When you’re back to Delhi after a while, the first thing you want is to rush to the kitchen and gorge on some homely delicacies. And the last thing u want is nonsense on the way home. Back to Delhi after a fortnight, I was super eager to be on time for a family dinner, especially since it wasn't at my place (so no cooking, serving or cleaning)! Not wanting to waste time, I took an auto from Dhaula Kuan, where my Rajasthan Roadways bus had dropped me. Unless you are not familiar with the Delhi auto protocols, you will definitely be taken for a ride. First thing first, no matter how many checks and rules our reformist govt comes up with, Delhi autowallahs will NEVER go by the meter. They will give some excuse or the other and would rather abandon u on the road than take the meter. If you go for the non meter option, the amount they quote depends more on their impression of yours than the distance to be covered. If you are a single woman looking for an auto post sunset, they will quote 30% more and remind u every 2 seconds later that it’s getting “late” madam! Wow! If u are soooo concerned about our safety, then better get your act right first and turn OFF your X ray eyes!
Anyway, if you are new to the city, or don’t want any mess, prepaid auto booths are best option. So I happily paid the money and boarded my auto. The auto wallah, chewing pan masala and donning a gamchha gave me an “X Ray” look and asked me…”madam, kahan ki slip lee hai?” The moment I uttered Karol Bagh, his face turned pale, as if I had said “Khooni Bagh” instead of “Karol Bagh”. He rushed to the prepaid booth cop and pleaded just like a student pleads for extra 5 minutes in an exam. But cops and teachers maintain their rules. So the guy was back, grumbling to himself. Pissed off, I asked him to return my receipt if he didn’t want to go. “It’s not like that madam, u see these cops don’t listen to us. Just now a Volvo came with Good passengers…but I will miss it now.” “Good passengers, what does he mean, I am a bad person? He doesn’t even know me. How can he call me bad?” I was about to shout at him when he started cribbing about his poverty & how he badly looks for long route passengers. “Oh, it’s the route that’s got to be Good”…I got it now.
He said “It’s so cold madam, I will have to go home and cook now. It’s so tough to live alone.” I was more interested in reaching home fast than listening to his cribbing. Experience has taught me when u are not interested in someone’s sob story, the “Hmm” always works. So, I gave an occasional “Hmmm” every now and then so that he doesn’t get offended and quickly takes me home.
However, my ordeal had just begun. Apparently the “Hmm” was enough encouragement for Mr. Chipkoo to carry forward the conversation. Within 5 minutes, he told me he is from Allahabad, stays alone near bypass, parents looking for a match, and even asked me how new was I to Delhi, whether I stayed with my family & whether I lived in my own house/rented accommodation. His too much too soon irritated me. “Rent pe rehney waalon ko discount detey ho kya bhaiya?” I asked. “Nahi madam, I wanted to know if being from Delhi, your parents have managed to own a house.” He said in his strong accent. We were on the unsafe ridge road & his questions were beginning to scare me now. I thought it safer to give him all fictitious details so that he doesn’t pester me just in case he is a psycho….so I told him I was living in a rented accommodation with my family.
That didn’t seem enough, for Mr. Chipkoo then said,”Madam, u are lucky u will get home cooked food & won’t have to cook like me. Do have a married brother whose wife cooks for you?” I’ve had it enough. I wished my adidas shoes had a 3 inch pencil heel I could hit him with. “Bhaiyya, I am the daughter in law. And I cook, so u don’t tell me these stories” “You married madam? He looked around and gave me and “X Ray” look. Eeeeks! And he just kept looking back. “Accident ho jayega bhaiyya. Aagey dekho.” I said. “Nothing madam, I …. Could not make out from your attire….blah blah blah…this is a city…girls wear anything…blah blah blah”. I wished I had taken a bus. There are so many passengers there the driver wouldn’t care to talk to them. I looked at my phone. No signal. I couldn’t even call my husband to save me from this nonsense.
What followed then was even worse. He began some silly sob story about his parents trying to find a match, his love interest, who coincidentally met him in the same auto. She too like me, was a passenger, was talking to him like me (when did I do the talking?). How she fed him roasted peanuts as he drove her around. How she held his hand & proposed him. How he took her to the hotel for dinner and…
By now my frustration & irritation seemed no bounds. I was no longer interested in listening to this B grade movie script & to what happened in the hotel after dinner. So I pretended to call my husband. “Mere pati gussa ho rahey hain ki main late ho gayee hun.” I interrupted his nonsense. “Koi baat nahee madam, hum bhaiyya ko samjhaa dengey kitna tirraafffic thhaa.” Mr. CHipkoo was in full mood to meet my husband. Phew!
I was feeling really unsafe now. He was more irritating than the character of Vinay Pathak in Bheja Fry. Who knows, even a psycho who stalks women boarding his auto. I didn’t want him to see which house I entered. So I asked him to stop two lanes before my brother in law’s house & rushed home. I had escaped the torture of Mr.Chipkoo’s pulp fiction stories! Finallly!
Can’t say if this will deter me from taking an auto next time, but here are a few takeaways I have from this experience -
1. A simple “hmmmm” is also conversation.
2. Delhi autowallahs are shameless not only with their “X Ray” vision & “rates” but also with their stories.
3. No matter how much courage & tact you display, all husbands think their wives are fools & they never let go of their “what you should have rather done” moments.