Stepping out of the daily local and onto Platform No.1, Yakutpura Station, an abundance of smells – Iranian Chai, burnt rubber, tadka, an open drainage system from 200 BC – greeted me, as I made my way to where they had gathered. Like a swarm of busy bees, the tuk-tuks had encircled the chaotic station.
noun: A motorized, three-wheeled vehicle meant for public hire, with zero ergonomic consideration and a tendency to redden the derrière
synonyms: auto-rickshaw, rickshaw, rick, trishaw
“Memsahebji, Charminar jaana hain?”
A young man in a Taqiyah with kohl-lined eyes and a grin that encompassed his bony face had not only invaded my personal space, but had proceeded to break into a little happy dance as he spotted his first customer for the day. He beckoned vigorously for me to hand my baggage over to him and then asked me to wait in his old tuktuk as he gathered more people for the ride.
/ ʃɛːd tʊk. tʊk/
noun: A motorized, three wheeled vehicle meant for seating three, but typically having 7 to 9 persons awkwardly squashed into it. Open for public in India only – where lives don’t matter as much as discounts do.
A few more minutes of the autowala working his cheeky charm on the exhausted travelers, and I found myself squeezed into nothingness by eight travel companions. The two of them that sadly belonged to the opposite sex silently cursed their fate as they were instructed to curl up on either side of the autowala’s seat.
The ride that followed was one of the longest of my life. I would like to spare you the trauma of not having had anyone brief you on this before you find yourself in one.
- The Shared Tuk-Tuk is the vehicular equivalent of Hermione Granger’s beaded handbag. There is no limit on the number of entities that can be casually flung into it, or thrown out for that matter.
- Germaphobe? Frail limbs? Require your personal space? Well, you can kiss any possibility of a “pleasant” ride goodbye. Hello, sweaty bodies that you will have to politely unglue yourself from when you get off.
- Mommy strictly instructed you to stay a meter away from the other kind? Well hello, hormones. You will feel feelings that you have never felt before.
- Over-bearing mothers. They’re everywhere. You can expect a drooling baby or two positioned snugly on your lap, with or without your consent. Chances are, said babies will cling on. For eternity.
- For those seated beside the autowala, the rear-view mirror does not fail to provide some first-class on-board entertainment. For those seated at the back, you will have to completely ignore its presence to keep yourself from feeling terribly violated.
- Always wanted to rodeo? Position yourself between a minimum of two human cushions, to ensure that you are alive by the end of it. That your skeletal arrangement will stay unaltered, I cannot guarantee.
– Anupama Menon