City Life – Auto-cracy in Delhi

The Delhi walla‘s pretension in writing makes me want to lodge a bullet in his balls – Blogger Nimpipi, the woodchuck chucks
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Auto Passenger

The ride of your life.

[Pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Ranking somewhere between DTC buses and private cars in the social hierarchy of the city’s traffic system, autos are an essential Delhi feature. The Delhi Walla asked Delhiites, both present and past, about their experiences with this Capital Necessity.

Vaguely vulgar

This happened when I got into an auto after about eight years. It was dark and raining and the auto kept slowing down. Then on the deserted ridge road, the engine started spluttering. The driver turned around and looked at me meaningfully. “Taunti,” he said. I looked back at him blankly. So he pointed between my legs and again said the mystifying but vaguely lewd sounding word – “Taunti”. Huh? I again looked back blankly. Then he pointed between my legs again and said, “Madam, taunti ghuma dau.” And then I peered down, moved my legs apart a little and found a little lever there. It was apparently the top of the CNG cylinder and if you twist it a bit you get a little more gas and the auto could go a little further . . .
Anuja Chauhan, author of the bestselling The Zoya Factor


Autos are the best way to get around Delhi – except when they’re not. At their finest, they are straightforward, convenient, easy to hail, and the driver knows all the best back routes to avoid traffic. Just like taking a taxi in London, except this one only has three wheels and doesn’t go very fast, and keeps you exposed to the elements. On the other hand, it costs a fraction of the price of a London taxi – a fraction of the price of a Delhi taxi for that matter – so who’s complaining?

At their worst, however… well, where does one start? The drivers who ignore you standing at the side of the road waving frantically. The ones who stop but shake their heads when you name your completely reasonable destination, and drive off. The ones who claim the meter is broken. The ones who say they know where they’re going but don’t. The ones who stop to fill up on gas while you wait in the back. The ones who drive like maniacs – but slow maniacs, which is even more dangerous.
James Baer, writer

A tearjerker ride

I was travelling from Rohini to Karol Bagh. As soon as I stepped in the auto, the autowalla started to play those sad Kishore Kumar songs. After a couple of minutes, he started to sing along in a creaky voice. Though it was disturbing, I thought it would be impolite to interrupt. After all, the poor old man had a right to sing. But after some time, he started to cry too! And then, the cherry on the cake – he started to smoke. His singing kept getting louder and so did his sobs, completely ignoring the fact that someone else too was sitting in the auto. Completely irritated by now, I asked him to stop the auto mid-way. There itself I paid him his money and stepped down to find another auto while the Kishore Kumar clone kept looking at me – in amusement!
Prashansa Taneja, college student

Love lessons

A week before I left for my further studies in New York City, an autowalla talked to me, through my route from Kailash Colony to Munirika, about – ‘Ishq’! He also kept breaking into ‘shers’ and gave me a lot of advice about love. When I finally got off he told me, “In the end, madam, it is all about love.”

But do I miss autos here in NYC? Hell no. It was a nightmare getting them in Delhi.
Padmini Vaidyanathan, PhD student

Down with the autocracy

The drivers, 95 per cent of them, need to be caned daily for harassing folks. They drive badly most of the times. I hope the metro will break their back. My friend suggests a headline for this piece – Autocracy.
Sanchita Guha, journalist

Blast them

It was afternoon and I had to catch a movie in PVR. Now you see I live in Lajpat Nagar and I never pay autowallas more than Rs 50 if I’ve to go towards Saket side. But this was a tricky afternoon. I only had thirty minutes in which I not only had to get the movie tickets and get into the multiplex but also had to deal with the Delhi autos. So here trooped in the first auto. He asked for Rs 80. I told him to shoo off. The next one demanded Rs 90. “Go,” I shouted. Then another came. His price – Rs 70. By now I’d lost my cool and I started screaming and blasting him. That helped. The autowalla suddenly changed his price and said, “Why you getting angry brother. Come, I’ll charge you just Rs 50.”

You know I don’t mind paying some extra money if autowallas go by the meter but tell me why do they think they can fool people?
Banjeet Boro, call center worker

The rest is noise

I got that auto in Mandi House. It was the evening rush hour, the weather was humid and I desperately needed Bollywood hits for respite. But the auto had no ‘deck’. After I causally spoke of wanting to listen to Hindi film songs, the autowalla bhayya immediately took out his Samsung mobile phone from his shirt pocket, fiddled with its buttons and then handed it to me. The phone, as it happily turned out, had a radio that was switched to a popular FM channel. And so for the next one hour, as we trudged through the ITO jam, I listened to the latest chartbusters on bhayya’s phone. When I reached my destination in Anand Vihar, the meter charge came to Rs 70. I gave Rs 30 extra.
Mayank Austen Soofi, blogger

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