For the uninitiated, a ride in an autorickshaw in India could end up being any one of the following things – playing a high-thrill video game with unexpected happenings, riding a roller-coaster, albeit slowly, or just a super-fun ride.
As for me, been there, done it and love it. It’s in the genes too. My children also love the autorickshaw.
So, we are heading out to meet family at the other end of the city. The kids protest when we mention the word taxi. So ‘Autorickshaw’ it is. There are hundreds plying, but not one stops when we hail. Finally one stops for us.
We should’ve figured this one out but ..well. How can the four of us fit in comfortably? There was a time when we could, but the kids have grown vertically and we, parents have grown horizontally!
Both the children want to enjoy the wind, so both ends are taken. Hubby dear and I squeeze in, in the middle. Two of us rest on the seat, two move forward. Much like stuffing an already full bag, we are in, but very excited.
The auto-driver starts and we are off. We have an hour-long trip. The fun part is that the auto is open on both sides and each of us take-in what we want. My son counts stray dogs and the occassional cow, my daughter looks at hoardings, I watch people, my husband, not sure, as I can’t turn my neck to see.
About ten minutes into our ride, the sky is filling up with grey clouds. Where were they hiding? There is a sudden cooling effect to the breeze. Very soon the rain drops are plopping, big, grey ones.
As the auto driver rides on impassively, the frequency of rain drops increases. Plop plop plop….they fall faster and faster.
The kids whoop in joy. And suddenly all hell breaks loose. The rain comes crashing down in a heavy downpour. The auto moves on with an unruffled captain at the helm.
Usually autos have tarpaulins to cover the sides, when it rains. This one has none. So the rain visits us inside the auto. We squeal as the cold makes contact with skin. Both kids are drenched. My stole offers some cover to the four of us. It is total fun, as we resign ourselves. Water hits the roof and sprays our faces. We wait for these moments.
Outside, on the roads, traffic is thinning out. The roads look deserted. People are seeking cover under bus shelters and the ledges of buildings.
In one bus shelter, a cow stands with other people, waiting out the rain.
People from moving buses look down on us. I look up at them – all so serious and deep in thought.
Children of a primary school are being stood in line for dispersal. They look adorable in their bright-coloured raincoats.
A young couple stands under the shade of a huge tree, oblivious to the world.
The auto-driver looks focused as he weaves through the traffic at the junction. He would win any video game hands down, as he deftly manoeuvres the vehicle right and left, through any small gap. Our bodies sway with the movements.
The trees look green and fresh in the rain. There is a lady, with a huge, red umbrella, walking at a leisurely pace – everyone else is scrambling for cover.
As the rain peters out, we finally reach our destination. We are soaked but very happy.
We get treated to hot coffee, mugs of hot chocolate and pakoras! Perfect finish.