The best place to learn about sharing your space with fellow humans is but a Share-auto. That is, among other things like optimum use of real estate, balancing act, patience, journeying with closed eyes, and of course experiencing cattle-class first-hand even before you board a flight.
I have no special fondness for the share-autos though, but at the same time do not dread them like my folks at home do. Its yet another convenient transport system operating between different points in Chennai besides the regular, popular Chennai autos, and ideal for short distances at a fair price. I do not mind using the service once in a while. A tactful auto driver neatly packs about 7 to 9 passengers into his vehicle and if you are one of them, you’ll be lucky to catch up on the roller-coaster ride that you missed the last time you went to a theme park. On a boring day, you’ll find just 5 or 6 passengers with a lot of leg-room and more zip-zap-zoom action.
Am one of the privileged users besides the famous PTC buses, and believe me, you are missing something if you have’nt tried a ride yet. Really. But what called for this post is an interesting auto-driver whom I met sometime back. I had the choice of waiting for another bus from where I alighted, or cover the distance by foot, or take a regular auto or a share auto. I got into a share-auto as the sky looked threatening and just stopped at that without an actual show of torrential rains it portended! And the regular autos were having a field day charging 2 times the usual fare, thanks to the weather. The auto had barely moved a few meters when we were stopped by two friendly traffic police. Yes, you got me right. They were on ‘duty’ and were ‘working’. The auto-man had violated the rule (which by the way is the norm!) by sharing his seat too with a passenger (the sharing lessons are for the drivers also..).
What ensued was interesting. The driver and the police engaged in an animated conversation for a couple of minutes, where the driver was trying to convince them and was willing to ‘let-go’ a passenger. Sincere that our system is, the police would hear none of it. The driver was requested to step out and fill in some ‘forms’. Read ‘harassment dressed as duty’. Just as I was contemplating on whether to wait for the process to get over or just look out for another bus or auto, I heard a police telling the driver to pay Rs.50/- and get moving or pay a fine of Rs.100/-. The driver promptly offered to pay the fine! Those of us watching this scene from within, were zapped! This must have upset the men in uniform for they were not making the process any easier and an intentional delay was quite obvious. The driver politely requested us to alight and take another vehicle. He was not embarrassed, not upset, and seemed to have a hold on the situation. I liked it. Not to say that such violations be allowed. But, his ‘No’ to bribe was a bold stand.
Long live such auto-wallahs! I wish the other small vendors selling food, flowers, toys etc follow suit and say NO to maamools. Now start sharing to learn…