Ever traveled in an auto-rickshaw in Chennai? Or for that matter anywhere in India? If your answer is a big ‘No,` chances are you have not indulged in various other adventures too – like bungee jumping, demolition derby (a sport where you smash each other`s cars till the last car is in running condition), shark hunting and meteor chasing.
You sure like to be in your comfort zone. Don`t you? Unlike your majesty, I am quite an adventurer. Perhaps, I get it from Ferdinand Magellan, the greatest adventurer of them all. He was the first man to circumnavigate the globe, way back in 1519-22.
You probably wonder, how Magellan and I are related. That is our family secret…..and anyways it happened way back in 1505 B.C., when the Portuguese traveler was learning seamanship under the Portuguese Viceroys, then based in India. Over the years, my family has forgotten the details…but we know for sure that we are adventurers. We travel in auto-rickshaws.
My last trip was from the Chennai railway station (Central) to Velachery (my home). It was quite an eventful journey.
Before the bargaining began I had to convince the auto driver that I have been in Chennai for the last 5 years and know how it works. Once he was convinced, the actual bargaining began. Eventually, he would agree for Rs 120 (about 2 Â½ dollars). I lost half a pound during the negotiation process.
If I thought bargaining was the difficult part…I was in for a surprise. For those who have never seen an auto-rickshaw before, it is a three-wheeler. It can accelerate like a Ferrari and swerve like a fighter-plane.
The vehicle is designed with one driver and two passengers in mind. But more often than not, it is three passengers. The passenger sitting in the center is safe, unless the auto topples over. But the passengers sitting on the sides can get thrown out of the vehicle, whenever the auto driver wants.
Am glad, the payment is always made at the end of the journey. Else, all the driver had to do was take a right/left turn… sharp enough for me to fall off the auto, and look for another dumb-F&^%.
Mine was quite a sound auto. It would have put a Lamborghini to shame. The smoke emitted by a textile mill (which we passed on the way) paled in comparison to my auto`s emission potential. As an icing on the cake, the vehicle parts shook suggesting they could fall off any moment.
Not everything about the Auto was scary. The driver had pictures of Mecca, Lord Rama and Jesus Christ. He was quite a religious fellow. There was one issue though…he had pasted the pictures on his wind screen and I wondered how he would see the road. Perhaps he was not able to see the road, or maybe it was his faith in God…but he was very reckless. Either ways, I was holding on strongly. For the uninitiated, autos don`t have any doors and if you are looking for an honorable exit…..no Sir….you are going to be disappointed.
There was consolation in the dry lemon and three red chilies that were hanging from his ‘interior` rearview mirror. I remember my mother telling me that if a lemon was hung from any vehicle, the chances of an accident were drastically reduced. Thanks to the lemon, my journey was safe.
I intend to deviate from my family tradition of being adventurous and plan to hire a Taxi next time.