I commute, like many of my contemporaries, via auto-rickshaw. It takes roughly half-an-hour, 70 rupees and a small chunk of my soul. My fellow commuters know of which chunk I speak.
Anyway, I expect the worst and settle for the occasionally intolerable. Then, there is that rare jewel – the rickshaw ride that puts a smile on your face and a skip to your step. Literary flourish aside, I had that with my early Friday evening commute home.
Now drivers often pull up past you, in order to make you come to them. No issue. Then you tell them where and they decide if they want your money. Sometime they shake their heads, make a face like their dog just died and mumble something inaudible.
This time was a bit different:
Driver: ITC factory?
I get in and he flips the meter switch. Good start, I thought.
Driver: Where you from, Sir?
Driver: Ah. Amehr-eeca. How long you stay?
Me: I live here.
Driver: How many days.
Me; On and off for 12 years.
Driver: How many days?
Me: No. I live here. You Kannadiga?
Me: Bangalore itself?
Driver: Uhhgn. Your work?
Me: I work for an Indian company. We help outside companies work here and Indian companies work outside. (more or less. kinda sorta.)
Driver: How much salary?
Driver: (unfazed) Uhhgn. How many childrens?
Me: Illah. No kids.
Driver: No childrens!? Why? Where is your wife?
Driver: She is in US?
Me: No wife. Wife is over. Divorced.
Driver: She’s no here?
Me: No wife.
Driver: You stay only one?
Me: Yes. Just me.
Driver: How much rent?
Me: (suppressing laughter) About (———-)
Driver: You need Indian girl. Good wife.
Me: You’re probably right.
Driver: Your good name?
Me: Rick. Your good name?
Driver: (unfamiliar huddled vowel sounds) You stay only one?
Driver: Life should live, no? (makes fist pump) Is good (continues)
Me: Agreed. Life is good. Chalta Hai.
Driver: (Rattles off some Hindi)
Me: Nahi Hindi. Swalpa Kannada.
Driver: You like. I have number. Ah. Life is good, no? (again, the fist pump – sorta Jersey Shore meets Kovalam Beach)
Me: Thank you. I have.
Now close to my flat, it gets quiet. Then, as we pull over, we do an exchange of head nods, smile and I give him meter and a half, chuckling my way to my weekend.