I have been coming back from baroda and it was around 7 AM in the morning. The train was already 2 hours late and would stop at new delhi railway station in some time. I was ready with my backpack. As soon as the train stopped, i got down and proceeded to the exit (Ajmeri gate side) to catch an auto for noida (my residence).
As soon as i came to the road outside the station and almost half a kilometer from the auto stand, as usual i saw lots of people who were asking me for auto and taxi. The taxi agents came first - yes i called them agents cause they try to catch you first and take a commission from the auto/taxi. The quotes i got for noida was 250/-. I was like WTF!!! I said no to all of them and came out and approached the auto stand. There were tons of auto but only a few were going to noida and their fare was 200/- min. Officially the fare is around 120/-. Then i saw this man who was shouting "noida, noida", and i asked him for a quote. He told me 150/-, I bargained and finally we froze at 130/- I went to his auto and saw that it was already full. There were two good looking ladies in the back seat and i was supposed to ride with the driver. The "ladies" were paying 250/- for the trip to noida. So the auto was going to make 380/- for this ride. Ghosh!!!
I had avoided the prepaid booth cause of the long queue over there. As we rode out of the stand a white clothed police man stopped us and asked the auto wala for his prepaid receipt. Usually the prepaid booth issues a receipt which i have to give to the auto at the destination, and the auto wala presents this receipt to the prepaid booth to collect his payment. Since this auto was a totally self arranged one, we did not have any receipt. So, instead of issueing a receipt for us (convenience for passenger), we were asked to get down and another couple who had a receipt were asked to board the auto. I was again like WTF!!!. After half an hour of bargain, i get an auto and the police man simply hands it over to someone else.
Well, so i thought, why not get a receipt from the prepaid booth. I stood in the queue for 15 minutes and got a receipt for 140/- to a place known as ashok nagar which is on the border of noida & delhi. If you would ask, why not into noida to my destination, i would say that the prepaid booth does not provide service to U.P. It was just that i remembered the name of the place and got the receipt. Now, the police man who was assigning passengers to autos were not visible. I stood for some time and looked around and i spotted a crowd. The crowd would move to an auto and the auto would depart with passengers, then the crowd would move to the next auto. I went near "the crowd", and saw that it was a junior policeman surrounded with lots and lots of passengers all havine prepaid receipts. Everyone was trying to put his receipt on priority and the policeman was enjoying the attention he was getting. He would go to an auto, assign it a passenger, scold the auto-wala and then talk on his mobile and then move to the next auto - all at his liesure. He had to do this whole day, and it seemed he was enjoying his work.
Finally, the policeman saw my receipt and assigned me an auto. I jumped in, glad that finally i am going to get home. It was almost 8:30 - 1.5 hours to get an auto. We departed. But my adventure does not end here. As soon as we were out of the auto stand and on the road, the auto wala turned his head to me and asked me where was i going.
Let me try to paint a picture of the auto wala. He is a male, 40ish, with black and white hair. He is very untidy and smelly. It seems that he has not bathed in few days. He is smoking a bidi (an indian version of ciggerate) from the side of his mouth. And he has an attitude - "i am the king of the road".
So, i told him that i have to go to sector 12 in noida, but he can leave me at ashok nagar and i will take a manual rickshaw from there, if he wants. the auto wala says from the side of his mouth (he has bidi on the other side). He will drop me at my place - sector 12 noida, if i pay him 100/- extra. I was a bit shocked. After spending 1.5 hours in getting an auto i am still at the same price. I told him that i will pay him 40/- extra. After everything, we finally bargained a deal at 200/-. And, i finally relaxed on the back of the auto.
No sooner had i done this that, a bus overtook the auto from the wrong side and at a very close distance. I jumped up. The auto wala was cool. I asked him whether he had given indicator or not. And he showed me his foot which was sticking out in the direction where we were about to turn. I said "wow...".
Now, i began to notice the way the auto was being driven. We were exactly in the center of the road, in such a manner that no car can overtake us from the right side. If a vehicle has to overtake us, it has to do it from the wrong side. There were lots of honking behind us. A car was getting frustrated. We were moving at a constant speed of 35, and the car was trying to overtake us from the right side, but the auto would not give way to it. Finally the car overtook us from the wrong side. The car-driver glared at the auto-driver but the auto driver did not look at him.
We were half way and suddenly the auto started struggling. It coughed and died. I got down and pushed the auto to the side of the road. The auto-driver got out a bottle and put in some oil in his tank. I asked him what is this oil, and he told me it is kerosene. The auto was started and i could see the whitish black and smelly smoke from its exhaust. I got back in and we continued our journey. Now we were climbing a flyover and the auto's speed dropped to 15 kmph. It was not able to pull me up but the auto driver was very persistent, so we finally made it to the top.
Again we were in the middle of the road and some car was trying to overtake us. I looked to my side and i could see another auto just next to mine. Both autos were at their top speed i.e. 20 kmph and both were trying to race. There was a smile on my auto-driver's face because he was an inch ahead of the other auto. Behind, i could see cars and busses trying to adjust to this low speed and honking, so that they would be given side for overtaking. The flyover ended and so did the race (i think) and my auto driver won.
As soon as we entered noida, we started jumping red lights. Delhi traffic police are a bit strict and you cant jump red ligts there, but in noida, there are hardly any police at the red lights. Anyways, after saving his auto from 2-3 near collisions, we finally turned and parked the auto at my place. I handed over the prepaid receipt and another 100/- Rs. And the auto driver got out 40/- and paid me back. So, after a delay of 2.5 hours and after spending 200/- rs, i was finally home.