Inspired by the recently read book Motorcycle diaries by legendary personality CHE Guevara, I thought of writing this but thankfully this inspiration is confined to only title and not the content.
For long Mumbai has been identified with local trains and omnipresent BEST buses but autorickshaw has not been given its due may be because its area of operations has been restricted to half of Mumbai ie Mumbai suburbs
Travelling in auto rickshaw in Mumbai has been part of growing up in Mumbai for last as many years as I can remember, from the age when I was allowed to travel with 3 permitted adults as a kid to the age when I am considered among adults.
Likeness for autorickshaw is a subjective thing, if you are driving in your so called air-conditioned four wheel sedan, it will seem like unwanted creature crawling on the road and creating lot of troubles and you will inexorably end up uttering four, five or six letter words based on your linguistic influence and vocabulary preferences….. but if you are stuck somewhere and there is no other mode of travelling then it will come across as god send savior in the moment of crisis. Fortunately or unfortunately I have experienced both.
It’s an experience of a kind to travel in autorickshaw on Mumbai roads which are often used in same connotation as in moon’s surface. Talking about experience of travelling in autorickshaw… most of them have music system which will give you inferiority complex about your music system at home but unfortunately they typically play some unheard old hindi film songs or Altaf Raja kind of music (!!!) or Himesh Reshmiya with extra beats(!!!???##%%^&#) which sounds more like nuisance then music.
Broadly there are four categories of drivers in the roads of Mumbai which has some typical common traits among their respective categories. These are Motorcyclist, car drivers, bus drivers and autorickshaw drivers. All these categories are topic of separate discussion but talking about autorickshaw drivers, I think they are the most restless breed of drivers nurtured indigenously on the roads of Mumbai which can not be reproduced anywhere in the world. Even if they have scanty piece of automobile in their hand they drive it like some 100 horse powered engineering marvel. On the face of it, autorickshaw looks like some alien vehicle, cross breed between bajaj scooter and some delivery van.
Another interesting aspect of autorickshaw as per my observation comes from the people who use it for travelling. Owing to cosmopolitan (!!) nature of Amchi Mumbai, people from different walks of lyfe likes to call it in a many different ways such as AUTORICKSHAW, RICKSHAW, AUTO, RICK and some indigenous names like RIKSHO by typical gujju maniben or MENDHAK by car drivers because of the way it looks.
The most interesting part about autorickshaw for me is its fare. For last many years minimum fare is fixed at Rs 9 which is BATA style of pricing. Generally neither drivers have inclination to give the one rupee back nor do travelers have interest in taking the one rupee back but speaking about myself had I taken back all those one rupee coins over the years, by now I would have been in a position to buy my own autorickshaw.