Like all other city dwellers particularly in Bangalore, who have ever travelled by an auto rickshaw, I have some very memorable experiences with KADs (Kannada Auto Drivers – an acronym coined by Husband X – GK).
When I was studying in college, I was roped in by Kajal, a very dear friend who was facing attendance shortage in another college to attend the Parents-Teachers Meeting as her sister-in-law. At around 3 pm dressed in a very conservative (read non-cleavge revealing) salwar I took an auto from my college to travel the 25 minute long distance to her college. And since this is the kind of play-acting I absolutely love – real situation, real audience, unscripted play, I was very particular about getting it all just right. Sitting in the auto, I did my make-up. Vermillion on my forehead, lipstick, gold bangles, silver toe-rings, a ring for the engagement finger, and even a chain that looked like a mangalsutra. The KAD looked at all the stuff I was doing through his rear-view mirror. His seediness didn’t stop there. He carved a new zig-zag route on Bangalore roads with the speed and sheer recklessness with which he rode. That’s when I said, ‘Sir, please go, swalpa (little) slow. I’m pregnant and this speed is making me sick.’ And that brought out all the dead chivalry in him. We took nearly 40 minutes to reach my friend’s college. And everytime he hit a pothole, he apologised to me. And I sat back, a palm gently resting on my rounded stomach, smug about my theatrics.
Then this happened at a time when I was supremely stressed sometime last year. And obviously my body decided to handle all my stress the only way it knows how – by making me ill. I had inexplicable and really painful hand-twitches. So a visit to a neurologist in Indiranagar resulted in him asking me to take around a thousand different tests at a hospital. I chose Manipal Hospital because it was reasonably close and my neurologist was some sort of a biggie there. After my tests, I was asked to collect reports in the evening around 4 pm. I had a 5 pm appointment with my neurologist at his private clinic in Indiranagar. I felt that I had plenty of time since Manipal Hospital is on the Old Airport Road, a mere 15 minutes away from the doctor’s clinic in Indiranagar. So in the evening mom and I set out in an auto. We collected the reports, got out of the hospital, and waited optimistically for automan to take us to the destination.
I lost count but I do not exaggerate – we must have asked around 60 KADs. And not one was willing to take us. My mom’s watch told us it was 5 pm. So we’d effectively waited for nearly an hour to get an auto. I decided enough was enough and that the situation called for desperate measures.
I hailed the next KAD.
KAD: No, Madam.
I: Whitefield? (which is the general boondocks where I stay)
Mom (aghast): But what about…
I: No, I’ve had it. I’m fed up. Let’s just go home. They should be more organised. This is rubbish! Okay automan, Whitefield it is. Go by the Old Madras Road.
Mom: But, what, what?
I signalled mom to be quiet and took her mobile phone. After about five minutes in the auto, I dialled my own number through my mom’s phone. My phone rang annoyingly loud. I answered it.
I (speaking into the phone): Hello? Yes, what is it? (Raising my voice) How many times have I told you that you need to be more organized. This is mad. No, I’m not going to listen to you. (Getting steadily pissed and loud.) No. I’m going home to Whitefield now. We even got an auto. (After a long theatrical pause. In shock.) What? What are you saying? How did that happen? Fuck! Okay, I’ll see what I can do. I have to request the automan to help us. No, no, don’t worry. I’ll be there soon. Somehow.
I (to the KAD): Sir, sorry, but there is an emergency. I’m so sorry. Do you think you can help us? Can you please drop us at Indiranagar?
KAD: Indiranagar, Madam?
I: Yes, Sir. (Sotto voce to mom) She’s in the hospital. He just called me. See? I knew something like this would happen! So careless! They are just so careless. So now we have to go. What to do? I want to go home. But it’s an emergency and she’s in the hospital. The same nursing home near the park. Good thing I know the place. This is just rubbish! Really. (To the KAD) So Sir, will you drop us off at Indiranagar?
KAD: Okay, Madam.
I (in tone of deep gratitude): Thank you so much, Sir. This is really kind of you. And I’m sorry.
KAD: No problem, Madam.
I: Really, thank you.
And he dropped us in Indiranagar. I landed at the clinic 15 minutes late. My mom spent the whole evening laughing and being shocked in turns at what I had done.
Oh and every one thank you for the wishes and the morale boosters and the messages and the prayers. I am better. I have a really dark patch on my right cheek to show for the near death experience. So although I won’t be participating in any beauty competitions anytime soon, that’s fine because when I wear cleavage revealing clothes, it matches the tattoo. Very goth. So it must be all A-okay with the world if I am thinking about fashion and matching stuff.
I’m also back at work. Fits and starts but I get there by and by. And I’ve been commuting via the tuk-tuk with the KADs which is what started this whole trip down memory lane. Pun unintended. And I’ve learnt a lot which I will, in all my generosity, share with the readers.
- All KADs irrespective of size, shape, level of assholicness will have a match box. When in need, do not hesitate to ask. They will always oblige.
- There is no etiquette (and I wasn’t sure about this) when it comes to smoking in an auto. You can. And you needn’t ask automan’s permission.
- When you hail an auto your body language must convey easy confidence and slight desperation in equal measures.
- If you are trying to catch an auto at the end of a long-day’s work, do take some time off and spruce yourself. You would dress for a loved one and dressing up really increases your chance of catching a KAD. And it will take you home sooner to your loved ones, anyway.
- If you are a woman, creating an aura of mystery around you – sunglasses, stole wrapped around your head – ups your chance of catching the goodwill of KADs.
- Never ask a policeman to help you find an auto even if he’s just watching the world go by while you frantically try to secure transport. He’ll either not help. Or worse, bully a KAD to take you and then you have to bear the brunt of the KAD’s ire.
- Do not try to autohop. If you can’t find a KAD to take you from A to Z, it’s not likely you will find many who will take you from A to B and B to C and so on till you reach Z.
- Do not say that you do not have that kind of money when they ask about five times the meter rate. KADs being cads will just ask you to take the bus and tell you to steer clear of the air-conditioned Volvos because ‘Madam, you won’t have the money to pay.’
- Ask them to turn off their blaring radio only when you have a sharp weapon by your side or you are travelling with friends or you are prepared to have strange, speedy adventures.
- If they seem nice and chatty, do talk to them if you are in the mood. It makes for a pleasant journey and they might give you a story/blog idea.
- Always reply to them in the language they speak to you. If a KAD speaks to you in Hindi and you are not Ooper Bharath, do not correct him. You can introduce the you-are-a-Bangalorean theme very subtly when you are in the auto and he can’t get pissed off and say no. And if you don’t know the local language, don’t act all smug and superior. Be respectful and humble even if it kills you. After all, it’s only till the great KAD says ‘yes.’
- If someone overtakes them on the way or annoys them in any other way on the road and they get indignant and look to you for support, side with them. You have a nearly 98 % chance of getting change back then.
- When they crib about ‘I have to come back all alone from there,’ try not to say, ‘So what, do you want me to come back with you here?’ especially when wearing cleavage revealing clothes. Needlessly puts ideas into their heads.
- When they say, ‘I have to ride in all this traffic, you need to give me 150 INR extra’, either agree or just say no. Desist the urge to explain that you work as an editor and you never get extra money because you have to edit grammar AND punctuation.
- And do not say, ‘It’s right here.’ They tend to take you literally and ask you to mark X on the neighbouring plot.
- When they say, they won’t come to XYZ place do not ask them what place they will travel to.
- When they laugh at your face on hearing the name of your destination, don’t take it personally and start crying.
- When they say ‘no’, just let them go.
- If it’s raining or it’s late at night, just crash wherever you are.
- For God’s sake, just call a cab if you can afford it.