Das Auto(rickshaw)

While in India, Buttmunch and I lack our own personal mode of transportation and for the most part have taken to using autorickshaws. They are a three wheel motorized cute booth of a way to putt around town. If my description didn’t give you a detailed idea of what they are, look at my fb album also titled “Das Auto(rickshaw)” or email/comment on here and I’ll send you a public link to it if you aren’t fb friends with me.


…all sorts of wonderful things happen when we ride them. Here are a few stories.

1) One day Buttmunch and I are trying to get from point A to point B, we’ve been in Lucknow for a few days. We’re driving along and all of a sudden the autorickshaw slows down just the slightest bit….and a police officer hops on and squeezes onto the front seat with the driver. The two of us look at each other but neither the driver or the police seem to find anything odd about the situation. After a few mins, the police hopped off and that was that.

2) The first few days buttmunch and I were in Lucknow, we were pretty clueless about where we lived in proximity to where we needed to go for our meetings. Thankfully after the experience we had our first day in India (a saga I’m still writing up) we’ve learned to give ourselves plenty of time to get to our meetings. So on one of our first meetings we got an autorickshaw that got us to the vicinity of our meeting. Being in the general region did not mean that we were close to our destination, our address had a number and although all the buildings had numbers, they lacked logic. In India, the 400’s don’t come after the 300’s, they come two or five streets down and around a few random corners away. Anyways, after finally finding the place we were going to, the auto driver realized we might have a difficult time getting a ride home and was nice enough to give us his name and number. Good thing too because I’m not sure how long we would have had to wait otherwise. He drove us back to where he had originally picked us up and was even nice enough to play tour guide and show us “the park” which looked like a whole lot of concrete to me but whatever. During the ride back he asked us if we needed to go somewhere the following day, we did, so we made rough plans to call and have him take us to our next meeting. Come morning I call him and in fragmented Hindi tell him we’ll be at the same spot in about 10 minutes he says he’s on his way. Buttmunch and I stand at our designated meeting place and upon noticing several empty autorickshaws go by we wonder whether its worth waiting for our driver and risk being late, however since he was “5” minutes away and we’d made the call we decided to wait.

India exists in a different dimension of time and “5 minutes” can mean anything from 10-30 mins. After a while it was apparent our driver meant the latter of “5 minutes” so we found an empty auto and hopped in. We’re not heartless so we made the courtesy call to inform the driver that we were going to be late for our meeting and wouldn’t require his
services. I thought he understood what I meant when about 5 mins later (real time 5 mins) I get a phone call saying “where are you?” I inform him that we’re in another auto. This does not seem to answer his question and so he persists, “where are you?” again I tell him we’re in another auto and won’t need him. Eventually I figure out what he wants is our exact location… so that we can get out of our auto, meet him and continue on to our meeting. I explain, again, that we’re in another auto, he was late and that soon we’d be late for our meeting and end the conversation. Another (real time) 5 min passes and it’s the driver calling from another number. In the time that passed something seemed to have clicked because he asks if we’re close to our meeting place, I say yes and after he mumbled about how this was bad for his business he let us be.
3) There are two kinds of rickshaws here, 1) autorickshaws like in the stories I’ve mentioned above and 2) bicycle drawn rickshaws. Depending on time, location and distance Buttmunch and I prefer to ride the bicycle rickshaws as they’re more fun… But the seats always seem to be lopsided and I fear I’ll fall out when we go over a bump or two. Anyways, the point I’m trying to make is that when we are going somewhere and have already got in (and negotiated the price) for a rickshaw, we clearly have chosen our mode of transportation ….. so i don’t understand why people from other autos look at us as if we’d consider getting out of our rickshaw and into their auto. If I’m in a bicycle rickshaw, the auto driving next to me and looking at me expectantly isn’t necessary.
4) India being the large and over populated country that it us has a lot of people and therefore a lot of daily commuters. This gives cause to the commuter autos which are the very same autos but a bunch of people will share one to different destinations.  Sometimes Buttmunch and I stand on the roads clearly not sure of where we’re going and therefore waiting for an empty auto. The commuter autos will roll by and look at us expecting us to fit in the already too full autos. Even if we were headed in that direction I have no idea where we would sit seeing as most of the autos have already surpassed maximum capacity. Even better, the commuter drivers ask us where we’re headed and even though we shake our heads (hopefully) indicating we didn’t need them, they persist. So I finally tell them where we want to go, they tsk at me and shake their head like I’ve inconvenienced them. Truly, how horrid of me.
5)My favorite auto story is from Delhi, the day that we went to Humayun’s tomb. There were five of us (Bjorn, Lea, Antonio, Buttmunch and I) and since we were in India, we decided to ride an auto in true Indian fashion…this translates to all 5 of clambering into one auto. We got to the tomb, did our touristy thing and then decided to stuff all 5 of us back into an auto for the ride to our hostel. As luck would have it, there was only ONE auto outside the tomb with a “healthy” (read: over sized) Punjabi man with a full beard, turban and a menacing look on his face. We all climb in…(lucky for you, I took a few pictures that are on fb) and speed off…except that we seem to have got into the SLOWEST auto in the world. At first we thought it might have been because of the combined weight of 5 of us….and the additional weight of our “big boned” driver. We all try to ignore the fact that we’re moving at turtle speed and all the other autos zoom by we wonder if perhaps there is something wrong with the auto. After a painfully slow incline the not-so-jolly driver admits defeat, stops the auto, states that something is wrong with the auto (really?…we hadn’t noticed) and asks us to leave. Then 5 of us hop onto another auto and make it back to the hostel at normal speed.

6) Today, after a delicious lunch Eamon, Buttmunch and I climbed into a bicycle rickshaw to come back to our place. Eamon had an errand to run so we stopped for a minute and while he ran about, Buttmunch and I stayed seated in the rickshaw. The driver saw this as prime staring opportunity. He leaned back against the cycle, crossed his arm and took his sweet time staring at us. His staring went something like this:

Glance at Buttmunch…stare stare stare….glance at me…stare stare stare….glance at Buttmunch… stare stare stare…..glance at my chest…stare stare stare….glace at Buttmunch’s chest…stare stare stare…glace at Buttmunch…stare stare stare…

and the cycle repeated itself. I kid you not, this guy’s eyes moved between the two of our faces and the two of our chests like he was at the movies and was mildly amused. Had I a bag of popcorn I would have given it to him so he could further enjoy the show.

There are other stories but these are my favorites from Das Auto(rickshaws).

1 comment
  1. so … i’m wondering, did you guys pay the fat guy who couldn’t move beyond turtle speed?

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