There are certain things that you are proud of. This ‘thing(s)’ can be anything. They could be something materialistic, something achieved, something gained, something unique or something fought for. But the point that I am trying to make is that this pride is pretty much unshakeable. The mere mention of it makes you beam with pride, and automatically, as if on cue, your chest swells up and your head arcs up with pride and admiration. Also, you turn totally irrational and illogical in trying to prove any person wrong that maligns it.
Now, most of you are aware of how proud I am of my city. By my city, I mean Bombay. Irrespective of the bad roads, bad climate, incessant rains, massive traffic jams, lack of personal space, crumbling infrastructure, and other such problems that are weighing down Bombay, I am really very proud of the city. I take pride in the famed resilience (though, I have changed my stand on it now. I feel this resilience is quite idiotic, and the people responsible should be taken to task instead of suffering silently), the food, the crowds, the sea-fronts, the night-life (I am not in touch with this for quite some time, but I hear that it is, as usual, rocking), the bambaiyaa lingo, rude manner of talking, the helping nature of people, the film industry, and many other things that are associated with it. I can rave on and on about them. Out of all the things that I am full of pride for about Bombay, the one that tops the list is the transportation. There are many modes available, and though I am proud of the trains and buses as well, I am a tad bit partial about the taxis and autos.
I have been put through many harrowing experiences with taxis and especially autos in other cities, and have also heard and read about them from people from various cities all over India. But, I have never come across anyone who has had a horrible experience in Bombay. In Bangalore, the auto-walla makes you feel like he is making a big favour on you by taking you to your destination, and hence, he has every right to over charge you, even though his meter is already rigged to overcharge you. Ditto is the case in Pune. The biggest problem in Pune is to actually find an auto willing to take you to your destination. The difficulty is equal to the difficulty in finding vegetarian cuisine in China, if not more. Recently, in Pune, there have been many cases of arguments with auto-drivers ending with the passengers in hospital. Hitch-hiking is a concept alien to Bombay. It is as alien to any Bombayite as an original movie idea is to Bollywood. I learnt the distinct and crucial use of the thumb in Pune. In Bombay, all you need to do is come to the shoulder of the road, and lift your arm perpendicular your body. Within seconds, milliseconds sometimes, you will have many autos screeching to a halt, thereby causing vehicle behind them to veer dangerously and colourful expletives to fly. Seldom do you get an auto-walla who refuses to take you to your destination. And the refusal is done with such grief, that you too feel sorry for causing him so much sorrow. Taking an auto ride with fixed fares is another unfamiliar concept in Bombay. If an auto is taken with fixed fare, then the fare would be less than the average meter fare for that destination, and that too, over a long distance ride only. Overcharging is another demon that we Bombayites do not worry about, and night fare is also 1/4th extra of the meter fare, and the auto/taxis adhere to these rules strictly.
But, we are not here to discuss the righteousness of the taxis/autos of Bombay. No sir, we are here to talk about how I have lost pride in them recently. While coming back from my last out-station trip, I required a cab to take me to my house from the station. All the cabbies and autos outside Bandra Terminus refused to come to my area on meter fare. They had all come to an agreement by which they had fixed the fare to a particular area, and refused to accept anything below that price. And just like in movies, there was not a single cop in sight when one was needed. The pride in me was brutally murdered, and after the shock and trauma subsided, I brokered a deal with one of the cabbie, and got home. But, all through the way, my head was hung with shame.
During my stint in Bangalore, a bad auto experience which got me unnerved, resulted in the below conversation in my head, or something on these lines.
*BM - Bangalore Mayor.
*MM - Mumbai Mayor.
BM: How are you? How is your city?
MM: I am fine. The rains had disrupted the city yesterday, but we are getting along.
BM: Things seem as usual there then. I have called you regarding a problem here.
MM: Tell me, I am all ears.
BM: There is a new type of terror which has taken over my city. This terror has been a cause of concern for quite some time, and matters have now gone out of my hands.
MM: Anything that I can help you with?
BM: Actually, it’s only YOU who can help me. Can you send me a dozen of your auto and cab drivers to Bangalore to tackle the growing menace of the revolutionaries here? The city is in their iron grip, and causing terrors in the hearts and pockets of people.
MM: Hah, such a problem!! Don’t worry; I will dispatch two dozens of each right away. They will have rid your city of the menace within no time, and restore transportation in no time. They were quite effective in other cities too.
BM: Thank you. Here’s my gratitude for your help; 1000MW of power.
MM: Thank you.
MM hangs the phone and immediately picks up the red phone which is a hotline to auto and taxi union offices. They, in turn, pick out the best two dozen auto and taxi drivers and brief them about the mission on hand, and dispatch them in an aircraft to Bangalore immediately. And within some years the Mayor of Bombay becomes the Chief Minister of for overcoming the power problem in the state. Everyone is happy.
Now, this conversation will never take place, not even in my head. Because, the pride is lost; it has died a painful harrowing death. Please bear two minutes of silence for it.
P.S: Notice how I refrain from using Mumbai in place of Bombay. I guess am still stuck to the old name.