An Auto Ride in Kolkata
From 2002 to 2004 we lived in Calcutta or Kolkata, as it was rechristened along with a lot of areas and streets in the city. I have lived lived most of my life in Delhi but have worked in most of the Metros in India or traveled to them for work etc.
Each city has its own relationship with money and each has its own way of making and spending money. Here let me share a unique money experience I had in good old Kolkata.
The year was end 2002 and I had just moved to Kolkata after working in Mumbai for a couple of years. So my money habits were very different from the Bengali Bhadralok. Well coming back to the story. I am assuming you will be able to relate to different suburbs of the city of joy mentioned in this post. My apologies to those who have not been to Kolkata ( you guys don’t know what you have missed in life… Ms. Banherjee or no Ms. Banherjee).
I used to take a shared autorickshaw from close to Ruby hospital on the E.M. Bypass to Garihat market and then walk from the Market to our house on Jatin Bagchi road oppostite Vivekananda Park. The fare for the shared auto in those good old days was a princely sum of Rs 3.5.
The auto drivers will pack 5 passengers and him in the auto and will make a total of 17.5 rupees per trip from the Hospital to the Garihat market. This in a way was very amusing to me as in Delhi no autorickshawallah worth his salt will even let you get in his auto for less than 20 rupees even for a short ride.
Anyways the ride was fairly short and I slowly started enjoying my daily jaunt and listening to people during this journey. One day I had to stay unusually late in office and when I reached the auto stand there was only one auto rickshaw at the stand and no commuters. So I got in the first auto and requested the auto driver to move, but he simply told me that this being a shared auto he will not move till he has 5 passengers in the auto. I could sympathize with the poor guy and said:
“ Ok bhaiya don’t worry I will pay you 20 rupees so that you don’t loose money but let us move so that I don’t get any further delayed”
To this what the auto driver replied made me feel so small in front of him and also make me realize Kolkata is still a city where human values are more important than money.
Well without keeping the suspense let me narrate what he told me….
“Sahib it seems you are from Delhi?”
Me “How do you know?”
Auto driver: “Because only a Dilli wallah will say such a thing, you are worried about going home, what about the people who will come after you to the stand and will not find any auto? How will they reach home at this hour?”
Needless to say we waited till we had 4 more passengers and at the end of the journey the auto driver collected his 3.5 Rs from each one of us. I stayed back for one more minute and wanted to say how impressed I was with his gesture but my voice had choked and all I could murmur was meek thanks and walked towards my house.
I am pretty sure this could have happened only in Kolkata where an auto driver is more worried about stranded commuters than his fare.