto. The other auto-wallahs have to buy this new meter, I just got lucky.”
I wanted to know so much more about him, his family, his dreams, his sister, and his plans for Raksha Bandhan, but unfortunately I had reached work, and couldn’t afford to be more late than I already was.
A Hindustan Times report explains in detail how this whole set-up is a farce. Unfortunately, these rickshaw-wallahs have to spend a lot of money in order to buy these new upgraded meters only to realize that “The transport department is trying to make one private company benefit from the entire exercise.”
Whether or not there will be a change in our system is debatable but being the optimist that I am, I’d rather give these auto-wallahs some credit for doing their bit.