The Rickshaw(shank) Redemption

The Kaali Peelis orphaned at birth.

The scurrying rats plaguing our entire city. Unless you live on the Antilla side of the Sea Link.

The phenomenon which attracts Mumbaikar’s hate like no other. Unless you are craters disguised as potholes on blatant corruption disguised as roads.

Let’s talk about auto rickshaws and the men drunk on dreams who drive them.

We all have been there. Standing on the side of the road, hands outstretched, as if taking a pledge, ‘I will save money by not smoking mint-flavoured cigarettes and invest it for my private vehicle’, waiting for a merciful rickshaw to halt at our feet, like blessings from the skies above, while the smaller of the hands of the watch completes an antagonising full circle.

We also have been there. Rickshaws swarming around us like street beggars, vying for our attention, while we wait for a swankier set of wheels that runs on Dad’s money. Or OTP.

Expert politicians. DJs from an era long lost. Knower of where to score the best stash in the city. Humanised Google Maps. Love gurus. TedX Speakers. Punching bags. Despite the autowaalahs performing such a range of roles that will even put Paresh Rawal to shame, they only have bhaiyya for their first names and abuses for their last.

Most of them have their families stashed in North Indian villages like an ancestral loot. They visit them as frequently as the Halley’s Comet’s trip to our skylines. You will see them glued to their phones or guthka, depending on what time of the day you are seeing them. Both, a testimony to the fact that they miss their families. Try chatting them up about their family. They will either give a monosyllabic response or launch themselves into a torrential rant about how in spite of giving their all they will be forever misunderstood. Abhishek Bachchan, anyone?

The one thing which intrigues me the most about these khaki-clad warriors, apart from the subtle adjustments they do to their rear-view mirror (subtler than a batsman’s adjustment who doesn’t want to be caught out playing on the up) so that they catch up with all the backseat action including fine legs and bouncers, is the way they respond in affirmative to a fare. Ever noticed how most of the rickshaw drivers will never open their mouth to say yes to you (in case the guthka falls out, I am assuming)? Instead they will just motion you with their head to sit behind, the kind of gesture which monks on a silent vow use to find directions to the nearest rave (again, I am assuming).

Their day starts with refusing potential fares and ends with refusing potential fares and getting beaten up for it. But I don’t blame them and neither should you. Consider them as freelancers in this field of public transit. They have no fixed timing to report to work, they choose their own briefs, drink their own tea, listen to their own music, and are never available when you need them. Hell, they even roam with a standardised rate card! Now, I have never heard of any freelancers getting abused for saying no to a job, so the next time you deal with ‘Nahi Jaaega‘ calm your man nipples down. Not everything is about you. And if you feel so entitled why don’t you say Ola to your Uber cool personality and summon a driver whose only contribution to the conversation would be, ‘Trip ko 5 Star rate Kar dena‘.

All I am saying is that see them with kinder eyes. Understanding eyes. Merciful eyes. Or else they will not take you to score the best stash in the city. And if you ain’t interested in that and just looking to let go of some steam, you might as well join the MNS recruitment drive.


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