Over the last month my cycle has been under repair, this is what happens when you decide to take things in your own hands, and this has made me stick to optimise my commuting where both the cost, time, and safety are acceptable. Surprisingly autos have won this race from cabs and bikes.
Everyday I just walk to the main gate of my society and just sit in one of the numerous autos and tell them to just go, they know me, and my destination. Today there was no auto there, I go to the main road and wave at an auto and it stops, I notice that the auto driver is a woman, I sit and tell her the destination, she says a price I agree too. "Sir, do you mind if I get some CNG filled at the pump on the opposite side, I am out", I agree assuming that it'll only take a minute or so, we go straight and make a complete turn along a round-about, and notice that there is a queue which would take a hours. We continue along the round-about while I check for CNG pumps on my map, and notice one on an alternative route, I recommend it to her, and we complete another circle along the round-about, "Sir, you should've checked it earlier, other drivers must be thinking that I am mad, going in circles" she says laughing, I just laugh. We move towards the recommended CNG pump.
At the pump we notice that there is a long queue, she get's down and goes inside the pump to check,
"They have two queues running and one is only for autos, we should be done in 5 minutes" she says, I definitely know that it's going to take longer but still wait.
While in the queue, a couple of auto drives get out of their vehicles and start a conversation, one is a weary looking middle aged man with a saffron tilak on his head and is wearing a typical drivers uniform, A other a slightly younger man a constant grin. My driver is inside the auto, checking every few seconds at the queue.
"Does this have a city permit?" The first driver asks my driver, she just nods in a yes. "There is no money left in driving for city permits" he declares, "Especially if you have a rented one, an owner still saves on the rent and takes home a respectable 500 Rs a day, but if you rent, you only take 200 -300 Rs a day, kuch nahi hota isme", "The money is in having an NCR auto, at least we can go to Delhi and drive there too if business is slow here" He continues on his monologue, "But can't you get a permit for NCR now?" I interrupt. "Those are different autos, you get that permit when you buy those, you can't change" He affirms, I just nod. He moves ahead to check the queue, "They don't tell about their own needed expenses, they spend at least 200 Rs a day on alcohol, bidis, and tobacco, look at him, he's moving his auto in such laze, he just one of those complainers" my drivers says while making sure both the drivers are out of reach.
"I have been doing this for four years now, I agree that business has gone down, but it's not that bad, though I would have still preferred to go to a college and get a job, there is too much uncertainty in this", she speaks after a minute of silence.
"Why don't you get a job then?" I ask.
"I am putting up money to take a wagonR, I'll sell this auto, and when I have a cab, I'll start studying, I have to appear for class 10th again" she says. "Again?" I ask, she doesn't look as young as a school going student.
"Again, I completed my 10th about 16 years back, but my certificates got burned in a fire last year, our entire house was gutted, I asked at the school if they can give me a copy, but they only keep records for 10 years, and also the principal I studied under is a dead, and his sons aren't very friendly"
"Did you go to college as well?" I ask now with curiosity, sensing that I have material to write about.
"No, baba stopped my education after 10th to allow my brothers to study further, and look at them now, worthless, I protested a lot" she says with angst in her eyes, "It is the past, I'll study now harder, get my 10th, 12th, and go to a night college, and will get a job" she continues.
It's out number to get CNG filled, I get out of the auto while the guy at the pump does his work, "You must be getting really late?" she asks.
"I am, but then I started late" I smile.
We start the auto and move towards my destination, with no words being spoken and she focused on the road.
After reaching, I pay the fare, and ask her to note my number down, I tell her about NIOS and IGNOU and tell her that she can call my if she needs more information about these, as they'll save her a lot of time from the usual course of going to college. "I'll get a car first, and then study along with driving." she smiles "What's you name sir?" she asks while saving my number, and I ask hers.
I hope she'll call.