Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Home stretch

These men love their machines. Incense burning in front of the mandatory God sticker- a Lakshmi, Ganesha, Hanuman or Shiva. Small change handed out to the regular pujari who makes his way from rickshaw to rickshaw at each auto stand every evening. A marigold dipped into a brass container, drops of sacred water sprinkled on the single front wheel.
The driver waves his coins in the air, urging the aged priest to finish the auto-puja.

Plastic flowers framing the windshield, artificial internodes sprouting gold tassels. A scratched compact disc strung on either side of the driver’s seat. A pair of blue eyes, possibly a Bollywood starlet’s, stuck on a meaningless rear-view mirror staring back at the driver.

One by one, passengers squeeze in. Drivers start their engines and edge towards the road, not quite ready to leave with a few square inches still unoccupied. Always insisting that there is place for one more.

Last evening there were nine of us in the auto rickshaw.
Five at the back and four in front.

The driver chose to put his three front seat passengers on his left, so he sat all the way on the other end of the seat, leaving him room to stick his head out and yell to all the vehicles which we proceeded to overtake from the left.
Leaning as he was to one side, sitting with no more than one cheek of his bottom on the edge of his seat, I wondered just how much control he had over his brakes.
Acceleration, however, was just fine.